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Bynum has strained tendon, return uncertain

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Andrew Bynum's left Achilles' tendon is not torn, and the Los Angeles Lakers are cautiously optimistic their starting center can return from his latest injury in two weeks.

Yet Lakers coach Phil Jackson said Sunday he can't predict a return timetable for Bynum, who strained his tendon early in the third quarter of the defending NBA champions' win over Minnesota on Friday night.

"We really have nothing definitive about it," Jackson said. "We really don't know how this therapy is going to come out. The best thing I heard today is that he felt better from Day One to Day Two."

An MRI on Saturday showed the injury wasn't as serious as the Lakers initially feared, revealing no tears in Bynum's heel. Yet Jackson acknowledged Bynum's lost conditioning and the Lakers' overall cautiousness with their oft-injured center could keep him out until shortly before the playoffs in mid-April.

"An Achilles' or a leg injury is something you can't really stay in great shape with," Jackson said. "Taking off and landing, all your power moves, are something you're going to have to adjust."

Bynum was inactive for the Lakers' home game against Washington on Sunday, and he won't play on Los Angeles' ensuing five-game road trip. He is averaging 15 points and 8.3 rebounds this season, third on the Lakers in both categories.

Bynum said he has pain and swelling in his heel, but can get around easily in a plastic walking boot. He's hoping to recover well enough to play in the Lakers' next home game against Utah on April 2, but knows he might not be in game shape by the time they return from the road.

Major injuries are nothing new for Bynum, the prep-to-pro center who has emerged as a talented NBA big man during the past three seasons. He missed 46 games during the 2007-08 season with a dislocated left knee, and he sat out 32 games last season with a torn ligament in his right knee.

"Fortunately, this year we got two more months of playing time out of Drew," Jackson said. "Hopefully this (injury) is a short duration."

Jackson moved Lamar Odom back into the Lakers' starting lineup against the Wizards, shifting Pau Gasol from power forward to center. The 6-foot-10 Odom plays multiple positions for Los Angeles, frequently excelling as a guard, but will mostly defend big men in Bynum's absence.