Wizards Look for Ways to Stay Positive

Hilton Armstrong, left, slows a drive by Caron Butler, who left Friday's game with an aggravated hamstring injury and did not play in the second half.
Hilton Armstrong, left, slows a drive by Caron Butler, who left Friday's game with an aggravated hamstring injury and did not play in the second half. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
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By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 15, 2009

Antawn Jamison hardly raised an eyebrow when Caron Butler left Friday's home loss to Orlando after aggravating a hamstring injury that has bothered him all month.

And when Andray Blatche left the game in the fourth quarter after rolling his left ankle, Jamison took that in stride as well.

In the world of the Wizards, injuries are a part of daily life. Butler did not practice yesterday and is day-to-day, while Blatche practiced and is probable for tonight's game against Sacramento.

"This not a thing that has happened just this year, it's been going on the last couple of years," Jamison said. "That's the most frustrating part of it. You hope it's one of those situations where Caron or Andray aren't out for an extended period of time. I would just say that nothing really surprises me anymore."

Center Brendan Haywood, who like fellow starter Gilbert Arenas has been out all season, has been medically cleared for full-contact practice, according to a team source, creating the possibility he will return before the season is over. Arenas, who has missed all but 13 games the past two seasons but started practicing at full speed on Feb. 16, has not given any indication whether he will play this season.

In addition to Arenas and Haywood, starting shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson was limited to 32 games before undergoing season-ending back surgery and veteran center Etan Thomas remains out indefinitely with a knee injury.

The absence of those players is the biggest reason why the Wizards (15-51) are having a historically bad season, and there's nothing Jamison can do about it.

Tonight, the Wizards will host the Kings (14-51) in a game that could be titled "Lottery Bowl 2009."

Depending on how the final stretch of the season plays out and on how the ping-pong balls bounce in the May 19th draft lottery, the Wizards, Kings, Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder or the Minnesota Timberwolves will likely wind up with the first overall pick and with it the option of selecting University of Oklahoma star Blake Griffin.

In the meantime, the Wizards continue to look for something, anything, to feel optimistic about in a season that has been nothing less than a disaster. Friday's 112-103 loss to Orlando at least produced a few kernels of positivity.

The Wizards competed from opening tip to final buzzer, received good efforts from second-year guards Nick Young and Javaris Crittenton and rookie center JaVale McGee and even threw a rare charge into the Verizon Center crowd with a late push that drew them within a point in the closing minutes.

Still, the Wizards suffered a few breakdowns late in the game and came up short. They are 0-14 against Southeast Division opponents and have to beat either Charlotte on March 25 or Miami on April 4 to avoid becoming the first NBA team to go winless in divisional play.

Also, the Wizards need four more wins to avoid matching the 1961-62 Chicago Packers for the worst record in franchise history.

"What I really want to do is try to focus on the positive," interim coach Ed Tapscott said after Friday's loss. "What can we take out of this game that we can build on? We sustained our effort throughout the game and our guys got some experience playing against one of the top teams in the conference. So, that's what I try to focus on."

Tonight's game should present a rare opportunity to get a victory. The Wizards won the first meeting between the struggling teams in Sacramento on Jan. 21, 110-107, and the Kings will be short-handed as guards Beno Udrih and Bobby Jackson are not expected to play.

The Wizards open a four-game road trip at Utah on Tuesday night.

"All we can do is try to learn as much from this as we can," said Crittenton, who played one of his better games as a Wizard Friday night. "We're all sick of losing, it hurts, but we still have to find a way to go out there and compete and get better."

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