Stackhouse opts for surgery, will likely miss Oct. 29 opener

Star's knee injury creates opening for Hayes, Jeffries

Pro Basketball

October 17, 2003|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - The Washington Wizards' annual media day yesterday was to be a time when the team unveiled its new look under its new coach and let their players tell the world how different things were going to be.

Instead, the team announced that its star, forward Jerry Stackhouse, last year's leading scorer, will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, and will almost certainly miss the season opener on Oct. 29.

Stackhouse, who averaged 21.5 points in 2002-03 and was counted on as the Wizards' starting small forward, had a magnetic resonance imaging test yesterday. The test confirmed that the 6-foot-6 swing player is suffering from chondromalacia, a wearing of the lining on the back of the kneecap.

Stackhouse, who complained of pain in the knee last year and sat out 12 games last season - including the last four contests - initially decided to rehabilitate rather than have surgery.

But after continuing to suffer pain during the preseason, Stackhouse consulted with a pair of doctors and chose to have the surgery, which will be performed Tuesday at a New York hospital.

"In spite of the rehabilitation work that I've been doing, I continue to experience pain in my knee," said Stackhouse in a statement distributed by the team. "I haven't been able to play up to the level I'm capable of playing and I'm hoping that this procedure will ease my discomfort so that I can get back and be 100 percent and help the team in any way I can."

New Wizards coach Eddie Jordan spoke with Stackhouse yesterday morning before the eight-year veteran made the decision to have the surgery.

"In my mind, he wants to get as healthy as he can," said Jordan. "I think he believes that just rehabilitation without the surgery is not the answer. He is very, very frustrated. He likes this team and being the leader of this team. He likes the way we're playing and the way the coaches are coaching. He's very, very frustrated."

Stackhouse's absence should open the door for either second-year player Jared Jeffries or rookie Jarvis Hayes to start at small forward.

The 6-7 Hayes, Washington's first-round choice in June's draft, has started the last two exhibition games, averaging seven points and shooting a combined 5-for-11 in those games.

Meanwhile, the 6-11 Jeffries, the Wizards' first choice in last year's draft, has averaged six points in his two preseason appearances as he recovers from surgery to repair a torn right anterior cruciate ligament suffered last December.

"Those are two players who can definitely play in this league and will have very good careers in this league," said Ernie Grunfeld, Washington`s president of basketball operations. "The only thing they are lacking is experience under game-time conditions. This will give them that opportunity. Obviously they'll have growing pains, but we feel good about them."

Grunfeld did not rule out that the Wizards would sign a small forward if Hayes and Jeffries don't pan out before Stackhouse returns.

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