By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan has never believed in curfews, but last night his players were expected to be safely tucked in at their Orlando hotel at a reasonable hour in anticipation of tonight's game against the Southeast Division-leading Magic.
The Wizards (33-33) had a three-game winning streak snapped with a home loss to Atlanta on Monday night and face a stretch that includes playing just one home game the rest of the month.
The team has no idea when three-time all-star guard Gilbert Arenas will return from a left knee injury, starters Caron Butler and Antonio Daniels are playing with painful left wrist injuries, and the last time the Wizards played the Magic, they suffered a 122-92 beating, so Jordan is doing everything he can think of to help his team's chances.
"It could be a shot in the dark," he said. "I could be totally wrong and we go and get blown out by 30 but I think, just so that they know that [the coaches] mean business, they should mean business. We have an opportunity to get a great win at Orlando and finish the trip in Miami. We've all been around the league long enough to know what kind of a trap a trip like this could be."
The curfew will continue as the team moves on to Miami -- and all of its temptations -- for Friday night's game against the struggling Heat.
The Wizards certainly can't afford another letdown like the one they experienced Monday night, when sloppy defense and an overall lack of energy contributed to a 105-96 loss to the eighth-place Hawks.
The Wizards remain in sixth place, but lead Philadelphia by a half-game. Entering last night's action, only five games separate the Wizards and ninth-place New Jersey.
Jordan's curfew idea didn't seem to bother his players, who were informed of it by reporters following Saturday's loss. Center Brendan Haywood, who has never been one to spare words, smiled when told about Jordan's idea.
"Eddie Jordan is the coach, and if he thinks we need a curfew, then we need a curfew," Haywood said before pausing. "What? Did you expect me to say something else?"
Arenas, who has not played since Nov. 16 and underwent a second surgery on his left knee a few days later, made the trip and said he plans on "cranking up" the intensity of his workouts.
Over the weekend, Arenas said that playing tonight was a possibility but he backed off of that idea after getting the results of an MRI exam Monday morning. He said team doctors advised him to test himself further in practice before trying to play in a game.
"Every game is 50-50 to be honest, depending on how I feel that night," Arenas said. "The doctors said: 'ramp it up' and I asked them, 'Well, can I ramp it up in a game?' And they were like, 'Well, let's work it out in practice first before you play in a game.' "
While Arenas ponders his status, Butler will continue to play with a chipped bone in his left wrist, an injury that occurred when he tried to break his fall after making a layup during Thursday's home win over Cleveland.
The injury won't require surgery, but Butler said it has affected his ability to grip and dribble the basketball with his left hand.
After scoring 19 points on 8-of-18 shooting Thursday night, his return to the court after missing 16 straight games with a left hip injury, Butler connected on 7 of 27 shots and totaled 28 points in games against the Clippers and Hawks.
"More tape and more padding and I should be fine," Butler said. "Just wrap me up and let's go play."
Butler, who played just under 34 minutes Saturday, said he planned to speak with Jordan about increasing his minutes in coming games.
"Everything is being done in moderation," Butler said. "The doctors, coach, are making sure my minutes and playing time are being monitored. They don't want me to play for long stretches of time. After being out a month and a half, that's how it has to be, but I'm going to talk to Coach Jordan on the way to Florida [Tuesday] and let him know that I am ready to be out there full force and regular form again. Right now, we need to make a push."
Daniels has also been bothered by a nagging left wrist injury but expects to continue playing.
"It's crunch time so guys have been bumped and bruised all year and we have to tough it out," said Daniels, who has started 48 games this season, the most since he opened 50 games as a rookie with the Vancouver Grizzlies during the 1997-98 season. "Our team needs us right now and sometimes you have to put yourself aside as an individual and do what is best for us as a team."