Inside the Sixers: 76ers fans have reason to worry about Andrew Bynum's knees

Andrew Bynum watches with Jason Richardson (right) as the 76ers lose to Detroit. Bynum on Friday said he has suffered a setback in his rehab. STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Andrew Bynum watches with Jason Richardson (right) as the 76ers lose to Detroit. Bynum on Friday said he has suffered a setback in his rehab. STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer
Posted: November 19, 2012

Once you have worked your way through all of the medical jargon from last week - particularly the last 48 hours - there are two things to focus on that Andrew Bynum said Friday.

As he towered over microphones, cameras, and bright lights focused on him in front of his locker at the Wells Fargo Center, Bynum revealed that where there was once a bone bruise solely to the right knee, now there is an identical bruise to the left. Additionally, according to David W. Altchek of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, the cartilage in both knees belonging to the 7-foot, 285-pound Bynum are, in his words, "in a weakened state."

This is where Bynum is. It's a long way from the Orkathine therapy he received in Germany on Sept. 15. It's a long way from the Sixers' Oct. 1 announcement that Bynum would miss three weeks to allow the therapeutic effects of the therapy to set in and, additionally, allow for the healing of a bone bruise - the result of "running on the track" and an "up-and-under move," Bynum said.

The target date of returning to practice on Oct. 24, two days after the Synvisc-One injections, came and went, and with it went the hope of Bynum's appearing in the season opener nearly three weeks ago.

As it stands, the new date of hope is around Dec. 10, unaltered still by the latest news. At that time, the Sixers and Bynum hold out hope that he will be able to resume basketball-related activities and possibly return to the court by late December or the middle of January.

But there is a big reason to be skeptical about what Bynum said regarding his latest setback.

Bynum's new issues - which also include swelling in both knees - are the results of what he says are "routine things."

"There was no [blunt] force or anything like that," Bynum said.

To date, the only activities Bynum has participated in are swimming, riding the elliptical machine, and other low-impact exercises.

There are the true red flags in this saga.

Bynum is not to be faulted for his effort to get back on the floor. To the best of anybody's knowledge, he's doing everything he's being instructed to do by doctors, both inside and out the organization.

This has to be killing him. Remember, Bynum made it through all of last season and appeared in 60 of a possible 66 games for the Lakers, missing four because of suspension, one to injury; and another because the Lakers held him out of a meaningless game late in the regular season.

It resulted in the best season of his seven-year career, an All-Star Game appearance, and second- team all-NBA honors.

Bynum has suggested, as have others, that perhaps the lockout-condensed season took its toll on his body.

Maybe this is true. But the reality is that the player the front office was openly talking about potentially signing to a max contract worth more than $100 million has not played an NBA game since May 21, at which time he was injury-free.

Barring any setbacks between now and Dec. 10, almost seven months will have passed since Bynum last played an NBA game. In fact, the only reason given for not pushing back the December target date is that the latest injuries mirror the original. Of course, this might be wrong as well, considering that the bone bruise on the left knee was identified six weeks after the first.

Which brings us back to the warning signs.

As Bynum has attempted to rehab, playing basketball and the attendant rigors remain distant on the horizon. More immediately, Bynum's hurdles are exercise routines more common to senior citizens than NBA basketball players. Hence, it is only natural - albeit premature - that Sixers fans reference Jeff Ruland and the chronic foot problems that ended his career shortly after he was acquired in the shamefully bad Moses Malone trade.


Contact John N. Mitchell at jmitchell@philly.com, or follow on Twitter @JmitchInquirer.

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