Bullet forward Mitch Kupchak said yesterday he will undergo back surgery "only as a last resort," although he expects a pending major medical test will indicate the need for an operation that could sideline him at least six months.

Kupchak, who did not suit up the last three weeks of the playoffs after developing severe muscle spasms in his lower back, hopes this week to undergo a myelogram test, which should indicate any deformities in the spinal column.

"I expect it to show I have disk problems," Kupchak said yesterday. "There has to be something wrong to be causing what is happening to me.

"But I don't want to have immediate surgery. I want to go through a complete rehabilitative process. I'll do anything they want: heat, traction, whirlpool, acupuncture. I want to exhaust every remedy before having an operation.

"It's not that I'm afraid of surgery. I'm not. But people think surgery is always the answer, that it is corrective. With the back, that's wrong. Surgery there may not help at all."

Kupchak underwent a back operation, a laminectomy, between his junior and senior seasons at North Carolina. That is the same surgery performed on Phil Chenier last September.

This time, however, Kupchak and Bullet officials fear he will require a spinal fusion operation, which should sideline him for at least six months.

Fusion surgery involves removing some bone from either the pelvis or shin and using this graft matter to stop or "fuse" all motion between two adjoining and troublesome vertebrae.

"I belive really strongly in mind over matter," Kupchak said. "I've gone pretty far on that theory already. I think I can cure this thing without surgery.

"But if it came to where I can't walk or run, and that if it's so bad that surgery is the only hope of me playing again, that will cut down on my options. But as long as I'm not going to have an operation."

Kupchak said there has been progress since he came out of the hospital two weeks ago. He even was seriously considering playing today if there had been a Game 6 of the championship series against Seattle, "but now at least I don't have the opportunity to ruin myself.

"This is not improving day to day like before. It is week to week, but I keep notes of what I can do, like bending, and there is a noticeable difference.

"I'm convinced if I had played against Seattle, we would be playing for the championship today. It's been awful. But I'm glad it's over for one reason: every game just prolonged my frustrations.

If I hadn't played against San Antonio (in Game 2), I could have played in the Seattle series. But I didn't know there would be a Seattle series. No one sent a message from above telling me I had two options, to play against San Antonio or to sit out and play against Seattle."

But Kupchak feels once his back problems are behind him, he'll return "as even a better player. I've done it before and I'll do it again.

"I've prepared myself the last four years since the last operation for more trouble. I knew it would happen. So there is no doubt, I'll beback. This isn't the last of Mitch Kupchak."