Bynum not ready for action just yet
February has come and gone and Andrew Bynum still hasn’t slipped into his game uniform for anything other than photos and filming his part in the team’s introduction video. Indiana has since added two more pieces, Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen, both of whom have already played.
After his last game with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Dec. 26, Bynum didn’t play for six weeks where he got away from basketball, handled an issue with his mom and cleared his mind. But those six weeks of doing nothing have delayed his Pacers debut.
After signing with the team on Feb. 1, he didn’t officially join the team until Feb. 7. From there, he underwent a number of tests with team trainers and doctors, who had a unique plan with types of treatment that he had never experienced before.
Bynum said he went nearly two weeks straight of light workouts without any problem. He has practiced in some capacity with the team about five times. He has, however, recently experienced swelling and that caused him to sit out of practice on Wednesday.
Feeling better the next day, Bynum was joined by a handful of teammates on the practice floor for about 45 minutes of three-on-three work following Thursday’s shootaround. During the session, they tried to simulate a practice as much as possible and get him going up and down the floor. With a busy March schedule — 18 games in 31 days — he’s going to have to get workouts at various times, even if the team is off.
The key point in this process is building up his conditioning while managing any inflammation in his knees.
“(Team trainers are) trying to treat the pain in his knees so that he’s strong come playoff time — doing corrective things that he wasn’t doing in Cleveland,” said Pacers coach Frank Vogel.
Bynum was playing through pain in Cleveland and they’re trying to limit that as much as possible.
“The goal is to get him to the point where he’s playing every night,” Vogel added. “We don’t want to play him one game and have him sit three games, play him another game and have him sit four games. That’s the plan. We’re trying to build up strength in his knees from a preventative standpoint so when he does start playing, he’s an everyday player for us.”
The most obvious change in Bynum has been with his demeanor in the last week. Obviously, he’s going to get more comfortable with his teammates in a new environment in time. Hours before his first few games since joining the Pacers, he sat quietly at his locker, leaning back in his chair while watching videos on his phone. Roy Hibbert, who he is expected to backup, walked by him without saying a word.
That wasn’t the case before games this past Tuesday or Thursday. He was telling Hibbert what it was like being drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers as a 17-year-old. Hibbert, responded with a few things Bynum missed out on in college. Bynum threw out a question across the room, made a comment about what folks on TV were talking about and liked the tune blaring from the weight room.
A much more engaged Bynum is optimistic about joining his teammates for game action soon. The team doesn’t have a firm timeline for his debut, but the feeling within the locker room is that it could be within two weeks, though it could be longer than that, based on his conditioning level and how his knees respond. With five games over the next seven days, including two sets of back-to-back games, there’s little time for the team to practice.
Vogel’s Pacers have maintained the league’s best record (currently at 44-13) and have a two-game lead on Miami. Bynum suiting up is expected to further strengthen the second unit.
“We know what we can expect from him when he’s healthy and in shape,” Vogel said. “He’s going to be one of the best centers in the NBA and we’ve seen flashes of that in practices that he’s shown here.”