Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum's rehab from knee surgery has progressed to small-sided games — and carrying Playboy playmates on his shoulders.
As Bynum expressed confidence on his Web site this week that he'll return before the end of the season, coach Phil Jackson defended his big man over pictures that have peppered the Internet showing Bynum at the Playboy Mansion last weekend posing with a girl on his shoulders.
"I think there's a lot being made out of that that is unnecessary," Jackson said before Tuesday's game against Charlotte. "This is a young guy. I don't think Andrew is 22 yet, is he? He's a 21-year-old guy. He's been out of basketball 5 1/2-6 weeks. He's got to have some energy and vent and have some fun. Now I don't know if putting a girl on your shoulders..."
Bynum was averaging 14 points and 8.2 rebounds when he tore the medial collateral ligament in his left knee against Memphis on Jan. 31. In a question-and-answer session on Bynum's Web site Tuesday, he vowed to be back soon.
"Yes, I am going to make a return this season," Bynum said. "I'm already doing strength and conditioning as well as playing 2 on 2 and 3 on 3, while waiting on the team to return."
It was welcome news to Jackson, who hasn't spoken to Bynum since the Lakers began a seven-game, 13-day road trip that ends Wednesday in Milwaukee. The Lakers entered Tuesday's game with the second-best record in the NBA, but may need Bynum's inside presence to win the title.
"I think the best news from that blog that he sent out was he said he thinks he's going to play a regular season game," Jackson said. "That shows me some confidence. The last time I talked to him before we left on this road trip, Andrew said he was hopeful. But he sounded confident."
And his knee is strong enough to carry around a playmate, too.
"The fact that people are beating him up over that, I think that's crazy," Jackson said. "Andrew is doing fine and he's going to be fine."