By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas has been medically cleared to return to game action as soon as he feels ready, according to a team source, but won't play tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks and remains unsure of when he will return this season.
Arenas was told that he was cleared during a phone conversation with team doctor Marc Connell on Saturday, one day before the Wizards lost to the Lakers in Los Angeles in the fourth game of five-game trip that concluded with a loss at Utah on Monday night.
Connell performed surgery on Arenas's left knee on Nov. 21.
The Wizards did not practice yesterday and Arenas was not available to comment. Team president Ernie Grunfeld did not return a call seeking comment last night.
On March 23, Arenas expected to make his return against the Detroit Pistons in a game at Verizon Center, before Connell informed Arenas that the knee was improving but wasn't quite ready and he should wait at least another week before testing himself in game action.
Arenas was not happy about the decision and said he would not play the rest of the season as he left the locker room before the game started. However, he returned after calming down and watched the Wizards beat the Pistons from a seat on the bench and backed off his threat to sit out the season in an interview later that night.
Arenas said he would likely take a more cautious approach during the same interview.
"My feeling is, I'm all ready to go out there and play, and mentally I'm past that fear of getting hurt again and now you're telling me I can't play?" Arenas said the night of the Pistons game. "So I'm thinking that if you tell me a week, I need to take two weeks and make sure."
Arenas played the first eight games of the season before injuring the knee during a game at Minnesota on Nov. 16. He has missed 66 games this season.
He pushed himself with individual shooting and ballhandling drills during this recent road trip but said he wasn't in game condition and doubted whether he could establish a "rhythm" with so few games remaining in the regular season.
Arenas plans to opt out of the final season of his contract this summer and become an unrestricted free agent. Arenas said he hopes to sign a long-term contract with the Wizards and recently said he would be willing to sign for less if it would ensure that the team retains all-star forward Antawn Jamison.
It is unclear why Connell, who was not on the trip with the team, decided to tell Arenas that he could play on Saturday, just six days after Arenas was told that he couldn't play against the Pistons.
As the Wizards (38-36) prepare to face the Bucks tonight, they are also unsure of the status of all-star forward Caron Butler (left hamstring) and guard Antonio Daniels (sprained left wrist), both of whom missed Monday's 129-87 loss at Utah. Butler and Daniels will be evaluated today when the team goes through a morning shoot-around.
Butler, who missed 19 games between Jan. 29 and March 11 with a left hip injury, said the hamstring tightened up on him during Sunday's overtime loss to the Lakers.
After icing the hamstring on the flight from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City on Sunday night, Butler went through his normal game day routine Monday but the hamstring remained tight.
"I didn't think it would be a major issue," Butler said after Monday's game. "But I got some treatment on it, went through my routine but wasn't able to go without discomfort, so we decided to take caution and it was the best idea to sit out. Hopefully, 48 hours will give it time to heal and I can get back out there because this is a key stretch right now and I definitely want to be playing."
Daniels, who has made 55 starts in place of Arenas, had been playing with a sprained left wrist since a March 11 game against Milwaukee and aggravated the injury just four minutes into Sunday's game against the Lakers. He left the court in obvious pain and did not return.
Daniels planned to visit a hand specialist yesterday but his intentions were clear.
"I'm playing Wednesday," Daniels said Monday night. "I've been playing with it this entire time and I don't see why I can't continue to do so."
The Wizards could certainly use every available body as they wrestle for playoff positioning in the tightly packed Eastern Conference.
"We need to get some guys back," Jamison said. "Those are guys who have been there before and know what to expect this time of year. They've played in big games and we need guys like that healthy during the playoff push. We need to get schemes down, create some chemistry and have some momentum going into the playoffs."