The news wasn't bad, so, therefore, it is a step in the right direction. That, of course, is the optimistic way to look at the latest news on Andrew Bynum, who had a pair of MRIs done on his ailing knees on Thursday, which revealed that there is enought healing of the bone bruises that he is set to begin a six-step rehabbing program.

The pessimist will see that, over and over again, both Bynum and 76ers general manager Tony DiLeo said there is no timetable for his return as they spoke before Friday's game with the Atlanta Hawks.

"The report is his knees are healing. He is improving. He has been approved to increase his activity," DiLeo said. "Still, there is no timetable. That depends on how Andrew reacts and how his body reacts to the increased activity. We do have a revised rehab plan that we put together with our medical people and his doctor, and basically we'll go through that. And as he goes through these phases of the rehab program, if he reacts in a positive way, then we go into the next step. Basically it's a six-step process from low-impact to on the court, playing basketball."

Bynum met with his personal physician, Dr. David Altchek, on Thursday and while the "all-go" wasn't given, DiLeo viewed it as a positive step.

"I thought this was good news, because we can move ahead to the next phase of his rehab," DiLeo said. "It wasn't something where the doctor said 'No, he has to rest for another how long.' This is good news.

"There is no schedule right now [as for when a step is completed]; it just depends on his rehab. If there are difficulties, he will go see Altchek and if everything goes smoothly I'm sure he'll see Altchek at some point before he gets back on the court."

Getting back on the court seems to be probably about in the middle of the stages Bynum will be required to pass before he is cleared to put on a uniform. While the outline of those steps weren't available Friday night, the beginning will consist of a little more than what Bynum has been doing for quite some time.

"The first thing would be riding the bike, the [anti-gravity] treadmill, strengthen his muscles and then it will ramp up to the next phase, until he's basically back on the court," DiLeo said. "It really depends on how he reacts the whole time. This will be the first time in a while that he will have activities, so it just depends on how his knees react to that. And then he will go on to the next step, the next phase. It's basically how he feels. Once he's comfortable with Stage 1 and once his knees react in a positive way, then we'll go to Stage 2, and so on. But it really depends on him. We don't want to put a number of days on it or anything like that, and this is just something that will just have to go. We have a program planned out, and we're going to stick with it.

"It really depends on how his body reacts. The whole time, that's what we've been saying - it just depends. If there are no setbacks, then it will be sooner, if it doesn't react [well], it will be a little bit longer. We can't predict a specific number of days or a date on it. He's out indefinitely until we have fuller information and we can have him back on the court."

When asked about "whens" and "ifs," Bynum was vague, just as he has been since this injury stuff started in mid-September. But he was emphatic on more than one occasion that he would be back before this season was over.

"It's some decent news. The bone bruise has healed, so that's good," Bynum said. "There is still cartilage issue in my left knee. I would say it's a baby step. We still didn't accomplish anything, but we all want that to resolve itself. There's a really good possibility that that's going to be the case [meaning no surgery]. There's still pain in the left knee."

Asked about the possibility of his return, he said: "Definitely. Right now, the doctors told me they should be good. I don't know exactly when, but they should straighten out themselves. They feel real good right now. I'm confident that I'll be back on the court this season."

It really was the first time that Bynum had brought up the subject of possible surgery, though it has certainly been thrown into many conversations.

"I think that's off the table [talk of surgery]," Bynum said. "[The type of surgery would be] just a clean-out and clean up some pieces of cartilage. We got good news; I don't want to sell it short. The bone bruises have healed, and the swelling is gone. Those two things are great. I'm just waiting for my cartilage issues, and if that's going to take anywhere from 1 to 2 [months], I have no idea. We're going to work towards grinding everything out, so it's not causing me any problem.

"We're all working together. Obviously, the doctors are taking their time, because I want to play for 10 to 12 more years and not 2. I think the biggest thing here is to take our time and get it done right."

Patience is something Bynum is trying to exhibit. Whether DiLeo can hold on to it for the rest of the season while Bynum continues to try to get back might not be all that easy.

"Basically we're looking for long term, for future, for big picture," DiLeo said. "Is there a possibility we'll do a small move maybe this season? That is possible. If there's anything big we do, it's going to be big picture, long term looking at it to get us closer to where we want to be. Are we disappointed that it didn't work out sooner? Yeah. But we are still looking at it where we want to see our whole team out there on the court."

"When" is the first question from the fans. It is just still a question that can't be answered. Even when Bynum does rev things up, it will still take a bit for him to recover his basketball skills.

"That's going to be tough, but it's something that I want to go do and just do it to get back in shape," Bynum said. "That's the real reason why I think it's unrealistic I'll be back in a couple of weeks, if anyone had that type of notion. The [left] knee feels good, but we still have a ways to go. The right knee is fine, no problems at all."

Lou returns

After spending his first 7 seasons in the NBA with the Sixers, Lou Williams moved on to his hometown team - the Atlanta Hawks - and returned to the Wells Fargo Center on Friday. The reaction to anyone who saw him was the same, huge smiles and laughter. Williams has that type of personality, one that makes anyone in his presence feel good.

"I think Evan [Turner] kind of has a little of Lou in him where he jokes around," Jrue Holiday said. "He'll joke on everybody in the locker room. Lou is like the cool guy. Everybody wants to be around Lou; he's always making jokes, always has stories. To see him is cool."

"Lou is a great guy," said Turner, now the vocal leader in the locker room. "Lou is my vet, he took great care of me as a rook. He is a fun guy. He's confident, and he knew how to keep his poise in certain situations. You knew when he was on the floor with you, even though he wasn't the biggest guy and he wasn't the best defender, he gave his all and he competed. Lou's a winner, a competitor. He's gutsy; nothing really scares him. When you have those type of characteristics, you're bound to be successful."