Guard injures knee; Taurasi to gain minutes

Updated: September 1, 2004, 10:01 AM ET
Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece -- Katie Smith, expected to be a key player for the U.S. basketball team, will miss the rest of the Olympics because of torn cartilage in her right knee.

Smith injured the knee Sunday night in the team's final preliminary game, a 100-62 victory over China. She had bruised that same knee in a WNBA game in late July and was getting only limited playing time in Athens.

The tear showed up in an MRI late Monday. Dr. Sheldon Burns, the team's physician, confirmed the diagnosis Tuesday.

"Katie Smith is out for the medal round," coach Van Chancellor said. "She will not play."

The United States, seeking its third straight Olympic gold medal, will play Greece in the quarterfinals Wednesday.

"It's frustrating," Smith said in a statement released by USA Basketball. "I was slowly but surely getting a few more minutes. I don't think my role would have been 20 to 30 minutes, but I felt I could have contributed as the games went on."

Chancellor said Diana Taurasi will get the minutes that Smith would have played. The former Connecticut star and WNBA rookie is coming off a 19-point performance against China, her best game of the Olympics by far.

"The way she practiced today, she's ready," Chancellor said. "She had a great game the other night. She's rolling right now."

A four-time WNBA all-star with the Minnesota Lynx, Smith helped the United States win a gold medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and at the 2002 world championships. She shot 60 percent from 3-point range in Sydney.

Smith is third in the WNBA in scoring this season with an 18.8 average and her team is in third place in the Western Conference, contending for a playoff berth.

Smith will remain in Athens through the rest of the Olympics, then will be evaluated again when she returns to the United States. The WNBA will play the rest of its season in September and it's not known how long Smith might be out.

"I'm still happy to be here," Smith said. "If this would have happened a month ago, I wouldn't have been able to be a part of it at all."

Courtney Lawson, a Lynx spokeswoman, said the team did not expect to have Smith back before the regular season ends on Sept. 19, nor for the playoffs.

"We are are going to go under the assumption that she is out for the season," Lawson said, adding, "The team is staying upbeat and remains focused on winning."

The Lynx went 2-1 in the last three games before the Olympic break without Smith.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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