Andrew Bynum nearing end of rehab

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- In Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum's first full-contact on-court workout Saturday, he leaned on an old friend -- literally.

Bynum participated in half-court drills and banged bodies with Lakers backup center Derrick Caracter, who despite being a rookie is only six months younger than the sixth-year veteran. The two played prep basketball against each another in their home state of New Jersey.

Now Bynum is prepping to make his return from offseason surgery on his right knee and his rehab is in the home stretch.

"I want to [return] midway through December," Bynum said. "Hopefully, that's two weeks. It's looking more like a little bit later, probably. I have these two weeks here, then a week of practice. Realistically I'm looking at three weeks."

The Lakers play in New Jersey two weeks from Sunday, three games into their upcoming seven-game road swing. The following Sunday they play in Toronto to finish the road trip.

When asked if the Christmas Day showdown with the Miami Heat a little less than a month away was his "target" to return by, Bynum said, "I don't have a target. I just want to be back within three weeks, that's my personal goal."

The 7-foot, 285-pound Bynum stressed that the timeline he presented was his and his alone.

"That's just me, what I want," Bynum said. "The training staff and other people may see things differently and want to slow it down. I'm not sure."

Bynum graduated from flat-footed spot shooting and post moves executed at half speed against assistant coach Brian Shaw before the Lakers played the Jazz in Utah on Friday to the more involved workout Saturday.

"We're starting to put him on the floor in skills [work] to see how he reacts to that," Lakers head coach Phil Jackson said. "We can't gauge what's going to go on until [Sunday] basically to see how he feels after a workout like this."

Jackson thought Bynum reacted well to the first test and added, "Everybody would like to see him play [Sunday against Indiana], but that's not going to happen."

Bynum wanted to participate in the three-on-three game at the end of practice, but was pulled off to a side basket by assistant coach Chuck Person to shoot free throws instead.

"They're not trying to rush it," Bynum said. "I want to get back probably more than they want me back at this point because they want me to be healthy. That's a good thing for me."

So far his body has responded positively to the cautious approach.

"I haven't had any swelling, which is good," Bynum said. "The progression has been right on time, it's been perfect every time. But obviously the true test is a game. We'll see what happens after we play a game."

Also on the plus side, Bynum said he can already feel his revamped upper body paying off and that he doesn't expect conditioning to be a major hurdle to clear because he has been able to run sprints for the past several weeks.

But there are still signs that remind him of the severity of the injury he is attempting to overcome, from the bulkiness of the brace he wears over the knee to the pain he still feels from time to time.

"I kind of am going to feel a pinch every now and again," Bynum said. "That's just what it is, where it's at."

Bynum finished his workout with Lakers athletic performance coordinator Alex McKechnie to simulate the quick movements his body would have to undergo in a three-on-three game as it transitions between offense and defense.

"Just running random directions," Bynum said. "Drop the ball on one side [of the basket], get there [and] get back."

The next step for Bynum will be more work simulation with McKechnie in the next week, followed by three-on-three the following week and finally full-fledged five-on-five in practice the third week.

"I don't want it to get any worse, so that's why I'm taking my time getting both legs strong, upper body strong, getting my wind back," Bynum said. "I'm not rushing. I'm trying to keep myself in that mindset."

Bynum said he has passed the time while he's been unable to play reading Malcolm Gladwell's "The Tipping Point" and playing "Call of Duty: Black Ops," the video game that teammate Kobe Bryant appeared in a commercial for.

"Killing zombies all day," Bynum said with a laugh.

The subject of the next book in his queue is men's health and fitness.

"It talks about how your body works, how muscles work," Bynum said. "So I thought I might as well educate myself on that."

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.