The Sacramento Kings’ hopes of winning their first NBA title were dealt a serious blow Friday, when the team learned that All-Star forward Chris Webber is expected to sit out the rest of the playoffs because of torn cartilage in his left knee.
Webber, the Kings’ leading scorer and rebounder, was injured late in the third quarter of Thursday’s 132-110 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals. He collapsed to the floor after going for a lob pass from teammate Mike Bibby.
“I heard something pop,” Webber said.
An MRI exam revealed a torn lateral meniscus, which will require arthroscopic surgery and a rehabilitation period of four to six weeks.
“This is a huge disappointment, both personally and professionally for Chris and the entire organization,” King Vice President Geoff Petrie said in a statement. “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.”
Hours before the injury, Webber said his left knee had bothered him all season, partly because of recurring back and ankle problems. He sat out 15 regular-season games and the All-Star weekend because of injuries.
Scot Pollard or Keon Clark will replace Webber in the starting lineup for today’s Game 3 at Sacramento. The series is tied at one game apiece.
This marks the second consecutive season that the Kings have had a key player injured in the postseason. All-Star forward Peja Stojakovic sat out six playoff games in 2002 because of a sprained ankle, returning in a limited reserve role in the last three games of their conference finals loss to the Lakers.
“Of course we’re going to miss Chris,” Stojakovic said, “but we have to get more help from everybody and move on.”
The news wasn’t all bad for the Kings.
Guard Bobby Jackson was cleared to play in today’s game after suffering a broken cheekbone in a collision with Dallas forward Raef LaFrentz on Thursday.
Jackson, the NBA’s sixth man of the year, refused the recommendation of doctors to wear a protective facemask.
“I wouldn’t feel comfortable,” Jackson said. “I didn’t want my little girl scared of me.”
Webber’s injury seemingly gives Dallas an advantage in a series between two of the NBA’s top offensive teams. He was averaging 23 points, 10.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists.
But the Kings were quick to point out that they have overcome injuries all season.
“We have a deep team, and we’ll just have to step up if Chris can’t play,” center Vlade Divac said. “We’ve been through this before.”
Associated Press contributed to this report.