76ers’ Bynum: I will play this season

Andrew Bynum plans on making his season debut for the Philadelphia 76ers this year, though he’s still a week or two away from practicing with the team.

The 7-foot center has been sidelined by knee injuries since the Sixers acquired him from the Los Angeles Lakers last summer. He worked out for 80 minutes on Tuesday and said afterward his knees are feeling better, but he doesn’t expect to ever be pain-free.

”I’ll definitely be back sometime this year,” Bynum said. ”I’m focused on getting back and being right versus trying to rush.”

Bynum’s timetable for a return has been pushed back numerous times since training camp opened with him off the court. He says he won’t rush his return just to help Philadelphia make a playoff push or to improve his status with his pending free agency.

”I want to be healthy,” he said. ”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.”

Bynum admits if he sat out the entire season he’d be considered a ”risk” to other teams. The 25-year-old former All-Star is in the final year of his contract and could’ve been looking at a five-year deal worth more than $100 million in the offseason if healthy.

”I’d be a risk but I don’t do risk assessment,” he said. ”That’s for the front office.”

Bynum is scheduled to see Dr. Jonathan Glashow in New York on Wednesday. He expects to be able to compete in 1-on-1 or 2-on-2 drills soon. He said surgery wouldn’t help his condition.

”Just deal with it without any type of intervention or any surgery,” Bynum said. ”You have to deal with it. I just think this is something I have to get used to. I don’t know if I will ever play without pain. I can play with a considerable amount.”

Bynum understands fans are frustrated by his situation. The Sixers are 22-29 and four games behind the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference.

There was tons of excitement surrounding Bynum’s arrival, and the Sixers and their fans were hoping to build on last season when they knocked off the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs and took Boston to seven games in the conference semifinals.

”I don’t think anyone is more upset than myself,” Bynum said. ”I have the most to lose by not playing and I want to get back.”

Bynum, who was sporting an odd half-Fro, half-braids hair style, gave an unusual response when asked why he wouldn’t consider sitting out the season.

”For me, I have to do as much as possible to stay in shape and stay around the game,” he said. ”You can’t just go completely away from the game. You get overweight, you lose touch and stuff like that. You want to stay around and do enough not to hurt it.”

In other injury news, guard Jason Richardson had season-ending knee surgery Tuesday morning. Dr. Glashow repaired an articular cartilage lesion on the medial femoral condyle in Richardson’s left knee.