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Doctors Keep Arenas Benched, Team Wins

Wizards Still in Sole Possession of 5th Place: Wizards 95, Pistons 83

"I might as well wait until I'm 100 percent, and that's not going to be until next year," Gilbert Arenas said. (By Ned Dishman -- Nbae Via Getty Images)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 24, 2008; Page E01

Gilbert Arenas was frustrated when team doctors stopped him from making his return last night, but the three-time all-star was in a much better mood while watching the Washington Wizards earn a 95-83 victory over the Detroit Pistons.

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The victory helped the Wizards (36-33) remain in sole possession of fifth place in the Eastern Conference, 1 1/2 games ahead of Toronto and Philadelphia.

Arenas, who has been out since undergoing surgery on his left knee on Nov. 21, participated in the team shoot-around yesterday morning and arrived at Verizon Center thinking he would play but was told by team doctors that he should wait at least one more week.

About 1 hour 15 minutes before tip-off, Arenas walked out of the locker room. He did not speak with reporters but said over his shoulder: "Ya'll don't have to write any more. I'm not coming back this year."

After cooling off, Arenas returned and watched the game from the Wizards' bench. Throughout the game, Arenas was on his feet encouraging teammates, yapping at Pistons players and listening intently when Coach Eddie Jordan drew up plays during timeouts.

Arenas said his initial response was fueled by an intense desire to get back onto the court and last night's game, which was televised nationally on ESPN, is exactly the kind of situation Arenas loves being a part of.

"I went in there hoping to have them look at the knee and say I could play," Arenas said. "Then [the doctor] told me I need one more week. I understand, he's the doctor, but it wasn't what I wanted to hear. It took me a long time to get my mind right about coming back at all and today, I was there. I wanted to play."

Until Arenas is cleared to return, the Wizards can only hope to play the kind of solid basketball they played throughout last night's game.

All-star forward Antawn Jamison led the way with 24 points and 12 rebounds for his 40th double-double of the season but five players scored in double figures and the Wizards shot 52.8 percent from the field against one of the top defensive teams in the league.

The Wizards led 28-20 at the end of the first period, 47-40 at halftime and beat back a late Pistons push after carrying a 71-65 edge into the fourth quarter.

Andray Blatche gave the Wizards a 75-69 lead when he made a 16-foot jump shot with 9:06 to play and on the following Detroit possession, Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace drew a technical foul for throwing an elbow into Blatche's rib cage.

Caron Butler (17 points, six assists, five rebounds) converted the free throw and the Wizards later took an 81-71 lead on a three-pointer by Roger Mason Jr. When Chauncey Billups drew the Pistons within seven by making a three-pointer at the 2:27 mark, the Wizards answered with a jump shot by Antonio Daniels, and a steal by Butler that lead to a Brendan Haywood dunk three-point play.


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