Heart surgery for Wilcox
Valuable forward is out for season
OAKLAND, Calif. - The Celtics received another stunning injury blow Wednesday afternoon when they learned that forward Chris Wilcox will not return this season because of surgery to repair an enlarged aorta determined during his monthly heart examination.
Wilcox, who last played March 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers, underwent a series of tests and the team received those results Wednesday as it prepared to play the Golden State Warriors.
The Celtics announced late Wednesday afternoon that Wilcox will undergo surgery March 29 at the Cleveland Clinic, and doctors have said he can resume his NBA career next season. The team said Wilcox, 29, has a previous condition that had been “stable,’’ but recent tests showed an enlargement of the aorta that requires surgery.
“While we are saddened that Chris will not be able to play again this season, the most important thing is his health, and we were fortunate to have access to an amazing team of specialists to evaluate Chris’s case,’’ said Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge in a statement. “The entire Celtics family supports Chris during this difficult time in his career.’’
Wilcox, who underwent monthly heart examinations, was held out of the March 9 game against the Portland Trail Blazers because a test detected a potential abnormality. The power forward then underwent more tests at the Cleveland Clinic and, like teammate Jeff Green, will be forced to miss extensive time.
The team is seeking another big man to replace him on the roster. Green is sitting out the season after undergoing surgery in January to repair an aortic aneurysm. He is expected to resume playing next season.
“It bothers me to be away from the game for a week or two, so for him to be away from the game for a whole year, I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t play basketball for a whole year,’’ Celtics forward Brandon Bass said. “My prayers go out to him, my heart goes out to him. I just wish him the best in the process and hopefully he comes through and comes back better.’’
Wilcox, signed in the offseason, was an effective player off the bench when healthy. He averaged 5.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in 28 games. After dealing with a series of minor injuries, Wilcox had become a dependable backup to Kevin Garnett.
“We have to get another big but we’ll do nothing to hurt our team,’’ Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “This is what we are. Danny’s looking hard to get just another big body at this point. We just need a body; we need a big guy.’’
The Celtics may have to dip into the NBADL again to find another big man. Ainge signed Greg Stiemsma in the offseason, and he is now the first big man off the bench with injuries to Wilcox and Jermaine O’Neal.
“We’re going to get anybody,’’ Rivers said. “We have to. We have no choice. And if we don’t it’s because there was no one there.’’
The Celtics stayed in Los Angeles on Tuesday hours past their scheduled flight because of mechanical issues on the plane and didn’t arrive in San Francisco until after midnight.
The team canceled its scheduled shootaround and instead had a walkthrough session in the team hotel.
“We walked through little things in the ballroom and I always worry about going 48 hours without getting shots up,’’ Rivers said. “So I think most guys will go to the arena early to get some shots up.’’
Rivers said the team was in good spirits after Monday’s 94-85 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I thought it was great, it was a great win for us, especially coming off the [Lakers] game where we played really well and just didn’t close it out,’’ he said. “And we get put in the exact same situation the same night and do it on both ends, defensively and offensively we were terrific and it’s good to see. For us to have all the injuries that we have, I can tell them that they can be really good, but to see it, I think them seeing it themselves is good.’’
The trade show
The Warriors pulled off a major trade Tuesday night, sending Monta Ellis, Ekpe cqUdoh, and Kwame Brown to the Milwaukee Bucks for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson. The shorthanded team then went out and whipped the Sacramento Kings, 115-89, with David Lee, Brandon Rush, and former Celtic Nate Robinson each scoring 17 points . . . Not only were Bogut and Jackson unavailable but Stephen Curry was declared out because of recurring ankle issues. Golden State general manager Larry Riley said Curry will remain sidelined until he’s 100 percent.
Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com.