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Knee surgery puts Stockton on sidelines

It's time to start thinking about the unthinkable.

John Stockton, one of the most durable players in the NBA, who hasn't missed a regular-season Utah Jazz game since 1990, will now miss six to eight weeks - and one source says he will be out until January - after undergoing an hourlong arthroscopic surgery on his left knee Monday evening at Bountiful's Lakeview Hospital.Jazz orthopedist Dr. Lyle Mason performed the surgery, which began at 8:30 p.m. Monday. Mason termed the injury as "significant" and said he would expect Stockton, 35, who has missed only four games in his 13-year career, to be out at least six to eight weeks of the regular season.

The source, which asked to remain anonymous, says Mason told Stockton the recovery will keep him out until the first of the year. The regular season begins Oct. 31, when the Jazz travel to Los Angeles.

At the minimum of six weeks, Stockton would be out until Nov. 25 and miss 13 games. Eight weeks of recovery would mean he would miss 21 games.

"This is a joint-surface injury," said Mason. "There was a loose piece of cartilage in the joint, which was removed. The rest of the joint was perfectly normal."

Following the removal of the cartilage, Mason performed a micro-fracture technique to seal the defect.

The source told the Deseret News that the injury was "articular damage" to the cartilage and explained the problem as being "like a big divot, a big chunk tore away" and that Mason was thinking about doing a cartilage graft but decided against it. The source said Mason instead used a burring instrument to smooth out the damaged area, which must now fill in to heal completely.

It is assumed, said the source, that Stockton did some of the damage to his knee during his summer workouts at Gonzaga University near his summer home in Spokane.

Stockton has been experiencing soreness in his left knee since the opening of training camp on Oct. 3 in Boise and sat out some practices - unusual for the Jazz point guard, who generally trash talks to teammates who sit out.

He played 20 minutes and scored 14 points with eight assists in Utah's first preseason game in the Delta Center last Saturday vs. Charlotte, but he didn't play Sunday night in El Paso in the Jazz's win over the Dallas Mavericks.

Stockton had fluid drained from his knee prior to the game in El Paso and underwent a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Monday morning. That determined the source of the problem.

Stockton has played 609 consecutive regular-season games, the third-longest active streak in the NBA. He is the NBA's career leader in assists (12,170) and steals (2,531).

He signed a three-year deal reportedly worth $15 million with the Jazz in October 1996.