SAN FRANCISCO -- For the second time in this abbreviated NBA season, the Boston Celtics have lost a player to a heart ailment. Chris Wilcox, a forward/center, will undergo aortic surgery on March 29 and miss the remainder of the season, the team announced Wednesday.
"While we are saddened that Chris will not be able to play again this season, the most important thing is his health, and we were fortunate to have access to an amazing team of specialists to evaluate Chris's case," Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said in a team release. "The entire Celtics family supports Chris during this difficult time in his career."
The cardiac irregularity was first detected last week during a routine screening. Wilcox has had a known heart abnormality that previously had remained stable, but followup tests confirmed Wilcox's aorta has thickened recently. Doctors are hopeful Wilcox will be able to resume his basketball career next season.
"It's obviously tough -- tough for Chris first," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, "but in the grand scheme of things, Lawrence Frank sarcastically [texted], 'You guys are in the business of savings lives.' In retrospect, that's true. I'd rather have it that way."
Rivers has stressed that it's ultimately good news that Wilcox's condition was detected and can be corrected.
Boston already endured the loss of Jeff Green, who had his contract voided before the season after a routine physical detected an aortic aneurysm. Green underwent surgery at the Cleveland Clinic in January to repair his aorta.
The Celtics were hopeful followup testing might offer Wilcox a chance to finish out the season, but Rivers said this past weekend that he was more concerned with the player's health. Even still, Rivers remarked how improbable it was for the Celtics to have endured a heart scare twice in the span of four months.
"It's scary, it really is," Rivers said last weekend. "You think about it, the chances of having one of these in a year, it's pretty minute. The chance of having two is like impossible ... But I always try to look at the human part of it. The fact that, if something is wrong and we found it, I'd rather find it than not. At the end of the day, we're lucky, and that's what I told our team, that we're very lucky that this happened -- not unlucky. I think that's the way you have to look at it, and that's the way we're looking at it."
Wilcox averaged 5.4 points and 4.4 rebounds over 17.2 minutes per game in 28 appearances.
Ainge said earlier this week the Celtics were looking to add a big man and the loss of Wilcox almost ensures they will have to do so -- though it might not necessarily come via trade, especially with Thursday's deadline rapidly approaching.
For his part, Rivers said Wednesday he felt no overwhelming urgency to obtain a big man.
"Not really. The one thing I said in [my] last conversation [with Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge] was that, at the end of the day, I like our team," Rivers said. "Obviously we need a big, but let's not do anything that hurts this team this year or the future to try to get a big. I just don't think we should do that."