WASHINGTON - For a franchise that has been devoid of good luck in recent decades, the Washington Wizards got a bit of it yesterday when it turned out the injury to Michael Jordan's right knee wasn't as serious as it could have been.
An arthroscopic procedure performed on Jordan yesterday morning revealed the 39-year-old star had suffered torn cartilage in the knee. Stephen Haas, a team physician, repaired the tear in an operation at Washington's Sibley Hospital.
Though no timetable for Jordan's return was announced, the injury was not deemed serious enough to keep him out of the Wizards' lineup for the rest of the regular season, as was feared.
"You don't want anybody injured, but definitely there's a sense of relief that it wasn't something major that would have kept him out the rest of the year," said Wizards guard Chris Whitney. "We just have to go out there and compete. We have enough to keep things going and hold our ground until he gets back."
Jordan was not available for comment, but Washington coach Doug Collins spoke with the future Hall of Famer after the surgery and pronounced him optimistic.
"I'm encouraged because he was," Collins said. "Everybody here knows how much Michael loves to play. And now we realize that he did have a problem in there, there was something wrong, they cleaned it out, they took a piece of the cartilage, and he's getting better. Had they gone in there and not found a problem, that would have been disconcerting. But they found a problem. Now, he's just got to get right."
In a statement issued by the team, Haas said the injury was "the result of the normal wear and tear on the knee of an athlete of the caliber of Michael Jordan."
General manager Wes Unseld said that Jordan would rest for a few days and then begin therapy.
"I think he has to rest a few days to let the swelling subside from being scoped," Collins said. "And then I'm sure the doctor will let him know when he can aggressively rehab that knee. I'm sure it will be start easy and move forward. That will be the toughest thing for Michael, because Michael has never done anything with patience. For him, he can't fight the healing process. He knows that. He's got to take his time and get right."
Jordan had missed two games this season with what was believed to be tendinitis, but he took himself out with six minutes remaining in Sunday's loss at Miami, complaining of soreness in the knee. After the game, Jordan said he would have the knee evaluated and would take some time off to rest the knee.
He was placed on the injured list Tuesday for the second time in his career and will have to miss at least five games, though it seems likely that he will be out longer.
Jordan's absence ruined a potential reunion last night with Portland's Scottie Pippen, with whom he teamed to win six NBA championships when both played with the Chicago Bulls.
"I'm disappointed for selfish reasons," said Portland guard Steve Kerr, who played with Jordan and Pippen in Chicago. "I was looking forward to taking part in it and watching Scottie and Michael probably guard each other quite a bit. It probably would have been a lot of fun. I'm disappointed for Michael, because he's come this far and he's led his team to the playoff race, and for this to happen this late in the season, it's a shame."