Lewis' Celtic comeback trail has not crossed the court yet

July 16, 1993|By Peter May | Peter May,Boston Globe

BOSTON -- He has been working out on his own. He has gone to California in his role as team captain to represent the Boston Celtics at the funeral of Brian Shaw's parents. He has signed autographs cheerfully and exchanged pleasantries with his teammates.

He has done all of that. Yet Reggie Lewis, the Celtics' leading scorer and Baltimore Dunbar alum, has not participated in any supervised, simulated basketball game or scrimmage since his scary collapse in the first round of the playoffs, more than two months ago.

Twenty-nine days ago, Celtics CEO Dave Gavitt told reporters it was "very likely" that Lewis would participate in some form of structured drill or workout at either last week's minicamp run by Larry Bird, or this week's rookie/free-agent camp. Lewis was not a participant at Bird's workouts and was a spectator at rookie camp. He also was to have worked out in private this week, but that, too, has not happened.

The Celtics are careful to defer to Lewis and to Lewis' doctor, Gilbert Mudge, regarding any return date. But if Lewis is not

in any danger, as Mudge concluded after an exhaustive series of tests at Brigham and Women's Hospital, why hasn't he made an attempt to see where he stands?

"From a medical point of view," Mudge said this week, "he can do what he wants to do."

So, if Lewis has the medical OK, why isn't he competing at some level? Lewis has not addressed the issue and refused comment this week. His agent, Peter Roisman, said that Lewis may be "struggling internally" with the decision, something that is understandable. He did not elaborate.

Mudge, who was on hand at rookie camp, said Lewis has been adhering to a workout schedule, the specifics of which he did not divulge. Lewis developed the program on his own, Mudge said, and, the doctor said, "It's what he wants to be doing right now. And that's fine with me."

There has been no change in Mudge's diagnosis that Lewis does not have a heart problem, as was first thought, but something demonstrably less serious that should not inhibit him from playing again.

"We're not backing off from anything," Mudge said. "I would not change one word. He is progressing along perfectly and he is right where he should be."

When Lewis does return, Mudge reiterated that there would be careful monitoring procedures, including a device on Lewis' body.

Mudge would not comment when asked if a defibrillator would be needed at courtside to also monitor Lewis' heart.

"When he starts playing, we suspect he will be fine," Mudge said. "From my point of view, he could not be better."

Lewis collapsed in the first half of the series opening playoff game between the Celtics and the Charlotte Hornets. He was given the go ahead to play in the second half, but was quickly yanked when it was apparent he was still woozy and unstable. He was admitted to New England Baptist Hospital for tests the next several days and doctors concluded he had a serious heart problem. He did not play again and the Celtics lost the series in four games.

However, Lewis abruptly and without notifying the Celtics changed hospitals and admitted himself to Brigham and Women's Hospital, where he was placed under Mudge's care. After a much longer period of tests, Mudge concluded Lewis was not bothered by a heart defect, but something called neurocardiogenic syncope, a condition that can cause lightheadedness or fainting. Further, Mudge said he saw no reason Lewis could not return to play for the Celtics, something that seemed remote after the results of the tests at New England Baptist.

The Celtics have embraced Mudge's decision and are comfortable with it. Although the two diagnoses were dramatically different, it is believed that Lewis has not sought a third opinion.

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