- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 16, 2003

Washington Wizards forward Jerry Stackhouse will have arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Tuesday in New York that likely will keep him out of the team’s season opener Oct.29 and for an undetermined period afterward.

Asked whether Stackhouse would miss the opener at Chicago, president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld replied, “In all likelihood, yes. We don’t have any kind of time frame — we won’t know until they actually perform the arthroscopy. Once they do that we’ll have a better idea. But I think it’s safe to assume that he will not be available for the opener.”

Last season, Stackhouse, 28, led the Wizards in scoring (21.5). The knee is the same one that forced him to miss the final four games, and the Wizards’ medical staff has determined the injury is directly related to a hip condition that has bothered him for four or five years.

Stackhouse, who signed a two-year contract extension that will pay him approximately $33million over the next four seasons, sought the outside advice of Dr. David Altchek in New York on Wednesday. Yesterday morning Stackhouse met with team officials and the medical staff and decided surgery was the right course.

An MRI this week revealed no tear in his knee. However, it did reveal a wearing down of the lining behind the kneecap, which has caused some concern.

Stackhouse’s absence hurts coach Eddie Jordan’s attempt to implement an offense that relies heavily on Stackhouse’s ability to score. Combined with the Wizards’ relative inexperience — nine players are 24 or younger — losing Stackhouse will make it difficult for the team to get off to a good start.

“We wish him the best, and we want him back and we want him back healthy,” Jordan said. “But we have to move on with the people who will step in his position.”

With Stackhouse’s return date uncertain, the Wizards must turn to young forwards like second-year man Jared Jeffries and rookie Jarvis Hayes to pick up the slack.

Both play differently than Stackhouse. Jeffries, whose rookie season ended when he tore his right ACL in December, is 6-foot-11 and says he models his game after Scottie Pippen’s. Hayes is a 6-7 jump shooter.

“It’s tough, and it’s going to hurt losing his veteran leadership,” Hayes said. “You lose that and, of course, what he does on the court. But it gives me and Jared an opportunity to learn and grow. We’re going to make mistakes, but you have to learn from your mistakes.”

Grunfeld, who said the Wizards would not pursue other options like signing a free agent until after Stackhouse’s surgery, said this would be an opportunity for Jeffries, Hayes or both to shine.

“It’s going to be a competitive situation,” Grunfeld said. “That’s life in the NBA. It’s unfortunate that Jerry has this injury. We want to take care of it and have him back with us as soon as possible. But somebody is going to have to step up. … As we’ve said all along, we have a real young team, a team that basically has a lot of inexperienced players. Some of those inexperienced players will get an opportunity to show us what they can do.”

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