With Darrell Griffith officially out for the season, the Jazz welcomed back Kelly Tripucka and Eddie Hughes Tuesday.
Tripucka played for the first time since Feb. 10, while Hughes reported for a physical exam and planned to sign a contract for the rest of the season today. Griffith, meanwhile, was scheduled for knee surgery by Dr. Lonnie Paulos today at LDS Hospital and will be on the injured list through the playoffs.Bothered all season by fluid on his left knee, Griffith rested two weeks and last weekend went home to Louisville for a second opinion. Dr. John Ellis confirmed the diagnosis of the Jazz medical staff, that Griffith needed surgery to scrape and clean out the knee.
He is expected back at full strength by about September, following 8-10 weeks of recovery and another two or three months of rehabilitation. The surgery is the more thorough of two procedures that were considered; the other would have allowed him to return for the playoffs this season, but a second operation would then have been necessary.
"There was a temporary measure we could have taken, but that didn't solve the long-term problem," Jazz president-GM David Checketts said. "We felt at Darrell's age (30 in June), it was in his best interest to make a long-term decision for him."
Griffith returned to town Tuesday. "It was just a matter of him feeling more comfortable with what our doctors here were saying," Checketts said of the trip to Louisville.
Griffith has four years left on a six-year contract.
After missing 19 games with a calf injury, Tripucka played six minutes
against Phoenix. "I walked in here; that's all I can ask," he said in the locker room afterward. "It felt decent, but it's not normal by any means. It's not strong. Hopefully, it'll build up gradually."
Hughes, who will be 28 in May, will dress for his first career NBA regular-season game Thursday against Sacramento. After leaving Colorado State in 1982, he went to training camps with the Clippers, Denver and, the past two Octobers, the Jazz. Each time with the Jazz, he was cut in the final week.
He played for five seasons in six different CBA cities, but last fall, Coach Frank Layden encouraged him to go home to Colorado Springs and begin working, to take advantage of his college degree. Hughes has worked with youth for the city of Colorado Springs.
But he worked out at the Air Force Aacademy and visited Layden when the Jazz played in Denver Dec. 29 and said, "Don't forget about me."
His call came from Checketts Monday. "I was very surprised," Hughes said. "I didn't feel it was going to happen . . . It's been a long haul."
Hughes gives the Jazz playoff insurance at point guard; they had no true backup last spring when Rickey Green was injured in the Golden State series.
The Jazz had oportunities earlier this season to add a point guard, but chose instead to activate off-guard Bart Kofoed to take Darryl Dawkins' place and signed forward Scott Roth in Carey Scurry's spot.
"If for some reason, Kelly Tripucka hadn't been able to come back, I don't know what we would have done," Layden said.
But while they don't have Griffith, the Jazz do now seem to have a 12-man roster they like.