The Washington Wizards' Antawn Jamison learns that his shoulder injury will keep him out an additional three to five weeks
CHICAGO -- Whenever the Washington Wizards have struggled on the floor or dealt with a string of injuries, Antawn Jamison liked to use the phrase "Groundhog Day," a reference to the Bill Murray comedy in which Murray's character repeats the same day over and over until he gets it right.
The Wizards know a little about unpleasant repetition, especially in recent years: They have high expectations in the offseason, a star (or two) gets hurt and the season sputters.
They are forced to start yet another season with a sidelined all-star after an MRI exam on Thursday revealed that Jamison would miss an additional three to five weeks after sustaining a shoulder subluxation last week in Cleveland.
"The most important thing is, it's a long season. It's not anything that's going to prevent me from finishing off the season, as long as I take of my body and mind," Jamison said after the Wizards lost, 93-70, in their preseason finale against the Chicago Bulls. "I just got to do what I do as far as rehab and get ready as quickly as possible."
This is the second consecutive season that the Wizards have started a regular season with at least one major piece missing. Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood were out with injuries at the start of last season, and the Wizards went on to match their worst 82-game season in franchise history. This time, however, the Wizards are optimistic because Jamison's injury won't require surgery and his shoulder has made considerable progress in the past week.
Jamison started lifting weights on Tuesday and has been doing some light basketball drills. The Wizards expect the injury to keep him out about 10 games. "He's really ahead of where we anticipated, but we're being really conservative right now," Coach Flip Saunders said. "We're going to be patient with him, we don't want to take any chances. We want to make sure that thing is right and fully healed."
The 33-year-old Jamison, a two-time all-star, has been one of the most durable players throughout his career as he missed more than 14 games in a season only one time in his first 11 seasons. He has played in 79 or more games seven times, including 81 last season, when he averaged 22.2 points and 8.9 rebounds.
"I'm not sure we're snakebitten. I just think now it's unfortunate," center Brendan Haywood said. "But at least it's nothing to where he'll miss the whole season. We've dealt with injuries the past couple of years, and this year is no different."
Jamison called himself "a quick healer" shortly after he suffered the injury while contesting a shot by Cleveland center Zydrunas Ilgauskas. He had another MRI after the swelling subsided in his arm and he has already regained most of the range of motion in his arm. "I feel great," said Jamison, who has started dribbling, although he hasn't been cleared to shoot. "The biggest thing for me, even though I feel great, is to still continue to work. I feel good lifting, dribbling the ball and they wont let me shoot yet. I'll do whatever the doctors tell me to do."
The Wizards' hopes of being more than a playoff flirtation have always hinged on their players being healthy -- primarily their three all-stars, Arenas, Caron Butler and Jamison. Arenas, a three-time all-star, has missed all but 15 regular season games the past two seasons because of a troublesome left knee, and Butler missed a combined 58 games the past three seasons with an assortment of injuries.
Since the 2006-07 season, Butler, Jamison and Arenas have combined to make four all-star teams, but the trio has only started together in 61 out of a possible 246 games. Arenas, Butler and Jamison have only started 10 games -- winning four -- since Arenas suffered his debilitating knee injury in April 2007. The next time Jamison, Butler and Arenas are on the floor together remains unknown.
"It continues to happen, but we're going to stay optimistic and remain positive," Butler said. "Guys have got to step up. That's been the case the past couple of years. Knowing that from the past, we should be accustomed to it and follow suit."
Saunders alternated Andray Blatche and Fabricio Oberto the past two games, but Saunders plans on starting Oberto with Blatche as the first big man reserve while Jamison is out. Saunders said Jamison would be evaluated again after the season opener on Tuesday in Dallas. "It's better to lose somebody early than late," Saunders said. "It'll give other guys the opportunity. One of the reasons that we made the moves that we made [this summer] was to be able to have some depth. If someone goes down a little bit, you can fight your way through it. We'll see how it plays out."