Wizards Say Adapting to Injury Woes Is Old Hat

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 10, 2008

DeShawn Stevenson pulled up his navy and red tie, threw on his dark sport coat, slid on his matching navy and red stocking cap, then reached for the final accessory to his fashionable ensemble: a dark brown cane with a shiny, gold base.

After playing his 230th consecutive game Saturday, Stevenson acknowledged the cane wasn't there for aesthetic purposes. It was out of necessity.

"My knee kind of hurts," Stevenson said. "It was feeling good after the all-star break, but it's starting to hurt again. I'm just trying to take some pressure off of it."

The image of a 27-year-old shooting guard gingerly limping around with the assistance of a walking cane has come to symbolize the Washington Wizards at this point of the season. They are banged up, tired, and the strain of playing most of the second half of the season without Caron Butler, practically the entire season without Gilbert Arenas, and all season without Etan Thomas as well is taking its toll.

Stevenson isn't the only member of the team's walking wounded. Point guard Antonio Daniels has been dealing with a sore ankle. Antawn Jamison has been quietly dealing with a sore back.

"We got a lot of people hurt," Stevenson said. "It's not any excuse. We've been winning games and losing. But everybody has the heart the come to play."

The Wizards (30-32) have 20 games remaining in a season that seems to keep unfairly playing on, while two of the team's three all-star caliber players remain stuck on pause. In today's practice, Butler is expected to test the left hip that has cost him 18 games, while Arenas continues his cautious recovery from a left knee surgery that has cost him 54 games.

Jamison won't beg Butler and Arenas back before they should, but he is optimistic that they will return soon, possibly this week.

"If not, we've still got veterans who know how to deal with certain situations and know how to not let any type of pressure affect this locker room," he said. "We've been in a lot worse situations than what we're in right now with a lot more at stake."

The Wizards have gone 6-13 since starting the season 24-19, with Butler missing all but two of those games.

"It hasn't been that hard. After a while, you start getting used to it," center Brendan Haywood said. "We probably haven't been healthy since February of last year. If you think about it, we weren't healthy last year with Gil and Caron out. We weren't healthy at the beginning of this year; Gil was a little gimpy. To me, injuries right now are no excuse."

Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan hasn't used injuries or fatigue as a crutch -- or even a walking cane -- this season, consistently saying he will focus on what he has, not what he doesn't have. But after the Wizards' 100-97 loss to Charlotte, Jordan finally admitted that his players are wearing down some.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2008 The Washington Post Company