By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 4, 2008
Just as the Wizards finally got back one of their star players, it appears they might lose another one for at least one game. All-star forward Antawn Jamison suffered a sprained right shoulder late in Wednesday's home loss to Milwaukee and is doubtful for tonight's game against the Miami Heat.
Jamison, who had his right arm in a sling when he left Verizon Center on Wednesday night, underwent an MRI exam yesterday that revealed no structural damage to the shoulder.
The Wizards (38-37) can clinch a fourth straight playoff berth with a win tonight, but their position in the Eastern Conference playoff picture is precarious. They are in a three-way tie for fifth place with Toronto and Philadelphia with seven games remaining and have upcoming games against Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia and Orlando.
Jamison, DeShawn Stevenson and Andray Blatche are the only Wizards to appear in every game this season. Jamison's injury came on the same night that three-time all-star Gilbert Arenas returned after missing 66 games with a left knee injury. Arenas, who scored 17 points in 20 minutes, practiced yesterday. He is expected to be available again tonight, barring any setbacks at shoot-around today.
Arenas did not speak to reporters before or after Wednesday's game and did not speak following yesterday's practice.
Stevenson, who sprained his right ankle on the same play in which Jamison was injured, did not practice yesterday and will be a game-time decision. Stevenson has started 243 straight games and hopes to keep his streak alive tonight.
"I'm going to try," said Stevenson. "I haven't missed a game, but the ankle is really hurting right now. I got treatment [yesterday]. Actually, it did swell up, but I'm going to try to go."
Meanwhile, Coach Eddie Jordan has been bothered by severe sinus headaches and was at home resting yesterday, leaving associate head coach Mike O'Koren to run practice. O'Koren said Jordan would be back for tonight's game.
Like just about everyone else in the building Wednesday night, Jordan and his coaches were surprised that Arenas decided to return. Arenas did not participate in the morning shoot-around, did not join his teammates on the court for pregame warmups and wasn't on the bench at tip-off.
Instead, Arenas warmed up at the practice court as the game began and casually jogged to the bench with 5 minutes 30 seconds left in the first quarter. He checked into the game 11 seconds later and made his first four shots.
O'Koren, who handled Jordan's pregame news conference because Jordan was not feeling well, said he didn't know Arenas was playing until Arenas jogged out to the bench area.
Jordan apparently found out shortly before the game began and not from Arenas himself.
"Let's say it wasn't normal, proper channels," Jordan said after the game. "But I found out."
Arenas was medically cleared to return on Saturday but elected not to play in Sunday's game against the Lakers in Los Angeles or in Monday's game against the Jazz in Utah. On Sunday, one day after team doctor Marc Connell informed him that he was cleared to play, Arenas told reporters that he had not been cleared and would return as soon as he was. Apparently, Arenas was more forthcoming with teammates.
"I knew on the road trip, but I didn't want to say nothing," Stevenson said. "He likes to have a grand entrance. I knew a long time ago he was coming back in that game."
Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld said he did not think the way Arenas handled his return was disrespectful to the coaching staff.
"Gilbert was medically cleared to play, it was a game-time decision and he was going to play when he felt ready," Grunfeld said. "Maybe there was a miscommunication, but he talked with the trainer and then he stayed in the back to warm up before coming out to play."
With the Arenas-induced drama of Wednesday and a disappointing loss to the lottery-bound Bucks behind them, the Wizards must now focus on finishing the regular season as strong as possible.
"He made his grand entrance and he had his time," center Brendan Haywood said. "Now it's time to get back to business."