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Bynum could return to Lakers earlier than expected

By Tim Price, for NBA.com
Posted Mar 24 2010 9:21PM

SAN ANTONIO -- Lakers coach Phil Jackson is keeping hopeful that injured center Andrew Bynum can return before the end of the five-game road trip the team starts tonight against the Spurs.

The Lakers (52-18) lead the West and have a six-game winning streak, but Jackson doesn't sound like he's completely happy with the team's play in single-digit margins of victory against losing teams the last four games.

So, having Bynum back from his left Achilles' strain would be a good thing if it could happen before the road trip ends March 31 in Atlanta. He was supposed to miss the entire trip when the injury was examined through MRI after Friday's 104-96 win at Minnesota.

"I haven't ruled it out," Jackson said, "but I haven't even thought about it in those terms [of Bynum's making it back before the end of the road trip]. But he did say he is feeling a lot better today. I can't see that happening right now, but that's a hopeful note."

Jackson said Bynum has been wearing a brace on and off. He said Bynum's ability to elevate off the injured leg would determine his return.

"More than anything else it would be for him to consistently take off with that leg up front," Jackson said. "I think that would be the key. A lot of it's about stopping. A lot of injuries happen when guys gear down to stop. But more of the concern for a player like Andrew is getting off and elevating."

After playing San Antonio (42-27) Wednesday, L.A. plays Friday at Oklahoma City, Saturday at Houston, Monday at New Orleans and Wednesday at Atlanta.

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