Daniels Practices, May Play Tomorrow

Coach Eddie Jordan eagerly awaits the return of Antonio Daniels, who has missed five games.
Coach Eddie Jordan eagerly awaits the return of Antonio Daniels, who has missed five games. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
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By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 28, 2007

It's customary for players who are coming back from an injury to at least go through a handful of practices before returning to action, but Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan doesn't have that policy for a player such as Antonio Daniels.

Daniels, who has missed five straight games with a sprained ligament in his right knee, is moving closer to a return and could be back as soon as tomorrow night's game against Miami at Verizon Center or Wednesday's home game against Detroit.

Daniels joined the team for a two-game trip that opened with a 108-104 win at Charlotte on Wednesday night and continues with a game at New Jersey tonight. He's been going through rehabilitation work with the team's athletic trainers and practiced yesterday for the first time, but is listed as doubtful for tonight's game.

"With a veteran like him, it's different," Jordan said. "With our shoot-arounds, they are more like practices, and we went through a lengthy one [Wednesday] and he was out there. It's not like he's missed a month -- it's been two weeks -- so yes, you would like to see him get some practice time, but if we had to jump right into the fire, I would feel safe with Antonio going out there and playing at a high level."

Getting Daniels back would be a boost to a Wizards team that snapped a three-game skid by pulling out a difficult win Wednesday night without a true point guard playing a single minute.

Roger Mason Jr. made his third start in place of Daniels and scored a career-high 24 points, connecting on a career-high six three-pointers while sharing ballhandling duties with fellow shooting guards DeShawn Stevenson and Nick Young.

The Wizards (14-13) survived, but the game was probably closer than it should have been because Charlotte's full-court press helped force eight fourth-quarter turnovers by Washington, which had difficulty at times simply getting into its offense. "It got a little wild there at the end," said forward Caron Butler, who returned from injuries to both ankles to score 21 of his 25 points in the second half. "We probably made that a little more interesting than it needed to be."

The Wizards may not get away with a similar sloppy stretch tonight against the Nets (12-16), who are struggling this season but have owned the Wizards at home in recent seasons. Washington has dropped five straight at New Jersey, including an 87-85 loss on Nov. 8.

That game ended when Gilbert Arenas, who has been out since Nov. 17 with a left knee injury, failed to get off a potential game-winning or game-tying shot at the buzzer. The Wizards beat the Nets, 104-89, at Verizon Center on Dec. 9, a victory that sparked a four-game winning streak.

While the Nets are tough against the Wizards at home, they've been anything but against the rest of the NBA. Wednesday night's 101-83 home loss to Detroit dropped the Nets to 6-11 at Izod Center this season. "I'm pretty much speechless," Nets forward Richard Jefferson told reporters. "I got nothing and I've got a big mouth."

Until Daniels gets back, the Wizards will continue to count on Mason, who has been one of the team's most consistent performers since Arenas went out of the lineup. In the last 11 games, Mason is averaging 12.7 points and shooting 46 percent from three-point range while playing solid defense.

He opened Saturday's game by making his first six shots, including four three-pointers. The performance led one confused Bobcats fan sitting in the second row behind the scorer's table to reach for his game program.

"Who the heck is number 8?" he asked the person next to him.

Unless that fan closely followed the ACC during Mason's time at Virginia or tracks the professional leagues in Europe, his ignorance can be forgiven.

"The last time I got into a flow like that was overseas or back in college," Mason said. "I definitely felt good [Wednesday]. Everything's just different now. I know I'm going to get consistent minutes so I'm more relaxed and that's allowing me to get on to a roll."

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