LOS ANGELES — Andrew Bynum's latest knee injury probably won't keep the Los Angeles Lakers' shot-blocking center out of their playoff opener. The Lakers breathed a collective sigh of relief after Bynum's MRI on Wednesday showed only a bone bruise. The oft-injured 7-footer hyperextended his troublesome right knee during Los Angeles' win over San Antonio on Tuesday night.
The Lakers planned to finish the regular season in Sacramento on Wednesday night without Bynum, but the team said its defensive powerhouse should be able to play this weekend when the Lakers open their playoff chase of a third straight title. Bynum was hurt during the second quarter against the Spurs when he fell awkwardly to the court after stepping on DeJuan Blair's foot while getting back on defense. Bynum's knees are a constant concern for the Lakers, but he walked to the locker room under his own power and told coach Phil Jackson he didn't believe the injury was serious. “He allows us to be the dominant team we're capable of being,” guard Derek Fisher said. “It's hard to think about not having him for any significant length of time. It was tough to see. He's so important to what we do, so to even think for a second that he might be out, the impact that would have on him after all of his work, it's tough to deal with in the moment.” Bynum is averaging 11.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and nearly 2 blocked shots in 54 games this season while patrolling the paint as the Lakers' most important defensive player. The 23-year-old's imposing size alongside fellow 7-footer Pau Gasol is the Lakers' biggest asset outside Kobe Bryant, and Bynum is in the midst of a remarkable defensive season. But knee injuries have been the only constant in the career of Bynum, the youngest player ever drafted by an NBA team when the Lakers selected the 17-year-old six years ago with the 10th overall pick. The Lakers also have played more games than any other NBA team over the past four years after making three straight NBA finals, and the cumulative toll has been obvious in every player — even Bryant, whose litany of minor injuries in the past two seasons currently includes a sprained left ankle.