Webber Undergoes Surgery on Shoulder
By Richard Justice
Washington Bullets forward Chris Webber underwent surgery on his left shoulder yesterday afternoon in New York. His agent, Fallasha Erwin, said the two-hour procedure went well and that Webber should be recovered by June.
"They said it went just as expected, with repairing the ligaments and all," Erwin said last night from New York. "He should be running and playing basketball in June. He can look forward to a fresh start next season."
The surgery was performed by Russell Warren at the Hospital for Special Surgery, Ambulatory Care Center. Bullets team physician Stephen Haas was present.
Webber, who is scheduled to be released from the hospital today, will have his left arm in a sling for about four weeks. He then will begin four weeks of exercises to regain a full range of motion. After that, he will do a period of light weightlifting, followed by heavier lifting three months after the surgery.
Doctors have told him he should be recovered in time for a full summer of basketball drills in preparation for the beginning of training camp in October.
Medical experts say the procedure has a success rate of more than 95 percent, and that, barring problems, Webber should be able to resume his career normally next season.
"I see no reason why he can't recover and continue his career," said Benjamin Shaffer of the Georgetown University Hospital. "It's a procedure that has a very high success rate."
Doctors said that the surgery is to tighten the ligaments that have become stretched with every dislocation. They apparently had become quite loose, because when Warren had him on an examining table on Wednesday, he was almost able to pop the shoulder out of place just by manipulating the left arm.
It's the pain of constant dislocations -- and the ensuing absences from the court -- that finally convinced Webber to have surgery.
"Does the pain of childbirth mean anything to you?" said orthopedic surgeon Lewis Yocum of the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic in Inglewood, Calif. "It's like having a massive muscle spasm. It's fairly intense pain."
During the surgery, surgeons pass sutures through the torn ligaments and tie them back to the bone.
Webber hopes the surgery will repair a shoulder that has bothered him for more than a year. He first dislocated it Dec. 22, 1994, during a game at Golden State. He missed 19 games, but returned to play well the final three months of the regular season.
He dislocated it again Oct. 21 during a preseason game, and after six weeks of rehabilitation, attempted to return. Doctors warned him that the chances of re-injury were very high until he underwent surgery, but Webber decided to play, hoping he could "tippy toe" through the season.
He managed to play just 15 games before deciding to have the procedure. He led the Bullets with 23.7 points per game, but was constantly dealing with soreness or fatigue.
"The good news is that Chris should be 100 percent well in advance of next season," Bullets General Manager John Nash said. "It was valiant of him to try to play as long as he could. We'll miss him, but the team will know what to expect the rest of the season. The uncertainty associated with his availability was unsettling. The players now know who's going to be available and who'll be called."
Webber told reporters last Saturday that the shoulder bothered him enough that continuing to play didn't make any sense. He also worried that if he waited until after the season, he might not be fully recovered by the start of the 1996-97 regular season.
Several other NBA players, including Indiana forward Dale Davis and Bullets point guard Robert Pack, have had the procedure performed and resumed their careers without a hitch.
"I know it was a tough decision for Chris," Bullets Coach Jim Lynam said. "I'm sure he went through a variety of emotions. He didn't want to finish out what was going to be a piecemeal season, which it would have been. To allow this thing to linger into a third season would have been something he didn't want hanging over his head."
Bullets Notes: The Bullets signed point guard Greg Grant to a 10-day contract after the NBA refused to allow them to bring veteran Johnny Dawkins in for a tryout. Lynam and Nash wanted to watch Dawkins practice before offering him a contract, but NBA officials said only players under contract would be allowed to practice.
Nash was less than pleased with their refusal because Michael Jordan practiced with the Chicago Bulls last year before he was signed, and Magic Johnson worked out with the Los Angeles Lakers this year before he was under contract.
Grant, 29, has played for Phoenix, New York, Charlotte, Philadelphia and Denver in his six-year career. He began the season with the 76ers, but was playing with Shreveport of the Continental Basketball Association when the Bullets reached him. "I've always liked him," Lynam said. "He can push the ball and play pressure defense." Lynam will stick with Mitchell Butler as his backup point guard for now, but Grant will be his insurance policy. . . .
Guard Tim Legler and wife Jennifer are celebrating the birth of their first child, a 7-pound 7-ounce daughter -- Lauren Nicole -- born at 1 yesterday morning. Jennifer Legler was in labor for 15 hours. "Watching her go through that is the definition of newfound respect," Tim Legler said of his wife. "I couldn't have done it."
Staff writer Sally Squires contributed to this report.
© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company