Wizards, Stackhouse don't see eye-to-eye

Forward says he and knee are done for season

team wants to decide after tests

Pro Basketball

March 01, 2004|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Here's what the Washington Wizards and Jerry Stackhouse agree on: The forward will not play tonight against the New Orleans Hornets, and his ailing right knee will be examined by a team doctor either today or tomorrow.

From there, however, Stackhouse and the Wizards, or more specifically, Ernie Grunfeld, the team's president of basketball operations, don't quite seem to be in agreement.

While Stackhouse apparently is inclined to believe he needs to get totally healthy before he can play, Grunfeld said yesterday the team wants to see if Stackhouse's knee, which was operated on in the preseason, is structurally sound before deciding whether the forward will shut it down for the regular season, which has 25 games left.

"He came back, and he hasn't missed any games because of it," said Grunfeld. "It's just soreness and tenderness and a lot of it has to do with being out. Any time a person is out for a long period of time, there's going to be some of that. Our main concern is to make sure that there's no structural situation that we need to worry about."

Grunfeld, who was out of the country on a scouting trip until yesterday, said no decision has even been made on whether Stackhouse will go on the injured list.

Grunfeld said if there is no structural damage to Stackhouse's knee, he will go through a period of rehabilitation and strengthening before a decision is made.

"It's going to be a process of how the rehab goes, if he takes a few days off to see if the soreness goes away and things of that nature," said Grunfeld. "We're going to try a lot of different things and we'll evaluate it as he goes along."

Meanwhile, Stackhouse, 29, who said after scoring 20 points in Saturday's 122-110 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers that he would not play the rest of the season because of recurring knee problems, acknowledged some of his coaches and teammates want him to play, even if he isn't at full strength.

Since returning to the lineup after missing the first 45 games of the season, Stackhouse, who is averaging 14.1 points in 12 games, has not had either the explosiveness or the lift he demonstrated over the first eight years of his NBA career.

But while his teammates and coaches may think Stackhouse should play at perhaps 75 percent, he questions the purpose of pushing his body if it's telling him he can't play at his usual level.

"That's really what has to be addressed," Stackhouse said after practice yesterday. "I understand everybody's situation. The bottom line is that we want to try to win games. They feel like, to try to win games, maybe I need to be out there even if it's not at 100 percent.

"My thing is, if that's the case, it has to be a special situation. I'm not going to be able to come in here and pound myself. I don't want that to be a distraction to the team. If I can't come in and practice and there's guys who are out there practicing and I come into a game and play minutes, how is that going to flow and go?"

In addition, though the Wizards (18-39) are only 5 1/2 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the woeful Eastern Conference, the team is already missing guard Larry Hughes, the team's leading scorer (18.7), who will be out at least another three weeks with a wrist injury.

Though the Wizards could theoretically make a playoff push, more likely, with five teams ahead of them, Washington seems destined for a seventh straight trip to the draft lottery, which would seem to make pushing for Stackhouse's return superfluous.

However, the team did give Stackhouse a two-year contract extension last June, bringing his total payout to $33 million over four years. The deal expires after the 2006-07 season.

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