PHILADELPHIA — Out all season with bad knees, Andrew Bynum’s latest setback may be the one that finally ends his year.
Bynum admitted for the first time that he may not play for the Philadelphia 76ers because of swelling in his right knee. Bynum had been steadfast since training camp that he would eventually make his Sixers’ debut, even setting an All-Star break target date. Bynum backed off Friday because he still had swelling in his right knee from five-on-five drills last week. Bynum, an All-Star last season with the Lakers, refused to commit to a comeback.
“It’s getting really late,” he said. “I don’t know.”
Building around their 7-foot center, the Sixers (22-34) expected to contend for the Atlantic Division title and make a deep run in the playoffs. Without him, they have lost seven straight entering tonight’s game against Golden State and are well behind the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Not even Bynum could help them salvage a playoff berth now.
The 25-year-old is an unrestricted free agent and said he won’t be pressured into making a decision to play or sit out.
“I think being healthy is more important than everything else,” he said. “If I am healthy, I’ll get a deal. I have to be able to play and I need to get to the point with my body where I’m able to play, however long that takes.”
He won’t play for the Sixers until he is healthy.
“I don’t want to play in pain,” he said.
Bynum was shut down in training camp as a precaution and the Sixers originally hoped he’d be ready by opening night on Oct. 31. After some timetables came and went, the Sixers listed him as out indefinitely, while his own return dates for practice and games bounced around depending on his health.
“With the swelling, he’s made no progress,” coach Doug Collins said. “If you get swelling, that is a major concern.”
Bynum was acquired as part of a four-team trade that also saw the Sixers land Jason Richardson. Richardson was shut down after 33 games with knee injuries. The Sixers sent Andre Iguodala to Denver and Nik Vucevic to Orlando as part of the trade. Both players are having solid seasons. Bynum will earn $16.5 million this season without ever playing to the potential the organization expected when they made him the centerpiece of team.
Bynum said his left knee felt good. His left knee had been the troubled one after he was hurt bowling earlier in the season. Now, it’s the right knee — the original injured knee from way back in September — that has again flared up.
“I think I’ll be able to play in some form or fashion in the future,” he said.
Whether that future includes the Sixers is in serious doubt.