Phil Jackson defends Andrew Bynum

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Count Lakers coach Phil Jackson in Andrew Bynum's corner after it came to light this week that the 23-year-old center would possibly miss the start of the regular season because of delaying knee surgery to go on vacation this summer.

"I know he's getting battered a little bit and we could have had the operation a little bit earlier, he could have come in a little bit earlier, but the end result is what's he going to be like in May and June and that's the important part," Jackson said, sporting a fresh beard during his first comments to the media to kick off the new season.

Despite a source close to Bynum telling ESPNLosAngeles.com on Thursday that the five-year veteran fully expects to play opening night against Houston on Oct. 26, Jackson didn't seem so sure of that claim Friday.

"I don't see how Andrew is going to be ready and I really haven't anticipated Andrew being ready to go at the beginning of the season," the coach said.

Bynum informed the Lakers at his exit meeting in late June that he planned to have New York-based Dr. David Altchek perform surgery on the knee on July 18 to which the team agreed was a fair date.

Bynum had his right knee drained days after the Lakers' championship-clinching win over the Boston Celtics -- the third draining of the knee since widening a cartilage tear in the in the first round of the playoffs against Oklahoma City -- to buy himself some time to go on vacation to South Africa to attend the World Cup and also travel around Europe with friends and family.

Jackson said he "encouraged" Bynum to take the trip at the time. But because Bynum's doctor had to push the surgery date back 10 days to July 28, coupled with the fact that the procedure ended up being more complicated than the team had originally expected, Bynum finds himself in jeopardy of missing the start of the Lakers run at a three-peat.

"Now, that's an unfortunate thing, but the type of surgery that the doctor did on his knee takes a little extra time," Jackson said. "Obviously we hadn't prepared and Andrew certainly hadn't prepared for the fact that it could take an extra month and a half or so to rehab this type of surgery.

"It's an unusual type of surgery. It's not very often. Obviously the area of the tear with Andrew is a very unusual tear and Andrew has knees that, I think, have shown we have to watch and be careful with them and this is something we hope is going to repair the knee in a way so it can be much more stable in the future."

Bynum's injury history is piling up. He partially dislocated his kneecap during the 2007-08 season and was limited to 35 games. He played in only 50 games in 2008-09 due to a torn medial collateral ligament in the right knee.

He played in 65 regular-season games last season and averaged 15.0 points and 8.3 rebounds in 30.4 minutes per contest. But he was on the floor for only 24.3 minutes per game in the playoffs and his totals dropped to 8.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.

"We're hopeful he'll be ready for the start of the regular season and hopeful he could play in one or more of the final preseason games," Lakers spokesman John Black said Thursday.

Jackson estimated that the Bynum could miss the first "three or four" games of the season and when he does return be limited in his minutes, playing "seven- or eight-minute bursts" until he regains the proper conditioning. Jackson refrained from going so far as to say the team would put a strict cap on Bynum's minutes in the same fashion that the Rockets plan to implement with oft-injured center Yao Ming, however.

Bynum earned unanimous respect from his teammates last spring after playing in each and every one of the Lakers 23 playoff games, despite his injury.

"Even though he was, I'd say, 70 percent of what he could possibly do, it helped us out," Jackson said. "It gave us a lot of support and we were really happy that he was able to do that ... the force, the body being there, the size, those things all helped us."

When asked if Bynum would lose any of that admiration from his teammates now that he will spend the bulk of training camp doing rehabilitation, Jackson said: "I don't think so."

Jackson also said that free-agent acquisition Theo Ratliff and second-round draft pick Derrick Caracter would be leaned on to plug up the middle in Bynum's absence.

The Lakers added more depth Friday, signing four players to their training camp roster -- guards Trey Johnson and Anthony Roberson and centers Andrew Naymick and Russell Hicks. These additions bring the Lakers training camp roster to 18 players.

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter. http://twitter.com/mcten.