Between plea and knee, Webber faces time off

It appears likely that Sacramento's Chris Webber will miss the start of the NBA season whether or not he receives a league suspension for pleading guilty Monday to criminal contempt on the eve of his federal perjury trial.

Webber's recovery from knee surgery, though said to be progressing well, is expected to delay his return to full-contact basketball until November. Although an official timetable isn't expected until Webber is off crutches in two weeks, the Kings acknowledge that Webber might not be game-ready until mid-November or even December.

Kings owner Joe Maloof, however, dismissed the suggestion that there is long-term concern about Webber's left knee. The Kings contend that extended rehab is required because Webber, 30, was already playing on a damaged knee when he suffered a torn meniscus in Game 2 of the Kings' second-round loss to Dallas. Webber's June 10 surgery addressed both injuries.

"We can't really say yet when he'll back," Maloof said. "But even if it's mid-November or early December, we don't consider this a serious, lingering injury."

The Kings expect Webber to return feeling far fresher than he did last season, when he resisted surgery to repair the first injury and played hurt into the playoffs. Even after suffering the meniscus tear May 8 in Dallas, Webber vowed to drag himself back onto the floor if Sacramento managed to reach the NBA Finals. The Mavericks won the series in seven games, and Webber had surgery three weeks later.

After Monday's plea in Detroit, in a deal expected to prevent Webber from having to go to prison, the All-Star forward was back in Sacramento this week to resume his rehab work. Yet when he is healthy enough to play again, Webber could still be forced to miss games if he is suspended by the NBA.

NBA players who plead guilty to any crime, even a misdemeanor, place themselves at risk for a league suspension, generally served at the start of the season. A ruling from the league office is unlikely until after U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds decides whether the criminal contempt charge is a felony or a misdemeanor. Sentencing was set for Sept. 16, with Webber also facing a fine.

"We'll review all the facts and then Commissioner Stern will make a ruling on whatever disciplinary action may be necessary," NBA spokesman Tim Frank said Monday. "But typically, if there has been a player who pleads guilty to a crime, some type of disciplinary action has been taken."

Marc Stein is the senior NBA writer for ESPN.com. To e-mail him, click here. Also, click here to send a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.