Jordan has surgery, could return this season

Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2002

WASHINGTON -- Michael Jordan will probably be able to play again this season. Whether he can make it back in time to save the Washington Wizards' drive for the playoffs is another matter.

Jordan had surgery for the first time in his career Wednesday morning. Team physician Dr. Stephen Haas found and repaired torn cartilage in the 39-year-old forward's right knee, an injury Haas said was the result of normal wear and tear for an athlete of Jordan's caliber.

Typically, recovery time for such an operation is two to six weeks, and many variables -- age, severity of the tear, workout ethic -- can determine where a patient fits in that range. The Wizards will have a better idea of Jordan's time frame when he begins therapy after a few days of rest.

''Anytime you have a knee where you're getting swelling, you hope that when they go in there they find something they can fix,'' coach Doug Collins said. ''When I talked to Michael, he was happy they found the source of the problem and that they were able to fix it.''

If Jordan falls in the middle of the range -- four weeks -- he would miss 16 games, including the entire six-game road trip in mid-March that could make or break the Wizards' season. He could join the road trip in progress if he misses two or three weeks, while a six-week layoff wouldn't bring him back until the final week of the regular season.

''It's going to be start easy and move forward,'' Collins said. ''And that's going to be the toughest thing for Michael because he's never done anything with patience. He can't fight the healing process. He's got to take his time and get it right.''

Collins cautioned that Jordan might have to choose between playing this season or next.

''There's a lot of miles on those legs, and Michael didn't play them at a low level,'' Collins said. ''Michael played at the highest of levels. Michael at 23, he's going to heal faster than he does at 39. He knows that if he has visions of playing next year, then it would do no good to rush back and try to do something to set himself back. We've got to all be patient.''

Still, the news was positive, given all the possibilities that had been mentioned going into the surgery. Assuming the rehabilitation goes well, Jordan's career doesn't appear to be over.

''He was in good spirits,'' Collins said.

Jordan was placed on the injured list Tuesday, which requires him to miss a minimum of five games, including Wednesday night at home against Portland and home and away games against his former team, the Chicago Bulls.

Jordan turned the Wizards into one of the NBA's surprise success stories during the first half of the season, putting the team in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 1997.

But the Wizards (27-29) lost 105-101 to Portland, their sixth straight loss and eighth in nine games since the All-Star break.

Jordan is averaging 24 points, five assists and 37 minutes -- all team highs that are hard to replace.

Wednesday morning's shootaround ran an extra 30 minutes as Collins and the coaches worked on ways to score without Jordan. The new plays were successful for the most part, as the Wizards hung with the Trail Blazers for most of the game.

''We're almost in training camp right now,'' Collins said.

The knee was one of several injuries Jordan had to overcome when he began his comeback workouts a year ago. The injury initially was diagnosed as tendinitis, and he had fluid drained from the knee at least three times, most recently before a game in Miami on Saturday. He also banged the knee in a collision with teammate Etan Thomas just before the All-Star break.

Jordan missed two games earlier in the season to rest the knee, and the Wizards lost both times. His only other major injury came in 1985, when he broke his left foot and missed 64 games in his second season with the Bulls.



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