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Oberto's heart gets a checkup

Washington's Fabricio Oberto played in four of the past five games with a heart monitor.
Washington's Fabricio Oberto played in four of the past five games with a heart monitor. (John Mcdonnell/the Washington Post)
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By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 19, 2010

DENVER -- Fabricio Oberto said he felt a little freer, a little lighter during Thursday's practice, the first time in nearly a week that the Washington Wizards reserve forward was allowed do his regular routine without being linked to a heart monitor.

Oberto played in four of the past five games with three wires and patches attached to his chest and an electrocardiography monitor connected to his shorts. The device and wires were attached to him continuously for seven days -- when he slept and showered -- and was a part of his continued care following a procedure Oberto had last June to correct an irregular heartbeat.

"I don't worry about it. It's just when you move, you feel all the sticks and patches on your chest. But it's always good when you finish," said Oberto, who had to complete the same exercise in late December. "It's just to see if my heart is in rhythm at all times, if it has some skips or something."

Oberto said a company in New York observed his heartbeat via computer throughout and sent the results to Andrea Natale, the Austin-based doctor who performed the procedure last summer.

Oberto, whose arrhythmia was discovered in April 2007, had electroshock therapy last season while he was with the San Antonio Spurs before electing for the procedure, known as an ablation. A catheter was inserted into his heart and three spots were found "that sent, like, an extra beat," he said.

Oberto said he hasn't had any complications since joining the Wizards, adding that his heart rate has gradually become more normal as the season has progressed. He is optimistic he won't have to wear the pager-size monitor again after this summer and doesn't feel that he is putting himself at risk.

"I'm in good hands. I can play, practice. I went through all the things in the season. It was a big test that my heart is good and I can still play in a high-level sport," said Oberto, who has averaged 1.3 points and 1.5 rebounds in 43 games. "So far, everything is good. They didn't send me any e-mail or call, the red phone didn't ring, so that's good."

Oberto was in uniform for Tuesday's game against Denver but didn't play. If Coach Flip Saunders decides to use him against Portland on Friday, Oberto said he might see a different player. "I'll be running quicker -- hopefully," Oberto said with a smile.

Also on Thursday, Andray Blatche did not practice because of a sprained left ankle and Saunders said that his leading scorer since the all-star break is about "50-50" to play against the Trail Blazers.

Blatche said that while he was limited to shooting stand-still jumpers, he expects to play. "It's a little tender," said Blatche, who was injured in the fourth quarter against Denver. "I'm just going to work through it."

If Blatche is unable to play, Saunders said that James Singleton will likely start.

The Wizards signed forward Alonzo Gee to a second 10-day contract on Thursday. Gee is averaging 7.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in just more than 13 minutes the past five games. Saunders also said that the team intends on retaining point guard Shaun Livingston for the remainder of the season.

The Wizards have lost a season-high nine games in a row, but Saunders said his players shouldn't get too wrapped up in the losing streak. "We've got to look at the ones we're playing ahead. It's a matter of us just playing well," he said. "If we don't play well, we don't have a chance. I thought we played well against Denver; they were just better than us. Portland is probably better than us. The Lakers are probably better than us, but what we have to do is go out there and compete. No matter how many games we've lost, that has no bearing on the next game."


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