JOHN McCord faces New Year surgery which could keep him sidelined for at least three games.
The TCS Chester Jets skipper damaged a knee in a road accident a few weeks ago and is set to have an operation to put it right. The Jets management had hoped he would be able to go into hospital this weekend to take advantage of a fixture-free Christmas, but now it is more likely to be around January 9 once tests have been completed.
McCord is expected to play at Newcastle Eagles in a league game tonight but will be left out of the Jets team to meet Leicester Riders in a dead BBL Trophy group game - Chester and Sheffield have already qualified for the semi-finals - at the Northgate Arena on Sunday (5.30pm).
Explained Jets' head coach Paul Smith: 'John's knee stiffens up after a game, so it's a problem when we have back-to-back fixtures.
'It's been preying on his mind for a while, so it's best he has the operation as soon as possible. It's a nuisance but we will cope.' Smith, who may decide to try and sign a temporary replacement for McCord, takes his team to Newcastle tonight bidding to stop the Eagles clinching a hat-trick of victories over the Jets this season - and he knows it will be no easy task.
'We just can't work out how to stop TJ Walker at the moment,' he said. 'He's playing well in every game but he seems to have very, very good games against us, which a lot of people seem to be doing at the moment.'
One thing Smith has learned in his first couple of months as head coach is that his team have a penchant for the dramatic.
'I've aged another 30 years,' he said after watching Jets lose by one point at Scottish Rocks last Friday and struggle to beat pointless Birmingham Bullets on Sunday.
'We had Saturday off, so I watched the Lakers on television, then I went to watch my son's mini-team and the thought occurred to me that if we played either of those teams right now, we'd take it to the wire - that's the way it is with us!'
On a more serious note, he has several reasons for wanting to win tonight and on Sunday. 'Our performances have dipped a little bit lately and I'd like to go into the Christmas break on a high,' he said.
'We've got a responsibility to our fans who pay their money on the door to approach the Leicester fixture like any other game, and to go all out for the win.'
With McCord rested, Smith plans to give some minutes to one of his bench players Richard Murphy, a Merseysider who has shown a lot of promise. Mike Nurse and Ryan Huntley will be flying home to the USA for Christmas following Sunday's match.
Jets have already beaten the Riders three times this season, including two wins at the Northgate Arena. Tickets at £9 for adults, £6 children, for the BBL Trophy semi-finals at Ponds Forge International Sports Centre, Sheffield, on Saturday, February 7 (from 4pm) are available on the BBL ticket hotline 0845 345 7890 or online at www.bbl.org.uk