- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Jerry Stackhouse has decided to collect his millions from the bench, preferably where no one will notice the larcenous air about him.

He lacked the conscience to notify the general manager and coach of his intentions, the pathology associated with bank robbers and the like, fittingly enough.

Stackhouse is stealing money this season, starting with the decision to remedy his right knee with rest instead of surgery last summer. The rest led to surgery in October, just in time for Stackhouse to miss the first 45 games of the season.

That was the first insult from the two-time All-Star. The second was his insistence to add a hint of mystery to the mundane, seemingly breaking out in a rash with each mention of a timetable.

If the purpose was to add a modicum of drama to the rehabilitation process, Stackhouse neglected to calculate the appearance of being self-absorbed. He could have at least pretended to be eager to rejoin his teammates.

His shutdown following the team’s game with the Lakers last weekend was made in the spirit of vapidity as well.

He is not where he wants to be on the court, and disinclined to push through it. He might as well have threatened to take the team’s ball home with him while he was storing away his short pants.

It was left to Ernie Grunfeld and Eddie Jordan to remind Stackhouse that he is an employee of the Wizards, with certain obligations and responsibilities to the team, foreign as that concept may be to one who has shown he even has trouble comprehending a rental-lease agreement at the beach.

The fine print of a checkout date is another form of a timetable, not one of Stackhouse’s strengths, as it is turning out.

The Wizards have a schedule to keep, which conflicts with a person whose clock fluctuates between whenever and whatever. He plans to play again when he plans to play again. Guesses are encouraged, followed by none of the above.

The miracle of life is usually less complicated than what was believed to be a relatively elementary surgical procedure to a right knee.

Stackhouse has spoken of atrophy as if it is an uncommon product of a knee operation. Jared Jeffries knows that condition all too well after undergoing reconstructive surgery on a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last season. His ordeal was considerably more serious than Stackhouse’s.

The solution to atrophy depends on the persistence of the individual in the weight room, one of the uncomfortable questions lurking in Stackhouse’s presence. You could think he was attempting to recover from a knee-replacement procedure.

Stackhouse is the only one who really knows the condition of his right knee after the team’s doctors found nothing structurally wrong with it.

The quality of his play in 12 games is incidental to his sense of professional duty. February became his October, preseason by NBA decree.

Quitting in apparent haste reveals a lack of character, among other flaws.

Stackhouse earned a two-year contract extension last summer that will stuff $33million in his pockets through the 2006-07 season. He will receive the loot whether he is making “contact” with a real-estate woman at the beach or hanging out in a doctor’s office.

He claims the contract extension resulted in his premature return, which he insisted all along he would not do. So he either was misguided before his return or he is misguided now, the choice all his.

“I wanted to be able to come back and show the professionalism of what this game and what this job is all about,” Stackhouse said after the game with the Lakers.

The point of being a professional was lost on Grunfeld and Jordan, with Grunfeld out of town at the time of the decision and Jordan unaware.

Stackhouse’s thought process is perhaps as flimsy as his production this season, an unsettling prospect.

Grunfeld and Jordan have elected to stash him in athletic purgatory of sorts in the short term, if only to demonstrate who is in charge.

Stackhouse already has made the decision not to play again this season and have a rehabilitation-free summer.

The stance is hardly professional. Pitiful is more like it.

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