By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 9, 2008
MEMPHIS, Oct. 8 -- The Wizards hoped to break a recent trend by making it through an entire season without a rash of injuries. As things stand now, the luck-starved team couldn't even get through a pair of preseason games.
According to sources familiar with the situation, veteran center Brendan Haywood learned Wednesday that he needs surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right wrist and will be out four to six months.
The team also learned that forward Antawn Jamison has a right knee contusion, an injury he suffered during the first quarter of Tuesday's preseason opener at Dallas when his leg buckled under him as he moved out to defend Dirk Nowitzki late in the first quarter.
According to a source familiar with the situation, Jamison was told that he could miss as long as two months with that type of injury, but the two-time all-star typically bounces back quickly from injury. He vowed to be in the lineup for the Oct. 29 regular season opener against the New Jersey Nets at Verizon Center.
"Oh, I'm going to be ready, you can count on that," said Jamison, who underwent an MRI exam in Memphis on Wednesday afternoon and was on the bench later for Washington's 89-80 win over the Grizzlies. "I'm a fast healer, always have been so I don't see it lasting that long. I'm not promising anything but just me talking in general, I plan on being ready for the opener."
Haywood injured the wrist during a training camp practice last Thursday in Richmond. The injury was originally diagnosed as a sprain but after Haywood continued to experience swelling and pain, he met with a series of hand specialists. On Tuesday, one specialist recommended surgery and Wednesday, meetings with two more specialists in New York led to the same conclusion.
A date for surgery has not been set.
The loss of Haywood is a severe blow to a Wizards team that is already without all-star guard Gilbert Arenas, who is expected to miss at least the first month of the regular season.
Etan Thomas started Tuesday's loss in Dallas and Wednesday's game at Memphis while Andray Blatche and rookie JaVale McGee also saw action at center.
Guards Nick Young (left knee) and Juan Dixon (right calf) did not play. Young expects to be out at least a week and a half, and Dixon hopes to play Friday night against Detroit.
Thomas, who missed all of last season following open-heart surgery, is in terrific physical condition but is also working off a year's worth of rust. He was limited to 11 minutes on Tuesday in part because Dallas employed smaller lineups for much of the game, but was on the floor for nearly the entire first quarter Wednesday and finished with eight points and five rebounds in 18 minutes.
"We like the way Etan is playing," Coach Eddie Jordan said. "His veteran experience, his veteran savvy, his aggressiveness, the way he plays. We need that force. We've always said Etan brings that force."
Haywood started 80 of 82 games last season while posting career highs in scoring (10.6 points per game), rebounding (7.2), blocked shots (1.7), free throw shooting percentage (73.5 percent) and minutes played (27.9).
Haywood will be missed most at the defensive end. The 7-foot, 263-pounder is not only a shot-blocking presence who matches up well against big men such as Boston's Kevin Garnett, Toronto's Chris Bosh and Orlando's Dwight Howard, he also set the team's defense from his position underneath the basket.
"He's really big for us back there in terms of communicating to the other guys about what is going on and where we need to be, so that's going to be missed," Jamison said. "We're going to have to find a way for other guys to fill that role."
The absence of Haywood could also mean a ramped-up developmental process for McGee, the raw but athletic first-round pick out of Nevada. McGee had a strong training camp and was solid Tuesday night with seven points, three rebounds and a block in 12 minutes.
The rookie was even better Wednesday as he keyed a fourth-quarter push with several impressive plays, including a blocked shot, a pair of dunks and a long jump shot he banked in from the top of the key.
McGee, who went against Grizzlies rookie Marc Gasol for much of the game, finished with a team-high 20 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks in 27 minutes.
"He's been improving day by day," Jordan said of McGee. "I thought he had a presence of confidence, he was aggressive and went for blocks. He didn't mind the physical contact and he didn't back away, and those are all of the sort of off-the-stat-sheet qualities we look at."
Blatche started at Jamison's power forward spot Wednesday night in a lineup that included Thomas, Antonio Daniels, DeShawn Stevenson and Dominic McGuire and finished with 14 points, 4 assists and 2 rebounds in 25 minutes.
Caron Butler was available but sat out to rest after playing 24 minutes Tuesday night. He will be in the lineup Friday night when the Wizards host Detroit in their lone home preseason game.
Though disappointed like the rest of his teammates over the injury news, Butler talked optimistically about the upcoming season.
"You have to look at it like this: Antawn is going to be fine, he's going to be back for the opener," Butler said. "Brendan had an unfortunate injury so that means that the young guys are going to have to do it. Andray's playing great so far, we have Etan back at the five and Darius can help us there. We're going to get Gilbert back in the middle of the season so we're going to be fine. Help will be on the way. It's up to us to start off great and create some momentum so we can get through this."
Wizards Note: The key difference between the sloppy 108-82 loss in Dallas and Wednesday's victory was that the Wizards took better care of the ball. After turning it over 23 times Tuesday, miscues that led to 28 Dallas points, Washington turned it over only 16 times, leading to 17 Memphis points.