- The Washington Times - Friday, October 10, 2003

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The Washington Wizards welcomed the return of Jared Jeffries last night against the Philadelphia 76ers. But before the game, there were much larger concerns surrounding the status of star forward Jerry Stackhouse.

Stackhouse sat out the 103-83 loss at Greensboro Coliseum with what was described as a sore right knee. The true nature of the injury remains unknown, and there was some speculation that Stackhouse could miss the entire preseason and even the start of the regular season Oct.29 in Chicago.

“I don’t know right now,” Stackhouse said. “I’d love to say that by the time the season starts, I’ll be ready. That would be in a perfect world. But in all reality, I might not be ready.”

Although no one on the team’s medical staff would say that the injury is more than a sore knee, just how bad it was appeared to be anyone’s guess.

Stackhouse showed signs of an injury during training camp earlier this month when he often appeared to have trouble running at full speed. He also wore a rubber sleeve over his leg to help with circulation.

The knee, he believes, was bothering him mostly because of a hip alignment condition that has troubled him for “four or five years.” Stackhouse said he had been compensating for the injury and that his left knee was affected.

Stackhouse spent much of the summer trying to strengthen the knee, with an emphasis on weightlifting and conditioning. Now, however, he feels that might have been detrimental.

“It’s frustrating,” Stackhouse said. “Before, I thought that strengthening it was the right way to go. But I haven’t gotten the reaction that I hoped I would from that.”

Stackhouse, 28, said he felt he was fighting a losing battle Wednesday when the team dropped a 76-71 decision to Toronto. Against the Raptors, Stackhouse, a career 21.3-point scorer, was 1-for-9 from the floor in 25 minutes, scoring five points.

Stackhouse met with his teammates and the coaching staff and announced that he was going to shut it down. He received the full support of the coaching staff.

“He decided that this is the best time to rehab and rest his knee, get his leg stronger,” coach Eddie Jordan said. “This is the best time to do it. He’s still our leader. I told him to take the time that you need to get healthy because we need a healthy Stackhouse.”

Stackhouse, who this summer signed a contract extension that will keep him in a Wizards uniform through the 2006-07 season, was not as concerned about a time frame for his recovery as he was about some obviously more pressing issues.

“There’s no time frame,” Stackhouse said. “I’m just out until it is better, and I don’t know when that will be. The issue is getting it right.”

With Stackhouse’s status uncertain, some of the team’s younger players are going to get an opportunity to impress in the preseason and perhaps into the regular season.

Jeffries, the 11th pick overall in the 2002 draft, made his first appearance in a game since a torn right ACL ended his rookie season after 20 games. The fact that he played at all last night is a strong indication that the Wizards are confident his knee is close to 100 percent.

Stackhouse’s injury also will create an opportunity for rookie Jarvis Hayes to begin his development. Drafted with the 12th pick last season, Hayes has struggled early, but no one seems to think he won’t catch on.

“These games are for Jared to get better,” Jordan said. “It’s going to give the other guys time to step up and an opportunity to play. That would mean Jarvis and Jared. Those two guys could use the time and Stackhouse can use the rest.”

Notes — The Wizards (1-2 in preseason) turned the ball over 24 times as they lost for the second time in a row. Gilbert Arenas led the Wizards with 21 points, and Kwame Brown added 14 as Washington made 34 percent of its shots. Philadelphia, which played without starters Glenn Robinson and Derrick Coleman, was led by Allen Iverson’s 23 points.

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