The Lakers continue to monitor their injured players, receiving positive updates (Chris Mihm), negative ones (Trevor Ariza) and some that are in between (Andrew Bynum).
Bynum is still jogging in a swimming pool and also working out on an elliptical machine, but he has not tested his injured left knee on a treadmill, though that could come next week, a team source said.
The Lakers do not have an updated target date for his return, but Bynum is out until at least early April. He has missed 25 games so far because of a deep bone bruise in the knee and a brief dislocation in the kneecap.
Ariza hoped to get out of a walking boot earlier this week, but the broken bone in his right foot hadn't healed enough, a reality that Coach Phil Jackson called "a disappointment for us."
A key member of the second unit after being acquired from Orlando, Ariza probably will not return before the end of the regular season, four weeks beyond the original forecast for his return. (The Lakers' last game of the regular season is April 15.) He has missed 23 games since sustaining the injury in a Jan. 20 practice.
Backup center Mihm has begun jogging on the court less than three weeks after having a screw removed from his surgically repaired right heel. He hoped to be back in time to play in April, which would be about right for the original six-week timetable.
"There was a tension and a painful pressure in the back of my heel, but it hasn't been there since that screw was removed," Mihm said. "I'm doing stuff already that was driving me up a wall four or six weeks ago."
There's also that other injured guy, the one who keeps playing.
Kobe Bryant hasn't missed any games because of a torn ligament in his right pinkie, but that doesn't stop him from calling it the "most aggravating" injury he has ever had.
He is constantly reminded of it, whether the pinkie gets smacked in a game or caught while buttoning a shirt at home. "Every day," he said. "But you get used to it. When it's painful, you just know that it can't get any worse. It's just pain and it'll go away after a minute or so."
Bryant has been on a tear lately, averaging 39.7 points and shooting a respectable 48.1% in his last three games. He also has developed a strategy when his finger gets hit during games. "I'll keep my hand out of a play or two and I'll kind of move my fingers around, try to just kind of wait for the pain to subside a little bit," he said.
Sounds like Project Ariza is done, and we should have Mihm and Bynum back in April.
Andrew Bynum's return from a knee injury might not be until close to the end of the regular season, Coach Phil Jackson suggested Friday.
"That's still perhaps a month away, maybe, whatever," he said when asked about the team adapting to Bynum's return. "I can't even put a date on it. It's just too early to think of it like that."
The Lakers' last regular-season game is April 15 against Sacramento. Their first playoff game will be either April 19 or 20.
Bynum could begin jogging on a treadmill next week, but Jackson already sensed a challenging adjustment period when the 20-year-old returned to the court, particularly with Pau Gasol now in the mix.
"Very difficult, especially when [Bynum] has never played with a player like that," Jackson said. "Regardless of how Andrew comes back, he's not going to start at 100%. He's going to start somewhere where it's going to be, 'Is he in basketball condition now to play eight, 10 minutes, six minutes,' whatever it is.
"When we put him on the court, it's going to be in relief to start with. He's going to come off the bench and play a secondary role, probably, to start with. And then as he gets a couple games where it looks like he can sustain the effort and his conditioning improves, then we'll work on how it fits together.
"Now, if this is in the playoffs, it's almost impossible to do that because you don't want to break up the chemistry. It's going to be handled just the right way."
Bynum has been out since sustaining a bone bruise on his left knee and a brief dislocation of the kneecap in a Jan. 13 game against Memphis.
There's a decent fight for the seventh and eighth spots in the Western Conference, although the Lakers are reluctant to acknowledge it while battling San Antonio for the conference's top spot.
"I'm not really watching that," Jackson said. "We're still 15 games away from that. The last eight, 10 games, you start watching everything that everybody does."
Sounds like the first or second week of April, Im leaning on the first, hopefully.
Long term is this a good thing for Bynum? The way I read the recent reports is the swelling is caused more from the bone bruise than knee subluxation. Dislocation of the knee can be a degenerative condition, kind of like concussions, but Bynum's dislocation seems to have been minor.