After hyperextending his right knee during the Los Angeles Lakers' first-round-clinching Game 6 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, Lakers center Andrew Bynum(notes) underwent an MRI that revealed a small tear in that knee's meniscus. He toughed it out, though, because he's a hockey player (NOTE: this is false, he's a basketball player), grabbing 10 rebounds in 25 minutes of burn in the Lakers' win in Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Utah Jazz.
Unfortunately for Bynum, it looks like he ain't going to feel better anytime soon. Reporting from El Segundo, Calif., ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin writes that after Lakers practice on Monday, Bynum said that from here on out, he'll have to play through some serious discomfort:
"It's just a sharp pain because both bones are hitting each other instead of that little pad that's supposed to be between them," Bynum said. "Cutting, jumping, landing and pushing off is when I feel it, but running in a straight line is not bad at all."
(My primary care physician Dr. Feelgood informs me that "that little pad" is actually called cartilage. It'd be way more fun if it was actually a Moleskine notebook or a real swingin' dude's apartment, but it's actually just a firm but flexible connective tissue. Thanks for nothing, anatomy and physiology.)
That gust of wind you just felt was the collective exhale of Lakers fandom breathing a huge sigh of relief, because Andrew Bynum's going to feel "not bad at all" when he has to run the anchor leg in the baseline-to-baseline relay race that will determine this year's NBA champion. Whew. Dodged a bullet there.
Hmm? What's that? They're not using the relay race method for handing out rings this year? You have to play basketball games and win them? Oh, wow, that's a bummer. Because I just read this story that said the only time Andrew Bynum's knee hurts him is when he does just about everything he'd need to do to be productive on a basketball court.
Bynum said doctors have assured him he faces no risk of re-injuring or sustaining any structural damage to the knee by continuing to play on it, which is good news for him and his team. Also good news for the Lakers: They employ Pau Gasol(notes) (who's been arguably the best player in forum blue and gold this postseason) and Lamar Odom(notes) (a star-caliber Swiss army knife that can slide from sixth man to starting power forward), so it's not exactly like their frontcourt cupboard becomes barren if Bynum has trouble tolerating the pain. (They also employ Ron Artest(notes), which is bad news for people who like successful jump shot attempts and who don't like things that are often mindboggling.)
If Bynum's unlikely to further hurt his knee, then the only real question remaining is how effective he can be as he plays through the injury, and the results there could be dicey. This postseason's other prominent partial-meniscus-tear sufferer, Brandon Roy(notes), looked like a shell of his world-beating self during his three-game comeback in the Portland Trail Blazers' first-round loss to the Phoenix Suns, averaging 9.7 points on 30.3 percent shooting in 27.7 minutes per game. (His Player Efficiency Rating? A robust 4.6, according to Basketball-Reference.)
Of course, there are key differences in the players' situations, chief among them that Roy did have arthroscopic surgery to repair the tear in his left meniscus and sat out 12 days between injury and comeback, while Bynum has said he plans to postpone any procedures until the offseason and has continued to play and practice since the tear occurred.
Whether the injury will derail Bynum's rebounding- and shot-blocking-predicated game as it did Roy's dribble-penetration- and jump-shooting-focused style remains to be seen, but no matter how much it hurts, Bynum said he's ready to bear down and power through:
"I know it's going to be painful," Bynum said. "I'm ready to run through that."
Which is especially awesome if the league suits decide to finally make that relay-race switch.