Abdur-Rahim returns to Kings with jaw wired shut

Updated: January 19, 2006, 10:55 PM ET
Assocaited Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Forward Shareef Abdur-Rahim was back in uniform for the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night, making an improbably quick return to action with his broken jaw still wired shut.

Shareef Abdur-Rahim

Abdur-Rahim missed 10 games over the past 3 weeks after getting hurt in a collision with Portland's Zach Randolph. But instead of sitting out two months, as the team predicted, the 10-year veteran decided to test his stamina and breathing ability against the Los Angeles Lakers.

"What am I waiting for?" Abdur-Rahim asked through clenched teeth before the game. "I feel good, and I've just got to see what I feel like in a game. There's no way to know in practice until I get out there and get going. I want to help the guys."

Forward Peja Stojakovic also returned to face the Lakers after missing the last three games with a protruding disc in his lower back. The three-time All-Star, who has played in pain all season, received a cortisone shot Monday to allow him to practice and play.

But Abdur-Rahim's courageous return clearly energized his teammates, who appreciated the veteran's willingness to play through pain and the breathing discomfort caused by his wired jaw. Coach Rick Adelman said he would use Abdur-Rahim in limited reserve minutes.

"He's got a big heart," Kings guard Kevin Martin said. "(Abdur-Rahim) just wants to play. It's a tough injury, but we're glad to see him out there."

Abdur-Rahim has lost about 8 pounds on his liquid diet since his injury, and the wires won't come out for three more weeks. But running on a treadmill and in practice convinced him that he'll be strong enough to compete -- and that he'll be able to breathe.

"I can get out there and run and shoot, so I'm not worried about it," Abdur-Rahim said. "If I can breathe, I'll be fine."

His return also proved to be good timing for the Kings, who will be able to tell whether Abdur-Rahim can contribute when they embark on a six-game East Coast road trip beginning Saturday in Orlando. If he's unable to play significant minutes, Abdur-Rahim might stay in Sacramento for at least part of the trip.

Despite the absence of at least two regular starters in every game since Christmas, last-place Sacramento has won six of 10 in Abdur-Rahim's absence, including three of its last four.

Bonzi Wells, the Kings' third injured starter, still isn't ready to return to practice or games. He missed his 13th straight game with a torn muscle in his groin, and Martin started in his place again.