washingtonpost.com
Road Getting Rocky For Ailing Wizards
Team Has 6-Game Skid, Suns Looming

By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 10, 2008

Caron Butler would have loved to have had a shot at stopping Carmelo Anthony on Friday night. Instead, the Washington Wizards' all-star forward watched from the bench as Anthony scored a career-high 49 points in leading the Nuggets to a 111-100 victory in Denver.

Butler, still bothered by a strained left hip flexor, has missed five games, including the first two of a four-game trip that continues tonight in Phoenix. Not coincidentally, the Wizards (24-25) have lost six straight games as they continue to battle injuries.

In addition to Butler, three-time all-star Gilbert Arenas (knee) is still out and in the first quarter Friday, point guard Antonio Daniels was forced to leave the game because of a persistent problem with his right ankle and knee.

Neither Butler nor Daniels practiced yesterday and their availability for today's game will be a game-time decision. Daniels said after Friday's game that he would do everything he could to be in the lineup against the Suns (35-15), who will be without recently acquired center Shaquille O'Neal. He is scheduled to fly from Miami to Phoenix today and has yet to practice with his new team.

"I'm not too discouraged just because I know that I'll be back soon and you just have to admire the fight that this team is putting up," Butler said. "We're in every game, the younger guys are gaining some real good experience right now and we do have help coming soon. Myself, Etan [Thomas, out after heart surgery], Gilbert -- we have guys coming back."

Butler originally suffered the injury on Jan. 27 at Milwaukee. He sat out back-to-back games before playing 39 minutes in a home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers last Sunday.

Following Friday's loss, Butler admitted that he returned too quickly and vowed to avoid making the same mistake. Friday's loss dropped the Wizards to 1-5 without Butler this season (he missed the Dec. 22 loss at Indiana with sprained ankles) and 7-29 without him since the 2005-20 season.

"I want to be out there healthy," Butler said. " I don't want this to be something that lingers on throughout the course of the season and affects us down the road. I want to come back right."

Daniels missed eight consecutive games with a sprained right knee ligament between Dec. 15-29 and also missed a Jan. 15 loss to the Knicks because of soreness in the knee. Though it has improved, Daniels said he has favored the knee and that has affected his ankle, which has been bothered by tendinitis and floating bone spurs.

"I just can't move like I want to," Daniels said. "I'm out there with what feels like a cast on my ankle. I can't accelerate. I can't jump. I can't do the things I need to do out there."

Daniels hasn't practiced in a week and was hoping that taking Saturday off would allow him to be ready to play against the Suns and all-star point guard Steve Nash. Without Daniels, the Wizards lack a traditional point guard and their depth is severely affected because top reserve Roger Mason Jr. is forced to assume more ball-handling responsibility and that, in turn, has led Jordan to rely on rookies Nick Young, Dominic McGuire and Oleksiy Pecherov.

"It's a concern because we're short again," Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said. "Way short. We're just going to have to manage the game without him, maybe slow it up a little bit, be a little more patient with the offense."

To have any chance of snapping the losing streak, the Wizards must play better defense than they did Friday night. Anthony got off to a hot start and never cooled as the Nuggets shot 56.4 percent and held a 24-3 edge in fast-break points.

"Denver plays really fast at home and Phoenix plays even faster so we just have to keep our heads," guard DeShawn Stevenson said. "We're short-handed but that's not an excuse. We just have to go out there and play. This happened last year in the playoffs but hopefully, we can get [Daniels] back. It's been a long trip so we can't just give up now. If we do that, we'll be in a real bad situation."

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company