Hamilton Works out but Not Ready to Return

By Mitchell, John N. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 15, 2002 | Go to article overview

Hamilton Works out but Not Ready to Return


Mitchell, John N., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Byline: John N. Mitchell

The much-anticipated return of Washington Wizards guard Richard Hamilton might take a little longer than the team expected.

Hamilton, who has missed the Wizards' last nine games with a partially torn right groin, had wanted to return in time for Michael Jordan's Saturday homecoming at United Center in Chicago. However, following the team's workout at MCI Center yesterday - in which Hamilton participated - Washington's second leading scorer still walked with a slight limp and admitted he's not where he hoped to be.

However, starting power forward Christian Laettner, out the last 12 games with a broken left fibula, should return by Saturday.

"It's tough to say," Hamilton said when asked to rate his readiness to play on a scale from one to 10. "There are certain things I can do. I can run, which is a good thing. But I can't move laterally. That's where I have trouble. I can't practice anywhere near full strength."

If he can't play Saturday, the team is hopeful he'll be ready for the Jan.21 game at Minnesota. Hamilton is averaging 19.8 points and 4.0 rebounds a game. However, in the 11 games before his injury, Hamilton averaged 24.6 points.

Wizards coach Doug Collins had hoped that Laettner might be able to return as soon as tonight when the Wizards face the San Antonio Spurs at MCI Center. But Laettner, who lately has been working out with the team, indicated he would not be ready to make his return until Saturday.

"I'm sure I'll be playing by Saturday," Laettner said. "My shape is really down and so is my wind. As soon as I get that up halfway I'll be ready to go. But it's not going to be ready by tomorrow; it's not going to be ready by Wednesday. I've got to get two good practices in Thursday and Friday and then I'll be ready."

Collins liked the way Laettner, averaging 8.5 points and 5.7 rebounds, looked during practice yesterday. However, he said he would let Laettner make the call on when he'll return. However, he added that if Laettner said he felt healthy enough to play tonight, Collins would be more than happy to use him.

"I'll let him make that judgement," Collins said. "I don't know if he wants to get a couple more practices under his belt or whatever, but if he would say `I want to play,' definitely."

Collins can feel some of the momentum the Wizards have built starting to ebb. They have lost their last two games after having won 13 of 15. During that stretch the Wizards defense was particularly stifling, holding opponents to just 85.8 points.

However, it was also during that time that the Wizards had to insert both Popeye Jones and Hubert Davis - both of whom are more comfortable in reserve roles - in place of Laettner and Hamilton. …

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