LOS ANGELES -- Andrew Bynum's fur-lined slippers stayed in his locker this time.
For the last nine weeks Bynum would wear the pediatric pillows on the bench during Lakers home games, watching his team play without him as he rehabilitated from a torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
Sixty-eight days, 32 games and one infamous appearance at the Playboy Mansion later, Bynum returned to the court at Staples Center on Thursday and traded the slippers for a new accessory for his lower extremities: a purple and gold-accented knee brace.
After totaling just three points and four rebounds in a tied first half, Bynum shook off the rust and pumped in nine points on 4-of-5 shooting in the third quarter to break open the game and help Los Angeles to a 116-102 victory.
Bynum finished with 16 points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes.
The offense was a bonus considering Lakers coach Phil Jackson said all he wanted to see from his 21-year old center was him containing the middle and adding some strength to L.A.'s defense and rebounding.
Before tipoff, Bynum worked out with assistant coaches Kurt Rambis and Brian Shaw. Rambis threw entry passes to Bynum as he worked on a variety of step-throughs, face-ups and sweeping hooks with Shaw on his back. Bynum was visibly frustrated after missing several bunnies in a row, alternating between cursing and shaking his head in disapproval like an actor who keeps flubbing his lines during dress rehearsal.
"The entire first half was rust, nervousness, butterflies," Bynum said. "But I settled down in the second half and listened to some advice my teammate Josh Powell gave me. He told me just post up deep, get deep position and its easier to jumpstart you. That's what I started doing and it worked out for me."