SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Chris Webber is expected to miss the rest of the NBA playoffs because of torn cartilage in his left knee.
Webber's season of injury problems culminated on a non-contact play in the third quarter Thursday night during Game 2 of Sacramento's playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks.
An MRI exam revealed a torn lateral meniscus requiring arthroscopic surgery. The Kings said Webber's rehabilitation will require a minimum of four-to-six weeks.
The news was a devastating blow to the Kings, who are tied 1-1 with the Mavericks in their Western Conference semifinal series.
Webber led the Pacific Division champions in scoring, rebounding and assists during the regular season despite missing 15 games and the All-Star weekend because of injuries.
"Chris has been a true warrior all season, having played through a number of injuries," Kings vice president Geoff Petrie said in a news release. "This is a huge disappointment, both personally and professionally for Chris and the entire organization.
"However, we have always been a very resilient team when confronted with these types of situations in the past. I'm sure our team will be ready to respond to the challenge."
Just hours before the injury, Webber said his knee had bothered him all season, partially because of his recurring back and ankle problems. Never a quick healer, Webber expected to have surgery on his knee early in the offseason to get it back to full strength before training camp.
Webber, a five-time All-Star, hurt his knee while running toward the basket to catch a lob pass. There was no contact on the play, but Webber had to he helped off the court by several teammates.
"I heard something pop," Webber said while heading toward the Kings' locker room.
Webber averaged 23.0 points, 10.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists in the second season of a seven-year, $127 million contract. He was frequently mentioned as an MVP contender before missing 10 games with a sprained ankle midway through the season.
The series resumes Saturday night, with Game 4 on Sunday night. Scot Pollard or Keon Clark will replace Webber in the starting lineup.
It's the second straight postseason with a debilitating injury for the Kings. Last spring, two-time All-Star Peja Stojakovic missed six playoff games with a sprained ankle, only returning for limited reserve play in the final three games of their conference finals loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
"Of course we're going to miss Chris," Stojakovic said, "but we have to get more help from everybody and move on. It won't change anything in my game. We still have to get better on the defensive end and make more shots."
In a bit of good news Friday, Kings guard Bobby Jackson was cleared to play despite a fractured cheekbone.
Jackson, the Kings' spark plug guard who was named the NBA's top sixth man last week, broke his right cheekbone in a collision with Dallas' Raef LaFrentz in the Kings' Game 2 loss.
Jackson, the Kings' fourth-leading scorer during the regular season, had X-rays that confirmed the fracture, but team doctors will allow him to play in Game 3 Saturday. He refused their recommendation of wearing a clear face mask.
"You know me. I wouldn't feel comfortable," Jackson said. "I didn't want my little girl to be scared of me."
Webber's predicament was the latest development in a season filled with injury problems for the Kings, who played much of the first two months of the season with only eight or nine active players.
Mike Bibby, Stojakovic, Jackson, Pollard and Hedo Turkoglu all missed significant portions of the regular season with injuries.
"We have a deep team, and we'll just have to step up if Chris can't play," center Vlade Divac said before the severity of Webber's injury was disclosed. "We've been through this before."
Copyright © 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.