Bynum To Return, Start Against Denver Thursday

Andrew Bynum, the defensive muscle that may be the final piece to the Lakers championship puzzle, is back and will start Thursday night against Denver.

Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum will return to action Thursday against the Denver Nuggets, according to a source close to the Lakers.

Bynum, the team's budding star at center, has missed the last 32 games after suffering a torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee Jan. 31 at Memphis. The source said Lakers coach Phil Jackson telephoned Bynum on Tuesday night and told him he was going to be activated for Thursday's game.

Phil Jackson has said Bynum would probably be the starter upon his return — both because his game fits better with the rest of the starters and because his knee shouldn’t be warmed up, cooled down for the first 10 minutes of the game then be thrown back into action off the bench.

Lamar Odom will move back to a reserve role, something he has said he is good with. That could be great news for a Lakers bench that has lost its way and its confidence. Odom is guy who can create his own shot and who the half-court offense can run through.

On one hand, returning against Denver is a great spot. This is a team without a traditional center that would physically bang on Bynum and wear him down, plus he will not need to play extended minutes for matchup reasons.

However, Denver is a team that has won seven straight games and is maybe the hottest team in basketball. Plus, Bynum is not being eased back in terms of pressure — this is a meeting of the top two teams in the Western Conference on national television (TNT).

Lakers fans don’t really care when it is, they are just excited to have him back.

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