Injured Jamison Expects to Play

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 10, 2005

MIAMI, May 9 -- Although he's at "75 to 80 percent," Washington Wizards forward Antawn Jamison said he won't allow his nagging knee injury to keep him from playing the most meaningful basketball games of his career. And although few are giving them a chance to win a game in this best-of-seven series against the Miami Heat, the Wizards still plan on showing up for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Tuesday night.

Moseying around with a bag of ice wrapped around his sore right knee, Jamison was unable to practice Monday at American Airlines Arena, but he said he felt much better than he did on Sunday, when he was forced to leave with 8 minutes 16 seconds left in the fourth quarter of the Wizards' 105-86 loss.

"I expect to play," said Jamison, who is averaging 17.4 points in the postseason. "It's one of those things you have to suck it up. Me being at 75-80 percent is better than me not being out there at all."

Jamison missed 14 games in the regular season with right knee tendinitis, an injury that ended his consecutive games played streak at 386 on March 8. He returned a month later and said he didn't experience too much discomfort until the second quarter of Game 1. After he scored 13 points -- all in the first half -- he walked out of the arena with a limp after the game.

Coach Eddie Jordan said he plans to start Jamison but will monitor his minutes and production closely.

"He's tough enough to go, but how effective will he be? Will he be able to help us or hurt us?" Jordan said. "He's been banged up for over a month, but I'm glad he's gutting it out. He's the captain. He's a warrior. That shows that professionalism, that toughness and love for the game."

Jamison said he can't do much more to his knee than rest it and apply ice, although he recently began taking pain medication for the first time in his life. He added he has spoken with the team about possibly having surgery on the knee once the season ends.

"They may have to go in there and clean out something, but nothing serious. I had the same problem with my left knee," said Jamison, who missed 39 games in the 1999-2000 season with a left knee injury. "I just had [the left knee] scoped. I haven't had a problem with it since then. The [right knee] injury is not going to be anything that lingers on."

The Wizards are hopeful they can hold off Jamison's offseason surgery for a while. With the exception of a strong push toward the end of the second quarter, the Wizards didn't have many positives to take from the last game into the next one. They shot 36.8 percent and handed out a season-low nine assists.

"Nine assists? Ouch," center Brendan Haywood said. "We learned in Chicago, you've got to share the ball. Nine assists is not enough. You've got to get 19, 20 or 25. If the ball doesn't move, you're going to struggle. Sometimes the ball wasn't swinging. Sometimes, the ball was swinging and guys weren't hitting shots."

Haywood said the Wizards missed shots they often make, recalling a possession in the second quarter when guard Larry Hughes missed an 18-foot baseline jumper, rebounded his shot and missed again from the same spot.

"I've been playing with Larry for a long time and I've never seen that," Haywood said. "You haven't seen our best basketball yet. I feel we can only play better. We can't play any worse. How many times are we going to score 86 points?"

Jordan said the Wizards will have to play "almost a perfect game for 48 minutes" to get a road victory against the Heat. The Wizards have lost nine consecutive games against the Heat, and point guard Gilbert Arenas compares the challenge of playing the Heat to his playful wrestling matches with 7-foot-3 rookie center Peter John Ramos, who is a foot taller and about 70 pounds heavier.

"I'm like 0-37 against him," Arenas said, shaking his head. "But I'm going to keep going until he gives up. . . . That's how you feel when you play against all the top teams and you're an underdog. You can't give up. If they keep seeing you fight everyday, they start respecting you. We've got to keep fighting and maybe one day, they're off their game."

The Wizards know they will need Jamison to help them sneak in at least one win. Jamison said his knee began to stiffen while he sat at halftime and that the pain became unbearable in the third quarter, when he tried to contest a shot by Heat point guard Damon Jones but couldn't plant his leg. Jamison continued to play, but after trying to get a rebound in the fourth quarter, he landed awkwardly and hobbled. He grimaced as he walked toward the locker room.

"It's one of those incidents that reoccurred," said Jamison. "It's hard being limited when you've made it to the second round and my team really needs me. It is difficult, but I'm a trouper."

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