New Jersey Nets leading scorer Richard Jefferson will miss the rest of the regular season with a wrist injury that he claims resulted from a dirty play by Detroit guard Chauncey Billups.
An MRI scan on Monday night revealed Jefferson ruptured a ligament in his left wrist. Surgery is expected within the next two weeks.
Nets president Rod Thorn said that Jefferson would not be ready to play again until the second half of May, effectively ending his season. However, the 24-year-old Jefferson hoped to be ready for the postseason if the three-time defending Atlantic Division champions found a way to get that far without him.
The extremely durable Jefferson insisted the injury happened when Billups undercut him on a layup attempt in Detroit on Dec. 27, causing him to fall on his wrist. It was the same one he hurt earlier in the month against the Knicks.
Billups was called for a flagrant foul on the play.
After initially calling the play questionable, Jefferson blamed Billups, who was at the Continental Airlines Arena for a game between the Nets and Pistons on Tuesday night.
"I wouldn't say it was a cheap shot," Jefferson said. "I don't think it was retaliation. I don't feel it was a cheap shot. Was it a bad play? Was it a dirty play? Yes. Is Chauncey Billups a dirty player? By no means, I don't think so."
Jefferson said he didn't complain about the play when it happened, and he's not complaining about it now.
"But look what happened from that play," said the athletic swingman, who had only missed five games in his first three-plus seasons.
Billups said there was nothing malicious about the play, noting he has only gotten one or two flagrant fouls in his seven years in the league.
"You can look at the play, I remember it vividly," Billups said after the Pistons beat the Nets 89-80 on Tuesday night. "I was running down, I couldn't stop. We were both sprinting. I couldn't stop. I felt like when he got the ball he jumped back into me. Everybody knows I don't play like that. I'm glad he knows I don't play like that. There would be no reason for me to do that on one play."
Pistons coach Larry Brown felt bad that Jefferson was hurt.
"I feel bad for the Nets, but I am not going to comment on that," he said of the accusation against Billups.
Nets coach Lawrence Frank refused to comment on the play, saying he was more concerned with Jefferson.
Jefferson averaged team-highs of 22.2 points, 7.3 rebounds and 41.1 minutes. He ranked 11th in the NBA in scoring and fifth in minutes, and had a career-high 42 points against Cleveland on Dec. 22.
"This is a tough blow," Thorn said. "Richard, in my mind, he's an All-Star player this year. You could depend on him as a guy who has played great for us. He's a guy who plays hurt and cares about his teammates. He's the kind of teammate everyone wants. It's a tough loss."
The injury is the latest setback in a season in which New Jersey probably will miss the playoffs for the first time in four years.
"If you talk to our players, if you talk to our coach and obviously if you talk to me, we are not going to give up," Thorn said. "We are going to keep trying and try to get some pieces that will help us."
Jefferson, who signed a contract extension this summer worth US$78 million over the next six years, was acquired in a draft-day trade with Houston in 2001.