The long and protracted wait by the 76ers to get center Andrew Bynum on the floor ended Friday as the center participated in a spirited practice, according to multiple sources.
According to at least two of the sources, Bynum, who has been working out with coaches and team medical personnel exclusively, participated in a five-on-five scrimmage with teammates. Just how long the scrimmage lasted was unknown.
This is a huge step for Bynum and the Sixers, who have just 30 games remaining in the regular season, including Saturday's game with the defending champion Miami Heat, winners of nine straight. For both parties, the most important element now is to see how Bynum's knees react in the coming days.
Earlier this week, Bynum, who has been recovering from bilateral bone bruises and weakened cartilage in both knees, told reporters that he thought he might be able to begin practicing with his teammates in one or two weeks. He also has said that he had ramped up his activity in recent days.
However, if Bynum does not experience any pain on Saturday, there exists, according to one source, the possibility that he could resume practicing sooner. Oftentimes, practicing 5-on-5 is the final step for an injured player before he plays in actual games.
The Sixers have exercised extreme caution with Bynum since acquiring the 7-foot, 300-pound center in a 12-player, four-team trade in August. Bynum, who spent the first seven years of his career with the Los Angeles Lakers, earned second-team all-NBA honors last season after averaging 18.7 points on 55.8 percent shooting. He also averaged 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks.
He is making $16.8 million this season.
At the time of the trade, the Sixers said that Bynum's knees were reasonably healthy. However, right before training camp began on Oct. 2, the Sixers reported that Bynum was suffering from a bone bruise to his right knee that would prevent him from participating.
At the time, the Sixers also reported that they hoped to have Bynum, who traveled to Germany to have a noninvasive procedure on his knees - Orthokine therapy - in late September, ready at the start of the regular season.
That deadline came and went. Since that time, Bynum, who can become an unrestricted free agent this summer, suffered another bone bruise to his left knee, an injury he said resulted from bowling.
In November, the Sixers dispensed with timelines. They have listened to the center and have allowed him to tell them when he would be ready to play. Sixers coach Doug Collins, whose playing career was cut short by injury, has said that he agreed that allowing Bynum to determine when his body was ready to return.
The Sixers allow reporters to see portions of each practice at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. This has included segments at the end of practice. Bynum has been seen working out on the elliptical machine and the team's antigravity machine, a mechanism that allows the player to get extensive cardiovascular work without putting too much strain on the joints or ligaments.
However, reporters have yet to see Bynum scrimmaging with teammates.
Read John Mitchell's preview of Saturday's 76ers-Heat game at philly.com/sixersEndText