By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 22, 2007
CHARLOTTE, Nov. 21 -- After playing one of his best games of the season at Minnesota on Friday night, Gilbert Arenas woke up the next morning, felt his sore left knee and knew something wasn't quite right.
On Wednesday, the three-time all star found out why. An MRI exam revealed that Arenas suffered a partial tear of his left medial meniscus. He underwent surgery to repair the meniscus and what the team doctor described as a defect in a bone on the side of his knee at Sibley Memorial Hospital in the District, and is expected to miss at least three months.
Team physician Marc Connell described the procedure in a statement released by the Wizards. "I repaired a partial tear of Gilbert's left medial meniscus," Connell said, who also used a technique known as microfracture to stimulate cartilage growth. "We are optimistic that he will be able to return to action in three months."
Arenas originally suffered a torn left lateral meniscus April 4 in a game against the Charlotte Bobcats when Gerald Wallace fell onto the side of his leg. He underwent surgery and missed the remainder of the season, including the playoffs. That injury also had a three-month timetable for a possible return, and Arenas was cleared to resume basketball-related activity on schedule during the summer.
He saw limited action during the preseason but started the first eight games of the regular season, averaging 22.4 points and 5.9 assists while playing a team-high 39.5 minutes per game.
Arenas complained of stiffness in the knee at various times during the preseason and the early weeks of the regular season and twice had the knee drained of excessive fluid. An MRI exam taken Nov. 12 revealed no further damage, and Arenas was cleared to keep playing.
Arenas helped the Wizards beat the Timberwolves by scoring 27 points on Friday night, but said he felt pain in the knee the next morning. He sat out Saturday's win over Portland and Tuesday's win over Philadelphia and did not join the team on its flight to Charlotte for Wednesday night's game.
"After [the Minnesota game], everything just started," Arenas said Wednesday afternoon after the surgery. "The pain came out of nowhere and I knew that something wasn't right."
Arenas, who helped clinch the victory over Minnesota by making jump shots on three straight fourth-quarter possessions, could not pinpoint an exact play or moment when he suffered the injury.
"I don't remember it at all," he said. "With the adrenaline and everything you feel while playing, I didn't notice. But I sure felt it the next day. It hurt."
Arenas said he will begin rehabilitation in a month and is expected to make a full recovery. Still, it will be three months before he can practice and most likely a period of time after that before he is cleared to play in games.
On Feb. 21, exactly three months after the surgery, the Wizards will have 29 games remaining in the regular season, which concludes April 16 at Orlando.
The Wizards are 5-10 when playing without Arenas the last two seasons. However, the team has beaten Portland, Philadelphia and Charlotte without him this season, and also played when he was at less than full strength during the first eight games.
Veteran Antonio Daniels made his third straight start at guard Wednesday night, and Coach Eddie Jordan no doubt will lean more heavily on Caron Butler, who was an all-star last season, and Antawn Jamison, who was an all-star during the 2004-05 season.
"We have to believe in each other and we have to move on with what we have," said Daniels, who entered Wednesday's game averaging 5.1 points and 3.9 assists in 22.5 minutes but scored 14 points with 6 assists and 8 rebounds in 45 minutes against the Hornets. "It's a part of basketball and as much as it hurts to see something like this happen to a player like Gil, guys have to step up and play until he can get back."
The Wizards already are playing without center Etan Thomas, who is out indefinitely after undergoing open-heart surgery prior to the season, as well as rookie forward Oleksiy Pecherov, who could miss up to two more weeks with a hairline fracture in his left ankle.
Center Brendan Haywood missed Wednesday's game with a sprained left ankle but said he could return as soon as Friday night against Golden State. Arenas's and Haywood's injuries left the Wizards with nine healthy players Wednesday night.
The Wizards entered the season with 13 players on the active roster -- two fewer than the league minimum -- because they are extremely close to the luxury tax threshold ($67.9 million). Teams that exceed the threshold must pay a dollar-for-dollar tax.