Bullets' Webber Re-Injures Shoulder
By Richard Justice
EVANSVILLE, IND., OCT. 21 A season of high hopes for the Washington Bullets came crashing back to earth during a preseason game tonight as star forward Chris Webber dislocated his left shoulder, the same injury that sidelined him for 19 games last season.
Webber was scheduled to fly back to Washington on Sunday for further evaluation, but the early prognosis isn't good and he'll be out at least a couple of weeks. Webber said the injury isn't as serious as the one he suffered last season, and he may be able to play if the soreness subsides in a few weeks.
"I feel so bad for him," said forward Juwan Howard, Webber's teammate and close friend, who wrapped his arms around Webber until a doctor arrived. "He was looking forward to a healthy and productive season and now something like this happens. It hurts all of us. I just want him to take his time and not rush back. I want him to wait until it's 100 percent. No, make that 110 percent."
The bigger worry for Webber is that nine months of rehabilitation have failed to stabilize the shoulder and he may eventually require surgery. Indiana Pacers forward Dale Davis played the past two seasons with a shoulder that popped out of place numerous times. In the beginning, he'd missed two weeks when it popped, but by the end of last season he would miss only a game or two. He underwent surgery during the offseason and appears to be fine.
"It's going to keep coming out until he gets it fixed," Davis said. "It's very painful the first couple of times, then you get more used to it. But it definitely affects your play until you get it fixed. I'm sorry he has to go through this."
Webber was injured with 2:04 left in the first quarter of a 109-99 preseason victory over the Pacers. It appeared to be a routine play. Indiana guard Reggie Miller darted around Washington's Calbert Cheaney and headed for the basket. As Miller reached the middle of the lane, Webber extended his left arm and slapped at the ball with his left hand. He'd forced a turnover with the same technique on the first play of the game, but this time, he leaped back, screamed in pain and doubled over.
He began making his way toward the bench area. With every step, he screamed, "It's dislocated! It's dislocated! It's dislocated!"
Webber crumpled onto the end of the bench, as medical assistance was summoned. His injury came at the end of a quarter when the Bullets had played their best stretch of basketball and were leading 24-15. Webber had scored eight of those 24 points.
The shoulder was still out of place when he was assisted to the locker room, where a Pacers doctor put the shoulder back into place. Webber stayed in the locker room for the remainder of the game, and under the influence of a painkiller, was unable to speak after the game.
"This is an incredible human being," said Andrew Stalzman, the doctor who popped the shoulder back in. "He's in there in great pain, and as I start to leave, he says, Is your son here?' And he handed me his shoes, then autographed them."
After Webber was injured, his teammates milled around looking with stunned expressions. Some stood silent, while others muttered obscenities, perhaps wondering how a team decimated by injuries a year ago could be going through the same thing again.
Webber sat out Wednesday's practice and had underwent X-rays after hurting the shoulder Tuesday night in Chicago. The X-rays showed no permanent damage and doctors said they believed he had suffered nothing more than a muscle strain. Webber said then that the injury was an eerie reminder of the one he suffered last Dec. 22 against the Golden State Warriors.
Still, he recovered enough to practice with the Bullets and start tonight. He had said he would seek a second medical opinion to clear his mind that he hadn't done any damage. Whether Tuesday's pain was related to tonight's injury was unclear.
The Bullets now face the possibility of losing their best player for a chunk of the regular season. If surgery is required, he would miss several months, but team officials cautioned against a premature diagnosis.
From the moment the Bullets acquired him for Tom Gugliotta and three first-round draft choices early last November, Webber was to be the franchise's cornerstone. Now, they may have to figure out another way. Newly acquired point guard Mark Price will miss the entire preseason with a foot injury.
In Webber's absence, forwards Howard and Don MacLean and rookie center Rasheed Wallace all had nice games. Howard scored 19 points, MacLean 17 and Wallace 15.
Also, second-year center Jim McIlvaine, who could become important for the Bullets if Webber misses significant time, blocked six shots and grabbed six rebounds in his first game of the preseason.
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