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Bynum Focused on the Here and Now

by Mark Montieth | askmontieth@gmail.com

March 13, 2014

Short-term, Andrew Bynum sat out the Pacers' practice on Thursday, will sit out their game in Philadelphia on Friday, and then return the following night in Detroit.

Long-term? That question mark will follow him everywhere he goes for the remainder of the season, particularly on the walks from the training room to the basketball court. Does the 26-year-old eighth-year pro have enough left in his knees to recapture something resembling his All-Star level of two seasons ago, or is backing up a healthier player his future job description?

Bynum is as curious as anyone to find out. His Pacers debut on Tuesday brought eight points and 10 rebounds in 15 ½ minutes, and inspired a slumping team and fan base. That kind of productivity will matter in the postseason, which is why he'll be sitting out more practices and games the rest of the regular season.

“I don't think back-to-backs are prime right now,” he said, resting in an end zone seat at Hinkle Fieldhouse following the team's workout. “There's two more left after this one, and we don't want to risk anything. It's more about being healthy for the playoffs.

“I'm pleased with the way it's responded to the treatment I've been getting. I don't have any swelling, just general arthritic conditions, I guess. We want to calm it down. Everything is about not causing a flare-up that causes me to miss four or five consecutive days. If I can play two really strong hard days and take a day off and it's fine, that's the remedy we want. We don't want to have any bone bruises or flareups, because that's when you start to lose conditioning.”

Bynum is to the Pacers what Greg Oden is to Miami: a talented 7-foot center with tender knees, being nursed along in hopes he can be a difference-maker in the quest for a championship. They're in a gimpy-legged race to the finish line, and who remains healthiest could have a lot to say about who reaches the NBA Finals.

Oden has played 16 games for the Heat this season, averaging 3 points and 2.1 rebounds in 8.3 minutes per game.

As for Bynum, the Pacers would be thrilled to keep getting what they got in Tuesday's game against Boston.

“He got me excited,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said Thursday. “He's one heck of a basketball player and he's really going to help us. Now it's a matter of getting as much work as we can in with him while managing the soreness in his knees. Hopefully come playoff time he's healthy and as far along as we can get him.”

Beyond that, Bynum has no way of knowing what lies ahead. But he wants as much as he can get out of his remaining years.

“I think I have to monitor my body, always staying in shape, being more professional,” he said. “A lot of times in the summer I would take two months off and then attack it like a boxing training camp where I'd go for eight weeks twice a day, really hard. I obviously have to change that. It's a young man's game, and I'm still young in the human sense, but as a basketball player, a thoroughbred, I'm pretty old. So I have to revamp my training strategy.”

For now, he only has to worry about being an effective backup center, something that should come easily for him if his knees allow it. The Pacers offer a place to relaunch a once-promising career, and a chance to do it with a contending team. That's all he's capable of at the moment. And all he wants.

"My talents aren't going anywhere,” he said. “I'm definitely a starter in the league. But here it gives me the opportunity to take care of my body. Roy (Hibbert) is here and it's his show, so I'm here just to back him up and play solid minutes. Me playing 15 to 20 minutes a game, I can be very effective and I have less downtime that way.”

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