By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas's left knee was drained of excess fluid for the second time in three weeks yesterday morning. The team has listed him as probable for tonight's game at New Jersey.
Arenas, who complained of stiffness in the knee after Saturday's home loss to the Orlando Magic, did not speak to reporters after sitting out a third straight practice, but told forward Antawn Jamison that he expects to play against the Nets (3-1).
"I talked to him and that's what he told me," Jamison said. "He was in there joking around like always today, so he's his normal self. If I had to put anything on it, I'd say he's going to go."
Arenas, who underwent surgery to repair a torn left meniscus in April, also had the knee drained on Oct. 17. After resting for a few days, he played in a preseason game against Atlanta on Oct. 22 and looked more explosive than he did before the knee was drained.
The Wizards, who are 0-3 for the first time since the start of the 1992-93 season, could use a healthy Arenas tonight against a Nets team that has been a tough matchup in recent seasons.
The Nets won all four meetings last season, hold a four-game home winning streak over the Wizards and will be playing the second of four straight contests at home.
Arenas is shooting 33.3 percent from the field and has made only 1 of 17 three-point attempts but clearly gives the Wizards their best option against a Nets team that is led by Jason Kidd, who nearly posted his second straight triple-double by finishing with 9 points, 12 assists and 9 rebounds in a win over Atlanta on Tuesday.
Having Arenas in the lineup would also give the Wizards a chance to establish the kind of offensive flow that has been missing through three games.
"He seemed to be fine this morning," Coach Eddie Jordan said of Arenas. "I didn't see him on the floor, but I did see him in the locker room and he felt that he will be ready to play tomorrow."
Jordan does not think Arenas will be at a disadvantage after not practicing for three straight days. Arenas averaged 41 minutes in the first three games, which were played over four nights. The team has another such stretch this weekend.
"If he was a rookie that we were counting on and he had to learn a lot of things and get some experience, that would be one thing," Jordan said. "But for him, no. It's not a hurdle at all."
As the team monitors Arenas's health, it will also look to break out of an offensive funk that began during the last week of the preseason and has carried into the regular season. Arenas has struggled, but he's not alone.
Jamison, who averaged 19.8 points per game last season on 45 percent shooting, is averaging 19 points through games, but is shooting 29 percent and has made only 6 of 20 three-point attempts.
Starter DeShawn Stevenson, meanwhile, is mired in an offensive slump that dates from the end of last season when Arenas injured his knee and Caron Butler was lost for the season with a fractured right hand.
Counting four playoff losses to the Cleveland Cavaliers last spring and the first three games of this season, Stevenson has made 21.5 percent of his shots overall and only 4 of 25 three-point attempts.
When the Wizards were at their best last season, Arenas, Jamison and Butler carried the bulk of the scoring load, but Stevenson made defenses pay for concentrating on them by making shots while mixing in timely drives to the basket.
"I won't say that I'm being defended differently but last year, I was used to Gilbert coming down and making plays, Antawn and Caron making shots and right now, when I get it, I have to create and I'm hesitating," Stevenson said. "I'm not getting the wide-open jump shots I usually get. So, I think once Gil gets his mojo back, Caron gets his swagger back and Antawn starts hitting his threes, that will open things up for everybody else."
Tonight would as good a time as any to get started.
"We need one," Butler said. "It's time for us to play like we know we can."