- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 4, 2004

Although no time has been set for Jerry Stackhouse’s return to the Washington Wizards, it appears more likely to happen in early February than this month.

Although the team has not solidified an appointment with Dr. Richard Altcheck, the New York-based surgeon who operated on Stackhouse’s knee in October, the Wizards plan to have Stackhouse evaluated Jan.16.

Stackhouse underwent surgery Oct.21 to rectify a condition called chondromalacia, a wearing of the lining in the back of the kneecap. He was evaluated last month by Altcheck and told he would not be released from his supervision until another examination this month.

Stackhouse has been cleared to do some weightlifting and swimming, and he has been allowed to participate in some shooting drills. However, because he has not been cleared for contact and because his conditioning is lagging, Stackhouse’s chances of returning this month look slim.

“I can’t put a date on it,” Stackhouse said. “Everybody is talking and has an opinion about something. My opinion is when my knee is right, I’ll play. To try to put an ‘X’ on the calendar and having everybody looking for that ‘X’ and saying that they think I’ll be back by then, that’s just not going to work.”

Although the Wizards (9-21) have struggled in his absence, there has been no push by management to get Stackhouse on the court until he is completely healthy.

There has been outside speculation that Stackhouse should have had the surgery at the end of last season rather than waiting until the start of this one. But general manger Ernie Grunfeld, who wasn’t hired until June30, has endorsed the decision by Stackhouse and team physician Steven Hass to regard surgery as a last option.

Stackhouse, who last season led the Wizards in scoring (21.5), remains optimistic that he will be back next month. He also believes that despite the Wizards’ record, the team is not out of the playoff race.

The Wizards face the Milwaukee Bucks (16-16) at MCI Center today then face the NBA champion Spurs (22-11) in San Antonio on Tuesday.

“We’ve still got a lot of games left to play,” he said. “Right now there is no need for me to come back in the situation that we’re in. We have to climb out of a hole, so to speak, and to help be a part of that, I need to be at full strength. There’s no need in me coming back and not being right, not being able to do what I feel I need to do to accomplish that. I’d probably be adding to the problem.

“My mindset is that I’m hopeful I can come back where there are enough games left and we’re still in the hunt and my presence and my ability to play the game can help us.”

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