Andrew Bynum Eying Return to 76ers Practice in 1-to-2 Weeks

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2013

Oct 15, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Andrew Bynum (33) before the game against the Boston Celtics at the Wachovia Center. The Sixers defeated the Celtics 107-75. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia 76ers center Andrew Bynum may not have a definitive date for his Wells Fargo Center debut, but his return to practice is imminent. 

After working out on Tuesday, Bynum addressed reporters and said that he is one or two weeks away from coming back to Sixers practice, according to an Associated Press report (via ESPN). Bynum also cautioned reporters from having too much optimism, saying that he will not return before feeling comfortable:

I want to be healthy. I think everybody knows what I can do at this point in this league. The question with me is going to be are my knees going to hold up. That's what organizations have to think about. All I have to think about is putting up buckets.

That double-edged sword has been par for the course during Bynum's short time in Philadelphia. The former All-Star, who was traded to the Sixers as part of the Dwight Howard deal this summer, has yet to play in a game this season while dealing with a knee injury.

In turn, the Sixers have struggled to keep themselves afloat in the Eastern Conference playoff race without Bynum. They are 22-29 and 4.5 games out of the No. 8 seed entering Tuesday night's slate.

Though it's unclear when Bynum will actually return to game action this season, his return to practice could be a signal that the elixir to those struggles is on the way. However, Bynum didn't hesitate to declare that he will be back on the court during the 2012-13 campaign.

"I'll definitely be back sometime this year," Bynum said.

When healthy, Bynum has shown the potential to be one of the NBA's most dominant big men. He averaged a career-high 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game last season with the Lakers.

Staying healthy hasn't been easy for the seven-footer, though. Last season was just the second time in his eight-year career where he missed fewer than 17 games, and an exceeding number of those absences have been knee-related.

The latest malady has not only left the Sixers' season in limbo, but it also possibly crippled Bynum's viability as an elite free agent. The 25-year-old's contract expires after the 2012-13 campaign, when he was expected to command a five-year deal worth up to $100 million. But with questions looming about when (or if) Bynum would be able to suit up for Philadelphia, it's been speculated that his value could plummet.

Based on his quote, we'll be seeing Bynum get an opportunity to prove his worth sometime before the 2012-13 season ends. He'll have to play his way back into shape upon returning to practice, but Tuesday marked the first glimmer of hope in what has been a long, frustrating ride. 

The only question remaining is whether Bynum's return will come too late to save the Sixers' season or his status as a max-contract talent.