Woolridge Is Happy Despite Injury

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Optimism radiates from Laker forward Orlando Woolridge, despite the fact that his right knee still is swollen four days after arthroscopic surgery to remove bone fragments.

Woolridge said he is not concerned that he has missed nearly all of training camp because of his knee problem and that he probably will begin the National Basketball Assn. regular season on the injured list.

His mood can be attributed to the fact that the arthroscopic procedure could have detected serious cartilage damage and that, if this had been last season, his spot in Coach Pat Riley's substitution pattern would have been in jeopardy.

"I try to look at any situation, whether negative or positive, and see what I can learn from it," said Woolridge, who watched from the bench as the Lakers beat the Philadelphia 76ers, 114-102, Saturday night at the Forum.

"I'm not going to dwell on the negativity of things, and that's what I'm trying to do with this situation."

Woolridge's attitude was shaped last season, when he languished on the bench until getting a chance in the playoffs. He came into training camp happy that Riley had decided to play him almost exclusively at small forward, rather than at power forward.

But Woolridge's training camp was aborted almost before it began. What he thought was only the "normal" training camp knee soreness turned into a serious condition, in which fluid had to be twice drained from the knee. Swelling persisted, however, and surgery was required. He will be examined by Dr. Stephen Lombardo again Monday and probably will begin rehabilitation after that.

"It would come and leave in previous years, but I guess this time my knee said, 'That's enough,' " Woolridge said. "I didn't want to have surgery--nobody does--but I'm happy because the doctors said there is nothing structurally wrong."

Only once in his nine-season career has Woolridge had to rehabilitate an injury, and he is not dreading the task this time.

"I'm actually looking forward to it," Woolridge said. "I don't want to rush it, but I'll work as hard as I can rehabing it, so when I come back, I'll be back. I've got to get the leg strong again, because atrophy sets in. Whatever is asked of me to do, I'll gladly do it.

"I don't think it's going to be that long. Once you've played the game as long as I have, you have a natural rhythm and you just jump back in."

Even if Woolridge's knee regains strength in three weeks--the minimum goal doctors have set for his return--it surely will take him more to be in proper playing shape.

Laker Notes

The Lakers, who play the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight at 7:30 at the Forum in the championship game of this exhibition tournament, are 7-0 in the exhibition season and have yet to be challenged. Coach Pat Riley said he is pleased by the play of his first seven players, including new backup point guard Larry Drew, but sees a drop-off in effort and performance by other Laker reserves. "They are playing very hard, and you're looking at six guys who know how to play together," Riley said after the 12-point victory over the 76ers. "Larry is playing well with them, but we have to get our second unit to play as hard as the first." . . . Magic Johnson looked in regular-season form, scoring 24 points and passing for 11 assists. James Worthy had 16 points and 12 rebounds, and Byron Scott had 18 points. Mike Gminski had 17 points and 11 rebounds for the 76ers.

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