AUBURN HILLS, MICH., JAN. 29 -- Isiah Thomas had bones in his right hand fused today and the surgeon who performed the operation said it is unlikely the Detroit Pistons guard will play again this season.

"I suppose if his wrist is real solid and the bone is real sturdy, he could play sometime in May, but I'm a little nervous setting him loose on a basketball court until I'm convinced he's ready," the doctor, Kirk Watson, said.

Thomas, 29, had a 45-minute operation at Hartford Hospital this morning and headed back to Detroit. Thomas, selected the most valuable player in the NBA Finals as Detroit won its second straight league title last season, will have the hand in a cast until March 19 and can't play for eight weeks after the cast is removed, Watson said.

The NBA playoffs begin in late April, and that 15-week recuperation period is three weeks longer than Pistons officials had hoped for.

Benjamin Paolucci, the Pistons' team physician, was slightly more optimistic than Watson.

"It is anticipated that his return to basketball might be as early as the first week in May" after a 13-week recuperation, Paolucci said.

The deterioration of Thomas's wrist also has caused minor arthritis, but that may clear. Said Watson: "I would not have wanted him to wait until June to undergo surgery or the arthritis might have been much worse."

The operation involved taking a graft from Thomas's forearm and fusing the scaphoid, one of eight small bones in the wrist, to two other bones to keep it from rotating and further damaging ligaments.

Watson performed similar surgery on Adrian Dantley in 1983, and he came back to lead the NBA in scoring in 1984.

Watson said he was "very pleased" with the operation and expressed confidence that Thomas will come back strong.

Thomas decided to have the operation when, after being examined by Watson, he performed poorly against Boston last Wednesday. The wrist had been bothering him for about nine months.

"He has a very, very high threshold of pain," General Manager Jack McCloskey said at the time. "He just couldn't go on."

Thomas, who has averaged 20 points and 9.8 assists in 10 NBA seasons, was averaging a career-low 16 points a game this season.

He will miss a scheduled start in the NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 10.

The Pistons are 3-0 since replacing Thomas on the roster with John Long.