Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum is targeting the game at the Washington Wizards on Dec. 14 for his season debut after missing every game thus far while recovering from surgery on his right knee.
Bynum told ESPN.com of his anticipated return date after an on-court workout before the Lakers played the Wizards at Staples Center Tuesday night in Los Angeles, the 21st game of the season that Bynum has missed. The Lakers have three more games -- against the Clippers, at the Chicago Bulls and at the New Jersey Nets -- before playing the Wizards again in Washington.
When Lakers coach Phil Jackson was asked if he would hold anything back Tuesday (like a football coach scaling back the offense) because the Lakers face the Wizards twice within seven days, Jackson joked, "I won't play Andrew Bynum tonight."
When asked if that Bynum might play against the Wizards next week, Jackson said, "Maybe, hopefully."
Bynum has participated in five-on-five scrimmages at practice in recent days and said he feels "no residual effects. No swelling, no pain."
His absence didn't slow the Lakers down in their first 14 games, when they rolled out to a 12-2 record. Then they hit a four-game losing skid, with Pau Gasol wearing down due to his increased playing time and workload while moving to the center position to replace Bynum. It didn't help that Theo Ratliff, the center the Lakers signed in the off-season, was lost due to knee surgery of his own.
Bynum's return would allow Gasol to move back to power forward and is expected to bolster a Lakers defense that has lagged well behind the offense in the league rankings, as the Lakers allowed opponents to shoot 44 percent and score 99.6 points per game in their first 20 contests.
J.A. Adande is a senior writer for ESPN.com.