INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Pacers center Steve Stipanovich, who has yet to play this season because of an injured knee, probably will miss the rest of the season, the team physician said.
Dr. Robert Breuckmann said Stipanovich has not shown significant recovery since surgery Nov. 18.
'Since this is about halfway through the season and he's still having pain, he'll probably be out,' Breckmann said Sunday. 'The closer you get to midseason, the less likely it is he'll play.'
Stipanovich has been hampered since preseason with knee troubles, which have limited his action to one exhibition game. Stipanovich, who has averaged 13.2 points and 7.8 rebounds a game over his career, played in 403 of 410 games before this year.
The Pacers' record without Stipanovich is 9-35, including a 9-28 mark this year entering Monday night's home game against Denver.
'Coming into the season, if you had asked me to name one player we couldn't afford to lose, I'd say Stipo,' General Manager Donnie Walsh said. 'I want him healed, no matter how long it takes. He's too valuable a player. He may be the most important player in a lot of ways.'
The Pacers planned on Stipanovich starting the season at center, then shifting to power forward once 7-4 rookie Rik Smits developed. That would leave Stipanovich, Herb Williams and Wayman Tisdale at power forward, giving the Pacers a surplus and possible trade bait.
However, Smits has started the last 32 games after Greg Dreiling and Stuart Gray tried to replace Stipanovich.
Smits struggled under Coach Jack Ramsay, who quit after the Pacers opened the year 0-7, and Coach George Irvine. But under Coach Dick Versace, Smits has averaged 16.3 points and 8.0 rebounds in eight games.