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Scott Howard-Cooper

Andrew Bynum is averaging 12.1 points and 9.8 rebounds while shooting 59.2 percent during these playoffs.
Harry How/NBAE via Getty Images

Bynum puts ailing knee aside to carry Lakers past Jazz

Posted May 5 2010 10:09AM

LOS ANGELES -- Medical science took a turn posterizing the Jazz on Tuesday, because that was Andrew Bynum who had 17 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks in all of 29 minutes when he could have had surgery, and because it's just become so repetitious for the Lakers.

Bynum has a torn cartilage in his right knee, Utah is halfway to another broken heart. A third consecutive meeting in the playoffs is heading toward a third consecutive elimination at the hands of the Lakers, and after L.A. won three of four in the regular season, all of which would be bad enough except that the Jazz just got worked over inside by a guy in need of an operation.

"He was a huge factor," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "He's so long. We're playing a couple young guys to try to play against him, so he's got an advantage to start with."

With Bynum's double-double leading the way, the Lakers dropped the Jazz 111-103 Tuesday to grab a 2-0 lead in the series.

Or not. Kyrylo Fesenko, the Jazz starting center before giving way to Paul Millsap alongside Carlos Boozer in a lineup of two power forwards, is, actually, older than Bynum. He doesn't have Bynum's experience, but he also doesn't have Bynum's injury history of the last few years or, most important in the moment, Bynum's knee.

He is playing bone-on-bone and with coach Phil Jackson subbing for him to nurse him along ... and is still averaging 12.1 points and 9.8 rebounds while shooting 59.2 percent in the eight postseason games. Nights like this, weeks like this, are why the Lakers all along have refused to give up on Bynum, and why the rest of the league sees the potential for a decade worth of dominating center.

The health issues have just always gone along with it, usually problems with the knees. The latest probably requires another surgery, though Bynum has ruled it out during the playoffs, because he said he can handle the pain and doctors said he can't make it worse and risk a more-complicated procedure and longer comeback.

The torn meniscus causes some stabbing pains and restricts his movement, and "just like cutting and jumping and landing and pushing off is where I feel it." That's all. Jumping, landing and cutting. At least running in a straight line isn't too bad.

Most every Bynum interview session now brings the predictable line of questioning.

Can you make the injury worse?

"I think the only thing that can happen is the pain can increase. But as far as damaging the structure, no. Nothing else will happen."

Are you worried you will make it through the playoffs?

"No, I don't think so."

Does an operation seem inevitable?

"Even the surgery for this, if it gets to that point, I think most people come back in one to two weeks. Jordan [Farmar, a teammate] had it, I don't know if it was last year or two years ago. He had the same thing, the same exact thing I have. He had the surgery and came back. And then Brandon Roy, too. He just came back in seven days."

So why not have the surgery?

"Because. I'm going to ride until I need to have it."

And you don't need to have it now?

"I don't need it now. I'd rather play like this than have to have surgery."

If he can handle the pain, he can keep playing.

"It hurts when you explode and land and when your leg's in full extension," said Farmar, the reserve point guard who missed 17 games last season after tearing the meniscus in his left knee and undergoing surgery. "My injury was midseason, so I wanted to fix it as soon as possible and get back healthy as soon as possible. I probably would have done the same thing he's doing now if it was the playoffs or something. It's definitely something you can play with, and since we only have a month left it's probably not going to do that much damage. But it's definitely painful and it's going to be a struggle."

It's not such a good time for the Jazz either. Bynum had eight points in 10 rebounds in Game 1, then followed with a career playoff high in boards as the Lakers had 64 points in the paint to hold off another Utah comeback. Now, with a 2-0 lead, with a meaningful contribution while hurt, Bynum gets the schedule break of three days off before the series shifts to Salt Lake City on Saturday night.

"We're always concerned about him," Jackson said. "I just went into the training room to see how he was doing. He was in there getting some ice.... But during the game, he never complains. He goes out there and does the job. I try to limit him from excessive minutes, although tonight there was one time I think I played him maybe eight minutes in a row. That's a little bit longer than I wanted to."

But not more than Bynum could handle. The real issue is whether the Jazz can handle him.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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