- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 1, 2003

The Washington Wizards are certain that leading scorer Jerry Stackhouse will be out at least until after the All-Star Game with the recurrence of a groin injury that already has caused him to miss four games.
What is less certain is the status of center Jahidi White.
"I don't know that he's going to be able to go all year I don't know as it stands right now [following offseason knee surgery]," Wizards coach Doug Collins said. "I would not bet on him right now being able to play at all this year. I just think that he's having a tough time getting his strength back in his leg where he can jump and move. His weight is down, he's been working hard. He just doesn't have any confidence in that leg, any power. When we practice, he's fouling all the time because he can't move."
The Wizards (22-25) are taking a patient stance with leading scorer (22.5) Stackhouse, because both the team and the player without ascribing blame believe he came back too soon. Stackhouse first felt pain in his left groin in a game against Golden State on Jan.10. The next night at New York, Stackhouse scored 22 points in an 89-84 win but aggravated the injury.
He missed the next four games, returned 11 days later to score 26 points and hand out nine assists against New Orleans, impressive numbers. But against Milwaukee on Thursday night, Stackhouse had none of the mobility or the explosion that he had exhibited much of the season. He played 22 minutes, scoring five points on two of 13 shooting before Collins pulled him.
"I'm going to just shut it down and hopefully come back after the break with another week off and be able to get it right," Stackhouse said. "I'm not going to rush it this time. I'm thinking another week without putting a lot of pressure on it. I don't want this to keep happening. This is a pain to have to get going again and then have to stop again. … I was just out there dragging against the Bucks. I'm not doing myself any good and I'm not doing my team any good."
The loss of Stackhouse is crucial. The Wizards have lost five of six and face a New Orleans team (24-22 before last night's New Jersey game) tonight that is, like the Wizards, jostling for postseason positioning.
"Jerry's the guy that we've been going to late in games," Collins said. "He was laboring, and I wasn't going to have him play any further. We've got two games before the All-Star break and then we've got a week off, so we'll have to see what happens. But sure, if you have Jerry on one side and Michael [Jordan] on the other it gives you a lot more options, no question about that."
The recipe for Stackhouse is rest, and hopefully he'll be able to return for the start of the Wizards' three-game West Coast trip beginning Feb.11 in Sacramento
With White things are a bit more dicey because his left knee has been slow to recover from the surgery. It didn't help that White was unable to do any conditioning for months while he was on the mend. His weight is believed to have gone as high as 310 pounds. However, White has worked diligently to take the weight off and now is much closer to his listed weight of 296.
But even though the weight a problem he has had since before his college days at Georgetown has come off, White's athleticism has not responded.
"When Jahidi is right, what makes him a good player is that when he's at his best he's got good mobility and he's got good power where he can do some things and move across the lane," Collins said. "And when he can't do that he's undersized, he's only about 6-8, 6-9 max and so if he's not able to jump and move, then it's tough for him. And we miss him. We miss his toughness."
That was evident in Washington's loss at New Jersey earlier this week. New Jersey's Kenyon Martin bounded almost unimpeded through and over Washington's big men on his way to 19 points and 21 rebounds.
"Think Kenyon Martin thinks about it more when Jahidi is down there to give him a little contact?" Collins asked.
White is more optimistic than his coach. But he is not trying to rush it.
"I want to come back as soon as I can but I have to make sure I'm well," White said. "Sometimes my knee gets aggravated and I just have to rest it. Right now I'm still going through a healing process. I still have to get my leg stronger. I'm working hard at it but it's frustrating."
Collins said White's knee has been examined by specialists and that White is cleared to do just about everything. Structurally, it appears to be fine, and the Wizards don't believe White needs to be examined further.
"We've seen everything," Collins said. "It's just the strength and the mobility. We just don't know how quickly, if at all, it's going to come back."
Collins made it clear just how important a player like White is before the Wizards played at Milwaukee. White, Collins believes, is the only player on the roster who can do the dirty work inside and has the pure brawn to back it up.
Young big men Kwame Brown, Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas simply don't have that mean streak in them to make the hard fouls on a regular basis. Christian Laettner has never done it, and Charles Oakley is simply too old.
If White isn't capable of doing those things with the Wizards, or if he is traded, Collins said finding that type of player will be the first order of business for himself; Michael Jordan, who is headed back upstairs at the end of this season; and general manager Wes Unseld.
"We need to get a high energy guy in here and a guy with some physical toughness who people are not sure they want to go in that lane against," Collins said. "Jahidi was that guy but he's been hurt all year. We miss that element."

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