For Arenas, Time Is Ticking Away

"Even if I'm cleared next week, that's not enough games for me to get my swagger," says Gilbert Arenas, injured and frustrated. (By Nick Wass -- Associated Press)
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By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 25, 2008

With only 13 games remaining in the regular season, Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas knows that his chances of making an impact this season are dwindling.

Arenas, who has missed 61 games this season recovering from surgery on his left knee, will be with the team as it opens a five-game road trip tonight at Portland, but the three-time all-star has not been cleared to play. He showed up at Verizon Center on Sunday evening expecting to make his return against the Detroit Pistons, but team doctor Marc Connell, who performed the surgery on Nov. 21, advised him that he needs to wait at least another week before testing the knee in a game.

The Wizards close the trip on Monday night at Utah and host Milwaukee two nights later.

"Even if I'm cleared next week, that's not enough games for me to get my swagger," Arenas said yesterday before the team boarded a flight to Portland. "Plus, I'm going to play [fewer] minutes. When I do get back, I'll be playing 20 minutes [a game]. That's not enough for me to be me. I need games under my belt."

Arenas expressed doubt about the latest timetable. "They're not going to clear me next week. They said that last week about this week," he said.

"I just don't know what is going to change a week from now," he said. "All I know is that I want to play. I want to be out there."

Arenas said he has gotten over a fear of playing again, but the team's medical staff seems less eager to put him back on the court.

On Sunday, Coach Eddie Jordan said he admired Arenas's desire to play. "He wants to play, and we all have to give him a lot of credit for wanting to play. Last week. This week. Tomorrow. He is not an NBA player who is sitting on his laurels waiting for July 1," he said.

Team president Ernie Grunfeld declined to elaborate on the injury, saying that Arenas was being evaluated by team doctors, and when he's cleared to play he will play. Team policy prohibits the team doctor from speaking to the media.

"After what happened to him [in November], there is no way they are going to let him rush back out there," said a league source who has followed the Arenas situation. "If he goes out there and gets hurt again, it's bad for everybody: the team, the player, everyone."

Complicating the issue is Arenas's stated desire to opt out of the final season of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent. He is looking to sign a maximum contract with the Wizards, who can offer a six-year contract worth more than $100 million.

Meanwhile, the Wizards are facing a crucial stretch that could determine where they play and which opponent they face in a first-round playoff series. The return of a healthy Arenas would provide a boost heading into the playoffs. However, it remains unclear whether that is going to happen this season.

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