CLEVELAND -- The list of injured players on the Cavaliers is threatening to outnumber the healthy bodies, but the most intriguing of the wounded is inching closer to a return.
Andrew Bynum watched the first half from the bench Thursday as the Cavaliers beat the Detroit Pistons, 96-84, in a preseason game at Quicken Loans Arena. He hasn't been cleared to return to a full practice, but Bynum appears to be inching tantalizingly closer to that day.
Bynum is down to his "game weight," a league source said Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to do so. Bynum has hit every milestone the team has set before him without any setbacks, including participating in three-on-three half-court scrimmages with teammates during Wednesday's abbreviated practice.
One of the next steps will be a full-contact five-on-five practice, but that isn't likely to happen for at least a few more days. The Cavs are in a stretch of playing games every other night, meaning they likely won't have another physically demanding practice until after concluding the preseason schedule Wednesday at Charlotte. Then they have a week off before the season opener on Oct. 30.
Anderson Varejao, who had his best performance of the preseason with 10 points and 11 rebounds in 24 minutes, was part of Wednesday's scrimmage involving Bynum.
"He looked really good. He's getting more comfortable every time he's playing three-on-three," Varejao said. "I'm not a doctor. He looked good, but I don't know his knees."
Bynum weighed more than 300 pounds when he signed with the Cavs, but has lost all the necessary weight. He was listed at 285 pounds during his final season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Cavs are being deliberately cautious with Bynum after he missed all of last season because of his knees. Greg Oden, who is trying to return to the league with the Miami Heat after missing four years with knee problems, had to miss practice Wednesday after he had some swelling following his first practice.
"They're banging and cutting, defending and rebounding. He looks good," Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "I think he's close. But I'm not a medical guy, I'm not a doctor. I'm waiting for them to tell me."
Bynum had plenty of company on the bench Thursday. Dion Waiters missed the game with a sore right hip and C.J. Miles was a late scratch with a minor leg injury. Miles said before the game the leg had been bothering him for a few days, then he got kicked during Tuesday's preseason game against the Charlotte Bobcats.
Miles and Waiters joined Jarrett Jack (knee), Carrick Felix (hernia) and Tyler Zeller (appendicitis) as walking wounded, but it didn't matter against the Pistons.
Rookie Sergey Karasev got the start in place of Waiters and had 10 points and three rebounds in 34 minutes before fouling out. It was the most Brown has played anyone this preseason and it came just a day after Karasev returned from the Bahamas after receiving his work visa.
Brown has said rookies such as Karasev and Felix would really have to wow him in order for them to move ahead of veterans on the depth chart, but the 19-year-old Karasev is off to a good start.
"He's got a confidence to him that most guys at his age don't have," Brown said. "It's like an older-veteran confidence. Most guys his age would have more of a cockiness than a confidence. He has a confidence in his game that makes you open your eyes. You have to respect it and pay attention to it."
Like Karasev, Jermaine Taylor took full advantage of Miles' absence and had 15 points and three assists, including 10 points while playing the entire fourth quarter.
If Taylor is to make this team as a shooting guard/small forward, it will likely be at the expense of undrafted rookie Matthew Dellavedova, and the Cavs have more of a need for a third point guard than another wing.
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