PHILADELPHIA — Andrew Bynum’s debut with the Philadelphia 76ers has been pushed back more times than the start of the NHL season.
Yet to even practice this season, the injured All-Star vowed to return from the bone bruises that have sidelined him.
“I’m confident I’ll be on the court this season,” he said Friday night.
When? Well, no one from Bynum to his doctor seem to know, even after an encouraging exam Thursday that will let the 7-foot center being a six-step rehabilitation process.
Bynum can start low-impact exercises like riding a stationary bike as the first step of his rehab.
There is no date for a return. The All-Star center was acquired from the Los Angeles Lakers in a four-team trade before the season.
“The bone bruises are healed and the swelling is gone, so those two things are great,” Bynum said. “We’re just waiting for mechanical issues to be resolved, and that’s going to take anywhere from a month to two. I have no idea, but we’re going to work toward grinding it out so it’s not causing me any problems.”
Bynum said his right knee feels fine but that there’s still some pain in his left knee.
The 25-year-old center is in the final year of his contract and could sign a five-year deal worth more than $100 million in the offseason, if he’s healthy. But his uncertain status could be costing the All-Star millions.
“The doctors are taking their time because I want to play for another 10, 12 years, and not two,” Bynum said. “So I think the biggest thing here is to take our time and get it done right.”
He won two NBA titles in seven seasons with the Lakers. The Sixers hoped he could help them become one of the league’s elite teams.
Without a legitimate big man in the middle, the Sixers have stumbled, and lost five straight games heading into Friday’s game against Atlanta.
“He’s on the last year of his deal, he’s got to get himself healthy to play,” coach Doug Collins said. “There’s a lot at stake for him and the organization.”
Bynum announced in May, while still a member of the Lakers, that he was going to Germany in September for the Orthokine blood-spinning treatment in his knees that other professional athletes have sought. The Sixers announced before training camp that Bynum needed to delay his return to allow the effects of the Orthokine treatment to work.
The bone bruise in his right knee caused the Sixers to push the return date from training camp to the regular season. The Sixers said in early November the goal was for Bynum to resume “normal basketball activity” around Dec. 10. He would then need 1-to-4 weeks of conditioning and practice before he can play in his first game for the 76ers.
That plan was quickly scrapped after he injured his left knee bowling last month.
The exam on Thursday showed Bynum’s weakened cartilage hasn’t gotten worse. Bynum said the potential of surgery is off the table.
Sixers general manger Tony DiLeo said the best-case scenario all depended on how Bynum’s knees reacted to the increased exercise.
“This is good news,” DiLeo said. “We can move ahead to the next phase of his rehab. This isn’t something where the doctor says he has to rest.”
Bynum was coming off his best NBA season after averaging career highs with 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds while making his first All-Star team, starting for the West. He was the NBA’s third-leading rebounder and 20th-leading scorer, while also ranking sixth in the league with 1.93 blocked shots per game.