By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 17, 2008
Gilbert Arenas will undergo an MRI exam on his surgically repaired left knee today and if the results are positive, he could play as soon as Wednesday night when the Wizards travel to Orlando.
Yesterday, however, Arenas said that a clean MRI and clearance from team doctors wouldn't be the only factors in his decision whether to play for the first time since Nov. 16.
While Arenas is eager to get back onto the court as the Wizards (33-32) try to advance to the playoffs for the fourth straight year, he isn't sure how effective he can be after such a long layoff. And he is all too aware that a third injury to his knee could cost him this summer, when he plans to opt out of the final season of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent.
Arenas is looking to sign a maximum contract with the Wizards, who can offer a six-year contract worth more than $100 million, and he is weighing his physical as well as financial future.
He originally injured his left knee last April 4 and underwent surgery to repair a torn left lateral meniscus the following day. He underwent a second surgery to repair a torn left medial meniscus on Nov. 21.
"If you were a general manager, would you pay someone max money if he's had three knee surgeries?" Arenas said. "I wouldn't. That's just business. That's the scared part I have going on in the back of my head. If I go out there, I can't be second-guessing. That's how you get hurt in the first place. It's about having that comfort."
One key issue is that the Wizards currently are not in the position to give Arenas the comfort he seeks. He passed on a chance to sign a lucrative extension last summer with the idea that he can earn more money on the free agent market this summer.
Arenas could always play next season under his current contract (he'd earn $12.8 million) and become a free agent the following season but so far, he does not consider that to be an option.
Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld has consistently stated that the team plans to retain Arenas but Arenas understands that things could change if he were to get hurt again.
Arenas, who does not have an agent and plans to represent himself, said he and Grunfeld have discussed basketball-related matters and the status of his knee but have not talked about a new contract.
"I feel like I'm in the same position I was in with Golden State," said Arenas, who began his career with that franchise in 2001 as a second-round draft choice. "You are in a position where you have to take someone at their word. And, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what is said because it's not on paper. It means nothing. This is the NBA. It's a business. This is the strangest situation I've been in."
Arenas said he has spoken with several current and former players and some have advised him to sit out the remainder of the season. Still, he added that had team doctors allowed it, he would have played Thursday night, when the Wizards beat Cleveland.
"Guys have told me: 'Don't come back; you have nothing to gain,' " Arenas said. "But I want to play. I want to be out there. At the same time, it's like I'm holding a $100 million lottery ticket and the only way I can lose it is by going out and getting injured again. If I didn't have that second injury, I'd be out there playing right now because it feels better than the first time."
So when will Arenas play again?
"I don't know," Arenas said. "We'll see what the doctors say [today] and go from there."
Wizards Notes: Coach Eddie Jordan gave the team yesterday off. Several are dealing with nagging injuries, including guards DeShawn Stevenson (left knee) and Antonio Daniels (left wrist), forward Caron Butler (left wrist) and center Brendan Haywood (sore left knee). Butler, who missed 16 straight games with a left hip injury, landed on his wrist while making a layup during Thursday's win over Cleveland and had the wrist packed in ice bags following Saturday's win over the Clippers. Haywood did not play Saturday night but will likely play tonight as the Wizards try to win their fourth straight game, against Atlanta.