With Wall hurting, Arenas may start

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By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The probability that John Wall will miss his first NBA game Tuesday against Toronto seemed more likely on Monday as he moved around the halls of Verizon Center on crutches, unable to apply any pressure on the left foot he sprained two days before in Chicago. The crutches were an escalation from the protective walking boot he wore as he left United Center, weary from chasing around Derrick Rose during a 103-96 loss to the Bulls.

Wall missed practice to get checked by a doctor on Monday, giving Gilbert Arenas the chance to scrimmage with the starters at the end of practice. Coach Flip Saunders said Wall remains day-to-day and would start if available. Wall was hurt when he landed awkwardly while defending a Rose jumper. He left in the third quarter and returned during the Wizards' fruitless fourth-quarter rally, which Saunders said might have made the injury worse. "He only played three minutes and from that point, the evaluation we had was just a sprain and today we're in the same situation," Saunders said, adding that Arenas would make his first start of the season, alongside Kirk Hinrich, if Wall is unable to play. "Kirk and Gil played a lot together, played pretty well together in the fourth quarter. If they're there and John's there, then we'll make that adjustment."

Arenas came off the bench his first five games back while recovering from a strained tendon his right ankle that kept him sidelined for nearly three weeks. The timing could work out well for Arenas, whose confidence is high after burying seven three-pointers and scoring a season-high 30 points in Chicago. "I was on fire a little bit," said Arenas, who scored 30 points in a game for the first time since Dec. 28 at Memphis.

Arenas had been in a shooting slump his previous two games against Houston and Charlotte, in which he missed 18 of 21 combined shots, but Saunders felt the three-time all-star had burned himself out shooting before games. He didn't allow any players to take the early bus to the arena on Saturday, hoping they would have more energy for the game. "He did that and seemed to have better legs," Saunders said. "Hopefully, he'll keep going and you hope he'll get some rest. Gil is such a compulsive player. It's like, if one aspirin is good, five is great. So when he goes out and shoots, instead of shooting 200 shots, he'll shoot 2,000 shots. And I think, when he was struggling a little bit, he was almost working too hard."

Yi Jianlian also didn't practice because of a hyperextension and bone bruise in his right knee and was limited to riding a bike Monday. He said he feels more encouraged by how his right knee is healing after a scary collision with Wall in the third quarter against Chicago. "It was pretty painful at the time, but a few minutes away, it felt better," said Yi, who had an MRI exam after the game that revealed no ligament damage. "But it was fine, it won't be long. I see how it feels. It's kind of day-by-day."

Saunders said Andray Blatche would "definitely play" against the Raptors after testing his sore left knee through "70-75 percent" of practice. But Blatche didn't sound as optimistic, explaining that he started to feel discomfort in the back of his left calf last week and the pain became more unbearable as the Wizards played three games in four nights. After an ineffective outing in Chicago, where he missed eight of his 10 shots, Blatche said his knee started "locking and clicking," even during practice on Monday.

"I felt okay, not as much pain. If last game, the pain was - on the scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the worst - I'd say about an eight. [Monday] it was about a six. It's getting down, the trainers are doing a good job for me. I went and got an MRI, and it's a little scruff behind the bone, nothing too major. I'm just going to take it a day at a time and see how I feel [Tuesday]. If I feel better and the swelling is down, I'm going to play. If not, it's going to be a chance for the rookies to step up."

With Yi and Blatche down, Saunders relied on Hilton Armstrong and rookie Trevor Booker down the stretch and pointed out how his bench has outplayed the starters the past two games.

Booker noted that the Wizards would face a difficult challenge if Wall is unable to play. "He's the engine," he said.

"That's definitely going to be tough," Blatche said of possibly playing without Wall. "Without him out there, it's going to be a whole different ballgame. But we have Gilbert back, who just came off a great game. His confidence is still high, and he's still being his old self, the old player he was. He stepped up and hit some shots for us, and [was] a leader like John Wall. I love the aggressive Gil, and I want him to continue to get better and continue to work hard."


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