Washington Bullets forward Bernard King, who finished third in the league in scoring last year when he was selected to All-Star team, will miss the opening of the 1991-1992 NBA season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery yesterday to remove torn cartilage in his right knee.
Dr. Norman Scott, who performed the operation at Beth Israel Hospital in New York, said King, 34, faces close to eight weeks of rehabilitation before being allowed to begin rigorous basketball drills.
"Because of Bernard's previous knee problems," said Scott, "we're exercising caution. Bernard believes it will take at least another month after completing his rehab work for him to be in playing shape.
"If you know Bernard and the way he is motivated, you know he doesn't want to ease his way back into the lineup. He never has."
It was Scott who also performed the successful reconstructive cartilage surgery on King's knee when he was a member of the New York Knicks in 1985.
King needed almost two years of rehabilitation before resuming his basketball career.
After being traded by New York to Washington in 1987, King culminated his amazing comeback last season by averaging 28.4 points for the Bullets and winning an All-Star berth.
"This injury is in no way related to what Bernard suffered in 1985," Scott said. "This cartilage damage dates back to his college career at Tennessee.
King, who has set an example for the younger Bullets with his off-season training regimen, felt discomfort in his knee Labor Day while running on a treadmill. That led to an examination by Scott and the required surgery.
"When we did the arthroscopic work, we also saw there was damage to the medial capsule that encases the knee," Scott said. "But we're optimistic about a complete recovery. After what Bernard has been through, this is a very minor setback."
But it was not considered minor in any way by Bullets coach Wes Unseld, who is faced with starting the new season minus both King and Darrell Walker, his most versatile guard, who was traded to the Detroit Pistons on Thursday for two second-round draft picks.
"We have to hope now that [power forward] John Williams reports in shape ready to play," said Unseld. "That will allow us to return Harvey Grant to small forward, his more natural position, until Bernard is ready to play again."
Once faced with a surplus of forwards, Unseld will now be forced to juggle his front line. Veteran reserve forward Mark Alarie is also considered questionable for the start of the season, complaining of soreness in his right knee. As yet, no surgery has been planned.
General manager John Nash said the temporary loss of King would not precipitate any trade talks.
"We don't want to make any stopgap moves," Nash said. "We're hoping that Bernard will only be lost to us for a short time. This will give our young forwards like Tommy Hammonds and Greg Foster a chance to prove themselves."
The Bullets open training camp at Mount St. Mary's in Emmitsburg, Oct. 1, with veterans reporting two days later.