- The Washington Times - Monday, March 1, 2004

Jerry Stackhouse will find out early this week, perhaps as soon as today, whether he will play in any of the Washington Wizards’ remaining 25 games.

Stackhouse missed the Wizards’ first 45 games this season following surgery on his right knee. Following a 122-110 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, he said he would prefer to strengthen his knees, ankles and atrophied muscles in his quadriceps rather than possibly causing further damage by playing.

In a meeting yesterday between Wizards president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld and Stackhouse following practice at MCI Center, it was decided Stackhouse would be evaluated by team doctors to determine the next step.

“Obviously he feels some soreness,” said Grunfeld, who returned from scouting players in Europe in time to huddle with Stackhouse. “He’s going to get everything checked out to make sure everything is structurally sound. He’s going to continue to get therapy, and we’ll re-evaluate it after that.”

Stackhouse, 29, almost certainly won’t dress for tonight’s game at MCI Center against New Orleans. However, Grunfeld said there are no immediate plans to place him on the injured list.

An eight-year veteran who made the 2000 and 2001 All-Star teams with Detroit, Stackhouse has played in only 12 games this season and averaged 14.1 points, down from his career average of 21.3.

Stackhouse, a player who traditionally has done much of his damage by attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line, has yet to regain his explosiveness.

The healing process has been slow. He says his ankles are not at full strength and he has overcompensated with his left knee because the muscles around his right quadriceps atrophied as a result of inactivity.

Stackhouse said yesterday he missed at least one practice because of pain, despite the fact he has started every game since making his season debut Feb.1.

Acknowledging the spat that broke out last week between Gilbert Arenas and Kwame Brown concerning shot selection and selfishness, Stackhouse said he did not want his missed practices to cause a problem.

“I’m not going to be able to come in here and pound myself, and I don’t want that to be a distraction to the team,” Stackhouse said. “There are guys who are out there practicing, and then I come out and play minutes. How is that going to go over?

“We already had a little episode like that last week about guys not getting shots and some guys not converting. And I’m not even in the mix yet. What’s going to be said then? We’ve got some issues that we’ve got to address.”

Even if Stackhouse checks out OK with team doctors, Grunfeld said how the veteran feels ultimately will determine whether he plays again this season.

“At the end of the day Jerry has to feel good physically,” Grunfeld said.

The biggest consideration the Wizards have concerning Stackhouse, whom they signed to a two-year, $18million extension last summer, is whether having their best player on the court is worth risking further damage in what has become a throwaway season.

“I understand everybody’s situation,” Stackhouse said. “The bottom line is we need to win games. Maybe I need to be out there even if it’s not 100 percent. But I think the most important thing is to re-evaluate my physical condition because that’s the most important thing.”

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