PUT ON your party hat and warm up your noisemaker, because Andrew Bynum will not play basketball for the Sixers before the New Year.
In his mind, he does not need to.
On every level, he is right.
The Bynum Bone Bruise will keep him in street clothes for at least another 6 weeks or so. His comeback will be a Christmas present, perhaps; maybe a New Year's resolution.
He clearly is resolved to not put his career in jeopardy.
Bynum is the biggest part of the Sixers' portion of the trade that sent Andre Iguodala to Denver. The Sixers knew what they were getting: perpetually damaged goods.
As advertised, Bynum is hurt.
He underwent blood-spinning therapy to fortify his knees in September, then suffered a mysterious bone bruise in his right knee soon thereafter. Bynum has yet to play a game in red, white and blue.
Doctors say he needs a month before he can start practicing again. The team expects to wait as much as another month for Bynum to get into shape.
There is no hurry.
Not for Bynum.
If he is healthy, Bynum will receive a free-agency windfall after this season, whether he plays 1 minute . . . or 2,563 minutes, as he did in the condensed 2011-12 season, plus playoffs. But only if he is healthy.
Bynum believes his chronic knee issues worsened after he averaged a career-high 35.2 minutes in 60 games between Dec. 31, his first game of the lockout-shortened season with the Lakers, and April 22. That was an increase of about 16 percent over his career high.
The Sixers traded for Bynum with full knowledge of his injury issues. He missed one game with a bum ankle last year, the first time in four seasons he was healthy enough to play that much.
Or was he?
Apparently, the increased playing time, the shortened rest between games and the especially demanding travel schedule taxed Bynum beyond his limits.
"That [supports] the theory that that season really did cause some guys a lot of aggravation, with a condensed season," Bynum said, with no small measure of resentment. "I made it through it."
He made it through, but he could tell he had done damage. Monday night, he intimated that his bone bruise was the product of wear and tear accumulated last season.
"It's a possibility," he said. "I felt pretty confident this isn't a serious problem. I'm missing games, but I think I can make a full recovery and come back."
Before the trade was finalized, Bynum passed his physical to the Sixers' satisfaction.
Understand: Bynum's toughness should not be questioned. He has played hurt plenty.
He gutted out runs to the title through the Magic in 2009 and the Celtics in 2010.
"In a situation like that, all the marbles are there," Bynum said. "That's more about the hunt to get the ring."
Hunting anonymous wins against the likes of Milwaukee, Monday night's visitor, does not warrant the risk of lengthening this injury.
Not with millions and millions of dollars at stake, anyway.
Sixers owner Josh Harris is on record as saying that, if Bynum is healthy at the end of the season, the Sixers will offer him a maximum contract that cannot be matched by any other team in the NBA.
Harris did not stipulate that Bynum had to play 82 games, or 22, or two, for that matter.
Bynum knows this.
Bynum also knows that he finally has a chance to get healthy.
There is no expectation from a Lakers franchise so desperate for championships that it fired its head coach five games into this season. The Lakers expected Bynum to play every possible minute.
He won't do that again.
Not with a team that plans to use his 7-foot, 285-pound, 25-year-old frame as the central structure for the franchise.
"Obviously, the kind of player I am, I'm not going to go anywhere," Bynum said. "Health is still the main concern. I'm just listening to the doctors and folks, being cautious."
And if he weren't considered a gilded property? If he didn't have that breakout 2011-12 season?
"It wouldn't be any different. I think this is the way I need to handle it,' Bynum insisted.
It's untrue, but it's fine.
If Bynum wasn't assured of his importance, he would be playing sooner than Boxing Day.
If Bynum wasn't confident that overuse put him in this position, he would be champing at the bit.
"It's not conducive [to good health] for athletes to have to play in that environment," Bynum said.
And, maybe if the team really needed him, he might push it a little bit.
The Sixers played virtually no defense Monday night, looked sluggish playing their sixth game in 9 days, and lost, 105-96. Without the encumbrance of Bynum, the Sixers have grown, and they have learned.
They learned that Jrue Holiday's late-season takeover of the team was no mirage. They learned that Evan Turner's playoff fade was, well, no mirage. They learned that replacement starter Lavoy Allen is a fine backup.
And they are fine.
They have a weak first-half schedule. They have a rotation that goes nine players deep every night; nine players who might start on many teams.
So, Bynum will take it slow.
After weeks of the soccer mom workout, he will soon begin running and jumping again.
"Phase 2 will start next week," Bynum said. "That will tell me a lot."
It will tell him he has done the right thing . . . so far.
If he needs more time, he will take it; even if it means no Bynum until Valentine's Day.
After all, when it comes to big men's knees, life's a box of chocolates:
You never know what you're going to get.