By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Gilbert Arenas was back practicing with the Washington Wizards yesterday afternoon and that meant one thing: a lot more noise.
"Anytime he's out there complaining about bad calls or not getting calls, you know he's pretty much back to normal," all-star forward Antawn Jamison said. "It's good for him to finally be back out there, running around, talking trash, complaining. Just doing all of the things you are accustomed to seeing from Gilbert. To me, it's a good sign."
It was the first full practice for the three-time all-star guard since he underwent left knee surgery on Nov. 21. Neither Arenas nor the team has set a timetable for his return to game action, and Arenas will be in street clothes for tonight's game against the Orlando Magic.
Following yesterday's practice, Arenas was in good spirits and said the knee felt fine. Prior to yesterday, Arenas had been limited to shooting workouts, one-on-one games with teammates such as rookie guard Nick Young and non-contact drills.
"I was surprised about my wind," said Arenas, who last played during a win at Minnesota on Nov. 16. "I wasn't as tired as I thought I would be. It was just exciting to get out there."
On Monday, Arenas said the thought of playing in a game scared him, and he expressed concern about rushing back too quickly, believing he did just that after his first surgery to repair a torn left meniscus last April 4.
Yesterday, an upbeat Arenas talked about how those fears will dissolve as he steadily increases activity in practice.
"Little by little, the more you play, the more you are out on the floor, the more you interact and the more you go out there and do things you are used to doing -- like I made a move on Nick today and it was like, 'Okay,' " Arenas said. "Today's one practice, and now I want to get enough practices under my belt before I step back on the floor."
Arenas said he expects to return to game action after injured all-star forward Caron Butler makes his return. Butler has missed 12 straight and 15 of the last 17 games with a left hip injury that originally was diagnosed as a strained left hip flexor and was later revealed to be a partial labral tear. No timetable has been established for Butler's return and the team said he will be reexamined this week.
"Truthfully, I don't think I'm going to make it back before Caron," Arenas said. "It's not, 'Hey, my knee feels good so I'm going to go out and play tomorrow.' It's not going to be one of those deals."
Coach Eddie Jordan, his staff and the team's athletic trainers closely watched Arenas and center Etan Thomas, who went through a contact practice for the first time since experiencing a setback on Feb. 18. Thomas underwent open-heart surgery in October and has been waiting for the sternum to fully heal before playing.
Arenas wore a form-fitting leg sleeve and a light brace on his knee but appeared to move well during the portion of practice that was open to reporters.
"He's ready for full contact so it's sort of up to the coaching staff, myself in particular, to construct practice where we're careful with limiting some contact," Jordan said. "Let him get some one-on-ones and go through a basic build-up."
Jordan said he has no timetable in mind for Arenas's return to game action.
"We're probably going to have to have a lot of good practices," Jordan said. "I think it's going to be a longer situation."
Jordan praised Arenas for the way he ran the team while scrimmaging.
"His passing was phenomenal," Jordan said. "The way he found people with his passing was phenomenal. His team got a lot of easy buckets in practice."
Jamison, whose relationship with Arenas goes back to the 2001-02 season when the two played with the Golden State Warriors, believes that it may not be long before Arenas is eager to play again.
"Gil can say he's scared and then come out and play tomorrow," Jamison said. "That's just Gilbert. When he gets out there, I can promise you that he won't be scared of anything."
The Wizards (29-30) have won four of their last five games. If the current Eastern Conference seeding holds form, the third-seeded Magic and sixth-seeded Wizards would meet in a first-round playoff series.