EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - Eleven months after breaking his right leg and seriously injuring his knee, New Jersey Nets center Jayson Williams got medical clearance today to resume full-contact practices with the team.
Williams underwent a series of tests at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City to evaluate the strength in his right leg and was cleared to practice by Dr. Michael Kelly, the team's orthopedist.
No timetable was set for Williams' return to the active roster, the team said. The Nets play Portland tonight.
A test in February showed Williams had regained 70 percent of the strength in the leg. That was an improvement over the Cybix test he took in January that showed 30 percent leg strength.
Williams participated in a very light workout, broke a sweat and played a little one-on-one Tuesday in what could be called his first practice with teammates since being injured in a collision with teammate Stephon Marbury on April 1 in a game against Atlanta.
After the workout, he said he was ready to play in a game, an idea dismissed by team president Michael Rowe and coach Don Casey.
``I can just tell how my body feels,' Williams said Tuesday. ``Just watch me run and jump. I feel good. I'm ready to go. Just let me play. Let me see what happens.'
Whether Williams plays has nothing to do with the insurance policy on his $90 million contract, Rowe said. If he passes the test, he is cleared to play, Rowe added.
Williams then will have to get in game shape, Rowe said.
``You saw different color uniforms here today, but they said New Jersey Nets on them,' Rowe said. ``When the uniform says Portland or Heat or Bulls, you need to be in a little different shape.'
As is standard, the Nets' practice Tuesday was closed. Reporters and television crews were allowed to enter the court at the training center only after most of the players left the court.
Williams was lying on his back being stretched out by a trainer when the doors opened at the practice facility. After about 10 minutes, he went one-on-one with forward Johnny Newman and 7-foot-7 center Gheorghe Muresan, rarely hitting a shot.
On one play, Williams blew by Newman with a great first step from the top of the key and missed the layup so badly it hit off the backboard and never touched the rim.
That didn't seem to bother a cheerful Williams, who quipped that Casey asked him to sign a waiver covering his contract in case he was hurt again.
``If we can bring him back safely without him being hurt and we can bring him back as a factor in winning games and being an inspiration to this team and the ticket holder, that's terrific,' Rowe said. ``It's a medical issue.'
With the Nets (24-36) four games out of a playoff position with 22 games left in the season, Williams wants to come back and help New Jersey overcome its 2-15 start.
``I'm not saying I'm coming back and I'm Wilt Chamberlain, because I'm not,' Williams said. ``I understand what I am doing. I'm going to get you 13 or 14 (rebounds), but what I bring to the game is intensity, and I think my teammates will feed off it.'
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