Feeling good

"I'm feeling good, getting better, the swelling has gone down and I can walk around," Bynum said Tuesday. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Andrew Bynum said he hoped to begin running in a swimming pool later this week, the latest step in his rehabilitation from a left knee injury that has sidelined him for more than five weeks.

The swelling is out of his knee and he has not had any setbacks in his recovery, although he will not return at the beginning of the timetable established by the Lakers of "at least eight weeks" from the time of the injury.

Bynum theoretically would have to be on the practice court next week if he were to return exactly at the eight-week mark of March 10. A return at an unspecified date later in March was more reasonable, a team official said.

Bynum has been working out on elliptical machines and sharpening his balance by stepping on and off exercise blocks.

"I'm feeling good, getting better, the swelling has gone down and I can walk around," Bynum said Tuesday. "Hopefully this Thursday I can get in the pool."

If that goes well, he would soon transition into running on a treadmill and building the muscles in his left leg. Bynum sustained a bone bruise in his knee and a partial dislocation of his kneecap in a mid-January game against Memphis.

He wasn't certain when he would finally return to the court though.

"I'm not sure," he said. "Everything will be determined by this Thursday, really. If I'm able to run in the pool with no pain, then we'll start building my leg up more and more. I'm making progress and I'm excited to actually run in the pool, but I'm still not back."

Bynum, averaging 13.1 points and 10.2 rebounds, said he was eager to play with Pau Gasol and envisioned a scenario in which the two of them feed off each other.

"I think we definitely will," Bynum said. "He likes to play outside and likes to shoot mid-range jump shots. We can pass back and forth to each other. We've got a nice 'twin tower' effect going on defense."

The Lakers will play against their old friend Shaquille O'Neal tonight in Phoenix, although Kobe Bryant has not wanted any part of that plot line since O'Neal was acquired by the Suns this month.

"I really don't have any [feelings]," Bryant said when asked about sharing the same division as O'Neal. "It doesn't matter to me either way."

Lakers Coach Phil Jackson was a little more insightful.

"It's weird, probably seeing him in that building," Jackson said. "He did tear down a basket there about 15 years ago, it seems like."

O'Neal called Jackson a "jokester" when asked Tuesday about Jackson's recent comment that O'Neal would take the ball out of bounds in the Suns' high-octane offense and wait back under the basket for defensive purposes.

"Earthlings must be careful with what they say," O'Neal said.

Jackson's reply was with a smile: "He's a space cadet, no doubt about it, so I can understand it."

Trevor Ariza was at Staples Center with a boot on his right foot and a look of anguish when asked about his delayed return date.

He is behind schedule in his comeback from a broken bone in his right foot and could be out another eight weeks.