Wednesday, November 1, 2006

The Washington Wizards found out yesterday forward Darius Songaila will miss at least 10 to 12 weeks with a herniated disc in his back that will require surgery.

“I am very disappointed that I will not be out there with my new teammates,” Songaila said in a statement issued by the team. “I plan to work hard and look forward to getting back on the court. Unfortunately, surgery is my best option at this time.”

Songaila, who signed a five-year, $23 million deal with the Wizards in the offseason, sustained a pinched nerve in his back while playing in the world championships for the Lithuanian national team.

Since then, Songaila and the Wizards have tried a number of treatments to no avail. Songaila tried to participate in the first training camp practice last month in Richmond, but the pain was too much, and he has not taken the court since.

“It got progressively worse,” Wizards president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld said. “We tried a number of methods of treatment and rehabilitation but have been advised by our medical staff that the best course of action at this time is for Darius to have this injury surgically repaired.”

Wizards coach Eddie Jordan hinted at times he didn’t expect to have Songaila available early this season. Jordan had indicated he was trying to focus on the players who were healthy and who would be available to him and his coaching staff.

The Wizards had hoped Songaila would be an offensive weapon, primarily when they went to a small lineup, which would feature Songaila and his midrange jumper at center.

Songaila was expected to be a key player off the bench and, depending on certain matchups, he may have started some.

The team’s bench, which includes a healthy Jarvis Hayes and Brendan Haywood, remains stronger than last season.

From an offensive standpoint, the idea was to get the 6-foot-9 Songaila involved in pick-and-roll situations with players like Gilbert Arenas to create matchup problems.

That plan, at least for now, is scrapped.

It is not the first time Songaila has been slowed by injuries. Songaila averaged 9.2 points and shot better than 48 percent from the floor last season, but a knee injury limited him to just 62 games.

Notes — Wizards owner Abe Pollin announced he will match the $100 Gilbert Arenas has pledged to donate to local schools for every point the All-Star guard scores at home games this season. In games played at Verizon Center last year, Arenas averaged 30.4 points for a total of 1,216 points scored, which would have amounted to $121,600.

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