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Jefferson would need medical clearance to play

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New Jersey Nets forward Richard Jefferson will meet with team doctors and officials this week to
discuss the possibility of returning to action, three months after
surgery to repair a ruptured ligament in his left wrist.

Jefferson, who had surgery Jan. 20, has yet to practice with the
Nets, who are still in a battle for a playoff berth entering the
final week of the regular season.

Nets coach Lawrence Frank said Jefferson will meet Monday with
Dr. Charles Melone, the hand surgeon who performed the operation.
Frank also said that Jefferson and Melone would meet with team
president Rod Thorn, general manager Ed Stefanski and trainer Tim
Walsh to discuss an early return from what had been described as a
season-ending injury.

Jefferson and Thorn said the meeting might be Tuesday or
Wednesday.

However, Frank said the Nets need to be prudent when making a
decision on Jefferson, who was averaging team-highs of 22.2 points,
7.3 rebounds and 41.1 minutes when he got hurt on a hard foul by
Detroit's Chauncey Billups on Dec. 27.

"You can't be foolish," Frank said. "The guy has been out
three months for a reason, it's not like he's tweaked an ankle. You
can never say any guarantee. If it is not where it's the smart
thing to do, you can't put someone out there risking further
injury."

Thorn also insisted the Nets will be cautious with Jefferson,
who signed a $78 million contract extension last summer.

"He is not ready to play quite yet, so we will see," said
Thorn, who added there is a chance Jefferson might be ready for the
playoffs, should the Nets make it that far.

If the doctors gave him the OK, Jefferson said he would play in
the Nets' final two regular-season games, at home Tuesday night
against Washington and at Boston on Wednesday night.

Jefferson met with the doctors Saturday. He said they would test
his hand strength this week.

"I feel good," Jefferson said. "Whether it's for the last two
games or just the playoffs, I'm extremely close to being where I
want to be."

Jefferson said if the Nets are in the playoffs, he will play.

Thorn wasn't so sure.

"We'll just wait and see now," Thorn said.