HANG TIME, Texas — Opening night in Philadelphia could now be just a month away.
That is, opening night for the team the Sixers thought they had put together when they made the blockbuster deal for Andrew Bynum last summer.
Or perhaps more realistically, opening night for the 2013-14 season.
For the first time in ages, there is more to report than an update on the 7-footer’s hairstyle as Bynum made the first step toward finally playing in a Sixers uniform when he got onto the court for a basketball workout with associate head coach Michael Curry and athletic trainer Kevin Johnson.
Bynum was seen by Philly reporters shooting jumpers from the wings and the baseline on Monday. No running, no jumping and certainly no slam dunking.
No bowling therapy either.
But following a seemingly endless series of setbacks with injuries to both knees, Bynum at last said he now has his sights set on playing this season.
“I have no idea exactly, I just want to get back,” he said. “I think, I’m hoping around the All-Star break. That’s what I’m hoping. I have no idea exactly when I’ll be back.”
The All-Star break ends Feb 20 and the Sixers would then have 31 regular season games left to play.
Currently sitting at 16-22 and ninth in the Eastern Conference standings, it would be strictly fantasy to think Bynum could lift the Sixers into the playoffs and then make them a real force once they got there.
But since one, then two bad knees kept him from being ready at the start of the season, that was never the significant part of the story. The Sixers need to know how fit and how capably Bynum can play over the final month or so of this season before committing themselves to him for the next five years with a max level contract.
The Philly front office says it has a plan to move forward no matter how things turn out with Bynum. But let’s face it, having a 7-footer who could immediately be the best center in the East, is the preferred way to start.
With Jrue Holiday having a breakout year and Evan Turner taking steps forward, putting Bynum in the lineup would make things interesting in Philly for the final 30 or so games of the season.
But these are very small steps. For now, Bynum’s conditioning workouts are only on a treadmill and a machine that lessens that effect of gravity.
“I went as fast as eight miles per hour,” he bragged.
The important part is that Bynum is no longer feeling pain in his knees.
It’s minimal,” he said. “It’s not hurting.”
The next step is to add straight line running and then lateral movements.
Bynum was asked if he felt like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders by returning to practice.
“No, because I’m not back,” he said. “But I’m going in a a good directions. It’s all positive.”
Opening night could be around the corner.