Knee surgery will keep Jordan out
Wednesday, February 27, 2002
WASHINGTON -- Hobbled throughout his comeback by a painful right knee injury, Michael Jordan is taking a break to have arthroscopic surgery.
Jordan was placed on the injured list Tuesday for only the second time in his career. He will have to miss at least five games, starting tonight at home against Portland.
"Michael is very disappointed," Washington Wizards coach Doug Collins said Tuesday. "Michael has not been right since the All-Star break. So much of what we do depends on him and his energy. He hasn't been himself. He's been hurting. He's down about that."
The prognosis won't be known until the team physician, Dr. Stephen Haas, performs the surgery. Jordan committed to play two seasons when he returned to the court last fall.
"He's got to go in there and just find out what's causing the irritation and why his knee is continuing to swell," Collins said. "And depending on how much work he has to do, that will be the deciding factor in how long Michael will be out.
"I think (the surgery) would give him hope for next year. I think he knows that if he didn't have this done, he wouldn't be able to continue to play. More and more, the swelling is coming back. There's something in there that's irritating his knee to make him have the swelling."
Jordan's right knee has been giving him problems since he began workouts a year ago in preparation for his second comeback. The injury initially was diagnosed as tendinitis, and he had fluid drained from the knee at least three times, most recently before a game at Miami on Saturday. He also banged the knee in a collision with teammate Etan Thomas 2 1/2 weeks ago.
Team officials are concerned there might be a more chronic, arthritic condition in the knee.
"If it's a cleanup, hopefully he could be back," Collins said. "If it's something a little more severe, then we'll have to wait and see. You can't just keep sticking a needle in that joint and draining out fluid and then try to play. That's going to continue to irritate that joint."
Jordan said he planned to play all 82 games this season when he announced his comeback, a mild surprise given he had to overcome broken ribs, back spasms, wrist tendinitis and the knee injury over the previous six months. He also lost about 30 pounds.
The knee has already caused him to miss two games -- at San Antonio on Dec. 4, and at Detroit last Wednesday. The Wizards lost both games.
"Michael's down," Collins said. "You know what he's going to hear: 'Yeah, we knew he couldn't make it through a whole season,' and 'Why did he come back?' All the whispers are going to start, that's the way it always starts. Michael wanted to play every game this year. This is taken away from him. He's got a lot invested here, and he feels badly that he's going to miss some of it."
Jordan was not available for comment, but his remarks and his performance in recent days made it clear that he was frustrated -- and that his knee was hurting.
He has been unable to drive to the basket with his usual vigor, and he took himself out of Saturday's game against the Heat with 6:27 to go -- and the outcome still in doubt. He scored nine points, only the third time in his career he failed to reach double digits.
"I'm getting old," he said after the game. "It's a sign that this might be coming to a closure as to where my career is heading. The body sends you messages, and tonight my body won."
Jordan's only previous major injury came in 1985, when he broke his left foot and missed 64 games in his second season with the Chicago Bulls. Other than his two retirements, he has not missed more than four games in a season since -- and he didn't miss any during his final three years in Chicago.
Jordan's surgery couldn't come at worse time for the Wizards, who have lost five straight and seven of eight since the All-Star break, dropping to 27-28.
Things got even worse when starting center Jahidi White injured his shoulder during Tuesday's practice. White's backup, rookie Brendan Haywood, has a swollen left knee, and neither is expected to play Wednesday. Richard Hamilton, the team's second leading scorer, is slow by a sore groin.
Tyrone Nesby will start in Jordan's spot. Thomas will start at center.
"This makes it this much tougher," Collins said. "Everybody's going to wait for us to collapse, and everybody's going to wait for us to fold up the tent."
Kwame Brown, the overall No. 1 pick in the NBA draft straight out of high school last June, was activated to take the Jordan's spot on the roster. Brown went on the injured list two weeks ago with a pulled hamstring and strained left calf.
"I've got to be the leader of the ship more than ever," Collins said. "I have to positive. I can't let corners be cut, and I can't let us make alibis. If we're going to lose games, I want it to be that we're prepared, that we're ready, that we compete."