Webber returns to practice

January 31, 1995|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Writer

BOWIE -- The Washington Bullets' scrimmage was minutes away from ending yesterday when trainer Kevin Johnson walked onto the court. When he walked off, Chris Webber was following him, somewhat reluctantly.

"It's been a long time coming," Webber later said of his return to the court. "It felt like I've been sitting out for a year."

To be exact, it has been 39 days since Webber separated his left shoulder diving for a loose ball Dec. 22 at Golden State, landing him on the injured list. A little bit more than a week after he had his sling removed, Webber returned to practice. He could be activated for Friday's game against the Miami Heat.

"I hope so," Webber said when asked about playing Friday. "But I want to be ready. I don't want to set a date on it. Right now, my arm is as strong as it's going to be. If I get hurt again, it's something I'll have to deal with."

Playing with the team's second unit, Webber faced some stiff tests with his shoulder during practice. At times, he was banging away in the low post with Juwan Howard. At other times, he was knocking bodies with 7-foot-7 Gheorghe Muresan.

And aside from the expected rust, Webber looked well on his way to getting back into the lineup.

"We've got to see how he feels," coach Jim Lynam said when asked when Webber would return. "He made a good observation to me. What he's been doing at the rehab, basketball is child's play compared to that. He's been laying on the ground catching medicine balls, so there's nothing he's going to do out here that's more strenuous than what he's been doing to the shoulder in the rehab. What this is about is getting back his basketball feel and conditioning."

Webber described the rehabilitation process, which included weight-lifting, stretching and StairMaster training, as "long, tedious and boring." After scrimmaging, he said he had no idea when he'll get back to game shape.

"I'm rusty, and when you're rusty, you get a little frustrated, you mishandle passes and miss easy shots," Webber said. "But all in all, it felt pretty good. Right now, I'm just thinking about getting healthy and trying not to get injured between now and when I play."

Webber, who was averaging 18.4 points and 10.4 rebounds before the injury, said the sitting and watching led to a bit of "soul-searching."

"I grew up," Webber said. "It's hard sitting out, so you have to build some character when you go through times like that. When you sit out so long, you get time to evaluate a lot of things and you get time to do a lot of soul-searching. I did some."

Webber said he came to realize how important a role basketball plays in his life. He said when he comes back he hopes to "play a long time," but added that he doesn't want to interrupt the chemistry of a team that has won four of six games.

"I'm not so selfish where I need to be on the court," Webber said. "If I'm hurting the team in any way, I don't want to play.

"Hopefully, I can just sneak in and be quiet," Webber added. "I'm not going to go out and try to score a lot of points. I'm just going to go out and play within myself right now. Hopefully, the team won't have to make any adjustments."

Webber has seen Howard play with maturity well beyond that of most rookies. That the two play the same position is not a concern for Webber, who still sees the pair playing a lot of minutes together.

"I think Juwan and I are better when we're on the court together," Webber said. "I don't worry about our playing time."


Opponent: Charlotte Hornets

Site: USAir Arena, Landover

Time: 8

TV/Radio: TNT/WWLG (1360 AM), WTEM (570 AM)

Outlook: This is the first 1994-95 meeting between the two teams, who split four games last season. With C Alonzo Mourning and F Larry Johnson healthy, the Hornets moved into a tie atop the Central Division with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who lost last night. Former Dunbar G Muggsy Bogues is second in the league in assists (9.6). Bullets F-G Mitchell Butler did not practice yesterday after injuring his hand Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers, but he should play tonight.

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