- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 25, 2001

Washington Wizards guard Richard Hamilton likely will miss the next three to four weeks because of a partially torn right groin, the team learned following Hamilton's visit with team doctors yesterday morning.
"Hopefully that's extreme," coach Doug Collins said moments after getting the news. "I don't want to place him on the injured list unless I absolutely have to."
Hamilton's injury is the latest and easily the most damaging in a season that has already seen its fair share. Furthermore, it couldn't have come at a less opportune time. Hamilton was the NBA's Player of the Week last week. More importantly, the resurgent Wizards are riding the crest of only the third nine-game winning streak in the franchise's 41-year history and the first since the 1978-79 season.
Perhaps even more impressive, the Wizards' nine road wins this season tie them for the league lead with Charlotte, where Washington will play tomorrow night.
Hamilton, who suffered the injury Friday in a 93-75 rout of Orlando, is second on the team in scoring (19.8). However, that doesn't begin to tell how well he has played over the last three weeks. Before the injury, Hamilton had led the Wizards in scoring in six of their last nine games. And in the seven games he played before Friday's game, in which he played only eight minutes before leaving, Hamilton averaged 25.4 points.
Yesterday Hamilton walked with a pronounced limp, as he has done since suffering the injury. But rather than lament his situation, Hamilton appealed to his teammates to step up their intensity.
"It was like my heart dropped," said Hamilton, who is restricted from doing anything physical for at least the next 10 days. "It's tough because of all the highs that we've had recently. No one wants to sit out. Yesterday [my groin] hurt so badly that I could hardly even sit down. I had to stretch out my leg so I could sit. But we have enough talent on this team to keep it going. We've played through other injuries, and I'm sure we'll play through this one."
The Wizards hope Hamilton's injury is not a recurring one. Hamilton suffered a similar injury as a college freshman, only it was slightly lower. Said Hamilton: "I didn't miss any games with that."
Much of the burden for replacing Hamilton falls to veteran shooting guard Hubert Davis, who will continue to start in his place. Davis has played particularly well in the team's last two games. He had 19 points against Orlando, two shy of his season high, then followed with 14 in an 87-86 victory over New York.
But Davis concedes what every other team in the NBA knows.
"[Hamilton is] better than me; he's more athletic than me," said the 31-year-old veteran. "It's unfortunate that Rip's out. No one can replace Rip that's impossible. But this is an 82-game season. People will go down, and you have to find a way to win."
Davis, more of a spot-up shooter as opposed to Hamilton's midrange, slash to the basket game, noted that starting at this point in his career is much more challenging. After averaging less than 26 minutes in his 18 appearances this season, he was visibly tired after logging 41 and 40, respectively, in back-to-back games over the weekend.
Courtney Alexander would be the likely replacement for Hamilton, but he has been on the injured list for the last seven games with ankle and shin problems and has not practiced since Dec. 9. However, he is eligible to come off the injured list and will certainly be available to the Wizards before Hamilton returns.
Struggling this season, Alexander says the time he spent on the sideline has helped him. Alexander is ninth on the team in scoring (5.1) and shooting just 35 percent from the field. This after averaging 17 points in 27 games with the Wizards after being acquired from Dallas last season.
"I'm very eager," said Alexander, who was cleared yesterday to resume practicing. "Sitting out games gave me a chance to see things from a different perspective. I'm bothered by the fact that Rip has to sit out, because he was playing the best ball of his career."
Meanwhile, power forward Christian Laettner, who suffered a broken left fibula Dec. 14, was told by team doctors that it will be two weeks before he can resume running and jumping. At the time of the injury, Laettner was told he would miss at least four weeks due to the injury to the non-weight-bearing bone.

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