- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 29, 2004

Jerry Stackhouse’s season appears to be finished.

After playing 38 minutes and scoring 20 points, grabbing five rebounds and handing out five assists yesterday in a 122-110 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers at MCI Center, Stackhouse, who missed the first 45 games of the season after knee surgery, said he was not recovering properly and thought it best to sit out the final 25 games.

“I’m at a crossroads,” Stackhouse said. “I’m going to sit down and talk with some people because right now I’m not healthy. I’m not well, and I don’t feel like I can play the way that I can play. I don’t want to go into the offseason with a rehab mentality. I’d rather continue trying to get my leg back so I can have a very productive summer and play the way that I feel like I’m capable of playing.”

Stackhouse said the problem is not his right knee — which was operated on in late October — but the left because he overcompensates because the muscles around his right knee have atrophied.

Stackhouse delivered the news after coach Eddie Jordan had addressed the media. After Stackhouse’s bombshell, Jordan declined to comment, not wanting to make a statement until after meeting with Stackhouse and president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld, who is out of town and is expected back early this week.

Stackhouse signed a two-year extension last summer that guarantees him $33million through the 2006-07 season. He could have opted out of his contract, meaning it would expire at the end of next season and make him a free agent.

Stackhouse conceded that he had felt an obligation to return early, in part because of the extension.

“I wanted to be able to come back and show the professionalism of what this game and what this job is about,” Stackhouse said. “Now it’s time to be smart. At 29, hopefully I’ve got a lot of basketball left. I don’t want to jeopardize my team or myself. They have a huge investment in me, and I want to be able to be where I’ve been for me to deserve the extension and everything that I was given.”

An eight-year veteran with a 21.5 scoring average, Stackhouse appeared in 12 games this season, returning to the lineup Feb.1 in a 104-100 loss to Cleveland. Stackhouse has not played on the level where he was before the injury, averaging 14.1 points.

The Wizards’ injury situation this season has been disastrous. Gilbert Arenas, who scored a game-high 35 points and matched the franchise record with eight 3-pointers yesterday, missed 26 games with a severely strained abdomen. Leading scorer Larry Hughes (18.7), out with a broken hand, hasn’t played since Feb.7 and isn’t expected back for another two to three weeks.

Playing in front of the fourth sellout crowd (20,173) of the season at MCI, Los Angeles’ Kobe Bryant posted his first triple-double of the season (25 points, 14 rebounds, 10 assists), and Shaquille O’Neal finished with 29 points and four blocks.

The Wizards were able to reduce the Lakers’ 78-64 third-quarter lead to 85-82 in the fourth quarter. But the Lakers went on a three-minute, 16-2 run late in the game to lead 114-97 with 3:09 left. The Lakers’ 122 points were a team season high.

Kwame Brown finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Wizards.

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