WHEN ANDREW Bynum decides to talk to the media, it's always newsworthy. When he says he is feeling much better and doesn't mention the word setback, well, it's almost time for 76ers fans to start thinking about a possible return.
Sitting at his seldom-used locker before Sunday's Sixers-Lakers game, Bynum seemed generally upbeat. Perhaps it was the excitement of seeing his former teammates. Or maybe he is feeling a little euphoric about a possible debut with the Sixers.
Bynum will be examined by doctors on Thursday, during which time an MRI may or may not be performed on one or both of his knees. His right knee, the one that he hurt in mid-September, is feeling great, he says. The left one, which he said last week bothered him just to walk on, is now feeling much better also.
"The update is that I'm feeling much better," Bynum said. "When I see the doctor, hopefully, I'll be cleared for impact. Only the left knee [is hurting]; the right knee is fine. [The left knee is] better from then, definitely improvement [from last week]."
The past few practices at the team's practice facility, Bynum has been on the court when the media has been able to watch. Asked if he's been doing more, Bynum said: "Not really, just shooting around a little bit with the guys. I'm starting to feel better, though."
His eagerness to return to the court and play with his new teammates seems to be a little more obvious each time he talks. Thursday will be a big obstacle to clear.
"I think I could do wonders for this team because right now we don't have a lot of post threat and that would help free up a lot of our guys from the outside - knock-down shooters," he said. "Jrue [Holiday] and Evan [Turner] are playing a lot with the ball right now so it would be good to join them and Thaddeus [Young], also."
When asked about the Lakers and his former team, Bynum started the conversation by saying: "Health is the main concern for me, now."
As has been the case since he got here.
As strange as it may seem, at least for those of us who have climbed the age ladder a little bit, there are many players in the Sixers' locker room who have seen no better basketball player than Kobe Bryant.
"Kobe was No. 1 as far as idols for me growing up," said Maalik Wayns. "Especially being from the area and my era. I didn't really get to see Michael Jordan in his prime. So to me Kobe is definitely the greatest player to ever play the game."
Bryant certainly didn't disappoint Sunday as he wowed the sellout crowd with 34 points in Los Angeles' 111-98 win, handing the Sixers their first three-game losing streak of the season.
"Obviously, he's one of the greatest," said Evan Turner, a Chicago native and devout Michael Jordan backer as the greatest player ever. "The greatest thing about Kobe, like Michael, is that they have a great work ethic. You hear stories about Kobe working out until he blacks out and having to be slowed down and how mentally tough he is. Now sports is a lot like entertainment where people start dancing and stuff [when they make good plays] and doing all the crazy stuff. Kobe has always kept it professional and about basketball. He didn't get into the hype and all the craziness after making a great play. He shows up like it's a business. He's a killer."
Jrue Holiday missed his second straight game due to a sprained foot, and coach Doug Collins said before the game that it might be "a few more days" before Holiday gets back on the court. The team has back-to-back games in Dallas and Houston before returning home on Friday. Collins said that with so many games still remaining, rushing Holiday back too soon is not a good idea. Though after Sunday night's loss to the Lakers, who knows?