Per Tom Moore of PhillyBurbs.com, Bynum partook in his first on-court activities since joining the Sixers:
Even the sight of the big man shooting free throws has to send a chill down the spines of Philly residents. Though prior to the New Year Bynum vowed he would return this season, there's no use denying there was a heaping dose of doubt running rampant throughout the streets of Philadelphia.
But now, it seems the people of Philadelphia can breathe easy.
Or can they do more than that?
A collective sigh of relief turned into cautious optimism upon CSNPhilly.com's release of video footage that actually showed Bynum going through some non-contact drills.
As Bynum says in the video (via Kurt Helin of NBC Sports' ProBasketballTalk), he remains optimistic that he will return to action soon:
It is going well. I am feeling a lot less pain, progressing on the treadmill. I will start running soon so it is going pretty good…
I come in, I get on the treadmill for 20 minutes. Right now it is all walking, a fast-paced walk. Then I get on the bike and do a bunch of leg stuff with no weights, just all body-weight stuff, just trying to get that cartilage to grind up more and then the better I feel, the more we add.
We all are.
Now, prepare to be dumbfounded.
Not only is Bynum confident he'll play soon, but he was sure enough to even put a definitive timetable (via Moore) on it:
The big guy smiled after shooting publicly for the first time as a 76er.
“I’m coming along well,” said injured center Andrew Bynum after Monday’s practice. “It’s time to get ready to play.”
While pointing out that he has plenty of work to do before he’ll be in game shape and that there’s no timetable for his return, Bynum is hoping for “around the all-star break.”
The Sixers’ final game prior to the break is Feb. 13 in Milwaukee. Their first opponent following the break is Minnesota on Feb. 20. They have 30 regular-season contests following the road meeting with the Timberwolves.
In case that's not enough to quell any remaining doubts, Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com confirmed such a report:
Andrew Bynum has been cleared to run & told reporters in Philly today pain in knees is minimal & possible return around All-Star break— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) January 14, 2013
Around the All-Star break? Regardless of whether it comes before or after, are we actually supposed to believe that his return could be less than a month away?
When it comes to Bynum, I'd be remiss if I didn't maintain a healthy sense of pessimism. That said, there's no denying he's nearing full strength when the Sixers themselves are finally drawing some attention to their injury-riddled big man:
The organization even released a video of its own, capturing Bynum's session with reporters after going through his drills.
Philadelphia's version of The Return is nearing actualization.
Almost needless to say, the Sixers and their fans are ardent beyond reason.
Not even Philly's point guard (and should-be All-Star), Jrue Holiday, could mask his excitement:
And why should he?
This is what fans and players alike have been waiting for. Hell, even media pundits are taking snapshots of normally mundane press conferences to promote his progress:
At this point, we'd be lying if we didn't admit that his suddenly evident progress is huge.
Do you know what makes it even bigger, though?
The fact that Bynum was able to participate in drills free from the shackles that is a knee brace:
Somewhat obviously, our state of elation is not unconditional.
Any and all jubilance must be tempered by the reality that anything can still happen. This is, after all, Bynum we're talking about. The same Bynum who has yet to play this season and somehow managed to aggravate his injury while bowling.
Still, Bynum's presence on the court is assuring.
Philadelphia was supposed to emerge as an Eastern Conference powerhouse with Bynum at the helm. Instead, the Sixers have been forced to plod along without him and have thus far failed to keep their heads above water and their record worthy of a playoff berth.
Bynum's return can change that. The 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots per game he averaged last season stand to help the Sixers right what was becoming an undeniable wrong.
If everything can go according to plan (for a change), it seems that this team, like Bynum, is headed for a return of its own—a return to prominence.
"[These signs] are the best I've had in a long time, so they look really, really good to me," Bynum (via NBA.com) said after "practice."
From where we're standing, "these signs" Bynum makes reference to appear "really, really good" to us, too.
For the first time all season.
*All stats in this article are accurate as of Jan. 14, 2013.