Andrew Bynum comes off bench
They just didn't get to see him on the court for the opening tip-off as he came off the bench instead. Bynum scored seven points and grabbed four boards in 17 minutes.
Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said at the team's morning shootaround that Bynum would play, but held off on revealing whether the six-year center would start or come off the bench.
"We'll see what it's like at game time, won't we?" Jackson said.
Jackson told reporters to ask Bynum himself to see if he was starting, but he had already left the Verizon Center court for the bus by that point.
Bynum had been sidelined since undergoing surgery July 28 to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, causing him to miss the first 24 games of the season.
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His return brought some welcome relief for Pau Gasol, who entered Tuesday averaging a career-high 39.3 minutes per game manning the middle this season without him. Bynum's minutes will be limited to begin with, however.
"I'd love to see him play something like 15-20 minutes, but we'll see," Jackson said .
Jackson said that timing would still be an issue for the 23-year-old and he would prefer to have him play a D-League assignment if the option was available (by NBA rules, only first- or second-year players can be assigned).
"I tell him, I think he's not in any form or level where we would say, 'OK, you're ready to go as far as playing at a pace of 95-100 percent,'" Jackson said. "But there's no way he's going to get there if he doesn't play."
In the past Jackson maintained that Bynum would start when he came back because the activation exercises he undergoes during pregame make him most effective from the opening tip, but the coach has backed off from that position.
"My crack training staff said it doesn't really matter," Jackson said. "We can activate him and do the things we have to do. At some period he's going to have to sit on the bench anyway whether it's during the elongated introductions or whether it's a 3-5 minute rest on the bench during a span of second quarter or first quarter activity. They said don't make a big issue out of that so I won't."
Bynum said Monday that he hoped to play in five-minute bursts, but once he's ready to play eight or nine minutes in a row, Jackson said he would prefer to start him.
"I've always felt he's been great at coming off the block and playing the first quarter," Jackson said. "I think his averages are eight points a game or something like that in the first quarter when he's consistently playing. So, we like that about him and the fact that those two big guys gives a real dynamic kind of feel of what an opponent is going to have to do to score."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.