For the second year in a row, the Los Angeles Lakers lost starting center Andrew Bynum to a knee injury in a January game versus the Memphis Grizzlies. Just like last year, the initial prognosis has Bynum out 8-12 weeks. Just like last year, the Lakers and their fans are optimistic about the prodigal center’s return prior to the playoffs.
Sounds like Déjà vu all over again.
But there’s reason to be optimistic. Los Angeles Times bloggers Andrew and Brian Kamenetzky spoke to Dr. Michael Kaplan, an orthopedic surgeon and knee specialist, who was trained by the renowned Dr. Jim Andrews.
His analysis bodes well for Bynum’s potential to return before the playoffs begin. According to Dr. Kaplan, last year Bynum subluxated his patella. In other words, he momentarily dislocated his knee cap, but it right back into place.
His subluxation was so violent that he also suffered a severe bone bruise, an injury that can take a long time to heal.
There was uncertainty regarding the bone bruise, which lead to hesitation on the surgery vs. rehab decision. When it got to mid-May, four months after the injury, and he couldn’t make that final step in rehab, they decided to have another doctor take a look. He recommended surgery.
In contrast, this year’s injury, a partial tear of the MCL, is a much more common injury with a straightforward and certain rehab process. No surgery is necessary, but rather strengthening the muscles around Bynum’s knee and increasing the range of motion.
A MCL tear is less severe than an anterior cruciate or posterior cruciate injury. It's located in the capsule of the knee joint. Because of the excellent blood supply in that area, Kaplan said that "more than 90 percent don't require any kind of repair or surgery."
PHEW! So, kids, that’s the anatomy lesson for the day.
Now what does this all mean for "The Lake Show" and their chances for redemption in the playoffs? Well, for starters, the West is less competitive this year than it was in the 2007-2008 season.
At the end of last season, the top six teams in the West were separated by a mere three games. Considering this current roster (minus a healthy Trevor Ariza) took the Lakers all the way to the Finals back in June, a six-game cushion is a healthy one.
Pau Gasol joined the Lakers last year, exactly one year (to the day) of Bynum’s newest injury.
Assuming Bynum returns in eight weeks, it gives him the final two weeks of the regular season to work his way back into the lineup before the playoffs begin.
In L.A., only a parade in June and a ring ceremony in October will equal success, not only to the fans, but also to the players.
Bynum in the middle is the answer to that prayer. As long as "8-12 weeks" is 8-12 weeks, and not 8-10 months, a shot at redemption should be theirs.