Detroit Pistons captain Isiah Thomas likely will be cleared next week to begin playing again even though his right wrist still won't be 100 percent, Dr. Kirk Watson said.

"There's still a graded risk here, but I think I'm going to clear him to play," Watson, who performed surgery on the wrist Jan. 29, said Friday. "He knows he could break it again, but I think we're both going to gamble. It's clear the Detroit Pistons aren't going anywhere without him."The Pistons, the two-time defending NBA champions, are 16-14 without Thomas, and were nine games behind the first-place Chicago Bulls in the Central Division before Friday's games.

Watson said he wouldn't know until he examines Thomas next Friday when the All-Star guard will be cleared to play - it could be immediately or a week or two depending on the condition of the wrist.

During the surgery at Hartford Hospital, Watson took a graft from Thomas' forearm and fused the scaphoid bone, one of eight small bones in the wrist, to two other bones to keep it from rotating and damaging ligaments further.

Thomas, the most valuable player in last year's NBA finals, could break the fuse if he is hit hard or falls on the wrist, but Watson said that would not cause any long-term harm. If Thomas does break the fuse, he will simply have to undergo the surgery again and would be ready to play again in the fall, Watson said.

"Isiah . . . understands what is going on and he's willing to take that gamble and so am I," Watson said.

Watson originally said Thomas would need a minimum of 15 weeks to recover and the Pistons said he would need 12 weeks. But if Thomas is cleared to play immediately after seeing Watson next week, that would be just over nine weeks since the surgery.

"Usually I would hold him until the fall, but this is a special case," Watson said.