Bullets' Webber weighs surgery Option could mean missing entire season


WASHINGTON -- Washington Bullets forward Chris Webber hopes to sit out only a month as he recovers from his second shoulder separation in two seasons, but said there's a possibility he may have surgery that could force him to miss the entire season.

"Truthfully, in my mind I'm could play all year, or I could have surgery tomorrow. I just want to do what's best for the team."

Webber said he is fearful of a recurrence of the shoulder separation he suffered Oct. 21 when he attempted to make a steal against Reggie Miller of the Indiana Pacers in an exhibition game. The contact that caused the injury was slight, leading Webber to believe that it can easily happen again.

"I'm thinking about not playing, just because of concerns of other people who say 'Wait, what if it happens in the middle of the year?' " Webber said. "If I have surgery then and can't play until xTC the middle of next season, that's six long months. I just want to make the right decision for my team and for myself."

Last week Webber sought a second opinion from Dr. Richard Caspari, a shoulder specialist in Richmond, Va., who recommended four to five weeks of rehabilitation. Caspari could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Having surgery now would mean missing most or all of this season. But surgery would also reduce the likelihood of the shoulder becoming dislocated again.

Dr. Bill Howard, an orthopedist and sports medicine specialist at Union Memorial Hospital, has not examined Webber, but he said he would recommend surgery for a recurring shoulder separation.

"Once a shoulder comes out, and comes out again, the capsule is loosened up around the joint, and sometimes it can pop out when you sneeze," said Howard, who saw a tape of the exhibition game in which Webber reinjured the shoulder. "Basketball is the kind of sport that would lead to that happening, because when you raise your arm or reach over your head -- as you do often -- that's what causes it to come out.

"If I were in his shorts, I'd have the surgery," Howard said. "I'd say 'lay me down and tighten me up.' I don't think he'd be out all year if he does it now. Depending on the surgery, I think he could be ready in three months."

Faced with a difficult decision, Webber has been seeking advice from associates and players he is close to in the league.

"There hasn't been a consensus," Webber said. "But everyone has said, 'Don't try to be a hero this season and miss next season.' "

Webber first dislocated the shoulder last December and missed 19 games. On Oct. 17, he and Chicago Bulls center Luc Longley traded shoves in an exhibition game, and the next day Webber missed practice because of soreness in his shoulder. But he was cleared to play by Bullets team physician Dr. Steven Haas, and suffered the second shoulder separation on Oct. 21.

In hindsight, Webber said, he would have handled the situation differently.

"When the doctor [Haas] didn't pay attention, I should have said 'I'm going to see another doctor,' " Webber said. "I can put on the doctor that I don't think he listened, but I can't get the injury on him. I'm hard-headed, and I played. But at the same time he built my confidence up that I could play."

Haas has declined to comment on Webber's injury.

NOTE: Robert Pack, acquired Monday from the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Don MacLean and Doug Overton, left Denver yesterday afternoon and was expected to arrive in Washington last night. He'll take a physical today and could practice with the team this afternoon. Pack has one year left on his contract, which will pay him $1.3 million . . . The team activated assistant coach Derek Smith to the roster because of injuries that have left the team short of players. He practiced with the team last night.

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