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Lingering Knee Injury Robs Daniels of Quick First Step

Antonio Daniels, warding off the Pistons' Will Bynum, says he's not himself because he can't push off his right leg.
Antonio Daniels, warding off the Pistons' Will Bynum, says he's not himself because he can't push off his right leg. (By Nick Wass -- Associated Press)
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 17, 2008; Page E07

Wizards point guard Antonio Daniels continues to be bothered by pain in his right knee and did not practice yesterday. Daniels said he hurt the knee while working out during the summer. He sat out last Saturday's loss in Orlando, then returned but was limited to 13 minutes in Wednesday's win over Utah. He sat out again as the Wizards lost in Miami on Friday night.

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Daniels said that as much as he wants to be on the court supporting his teammates, the knee simply isn't allowing him to move the way he needs to be successful.

Daniels' game has always been predicated on slashing drives to the basket -- ones that often wind up with him taking contact and hitting the floor -- and right now, he said he can't shove off of his right leg.

Daniels said doctors have not brought up the subject of surgery.

"Right now, it's just a lot of rehab, a lot of icing," Daniels said yesterday afternoon. "I biked today, and it didn't feel too bad. The main problem is planting and pushing off. The thing is, I want to get myself right. I'm not going to help this team on one leg."

With and without Daniels, the Wizards have struggled offensively through seven games, and those issues are a big reason the team is 1-6.

The Wizards are averaging 94.1 points per game on 43.8 percent shooting and are averaging only 17.7 assists. Last season, when the team overcame an 0-5 start with strong play in November and December, Daniels was a big reason. The veteran guard typically has an excellent assist-to-turnover ratio, uses dribble penetration to draw fouls and get to the free throw line and does a solid job containing the ball defensively.

"That's what I do, I attack the rim and get to the line and also, I need my lateral quickness defensively," Daniels said. "I talked to DeShawn [Stevenson] this morning about different things he did to recover from his knee problems in the past, so I'm trying to figure out ways to deal with this."

Forward Antawn Jamison said the team's offensive issues can be traced to a lack of consistent ball movement. During Friday's 97-77 loss at Miami for instance, the ball often wound up in the hands of a player as the shot clock wound down.

"A lot of it is holding the ball a little bit longer than normal," Jamison said. "We don't have Gilbert [Arenas] out there, we don't have other guys out there so we have to move the ball. Shots are going to come and go, but we have to do a better job as far as making the defense play on both sides of the floor. Cutting and slashing instead of just standing around watching one guy do something."

Keeping It Together

As frustration over losing builds and Coach Eddie Jordan continues to juggle his rotation in the search for consistent production, players may start to see their minutes fluctuate. That can lead to grumbling and eventually, selfishness.

Caron Butler, who is a co-captain along with Jamison, said he doesn't anticipate that being a problem for the Wizards, who have an interesting mix of prideful veterans and young players who are trying to prove that they deserve expanded roles.

"It's up to us as captains to take care of that," Butler said. "Sometimes you're going to play a lot depending on the circumstances; other times you might not. That's how I look at it. Sometimes it depends on matchups, who's got a rhythm and what's working for us. Like if Darius [Songaila] is in there and he's rolling, I don't want to go back in. Let him keep rolling. Feed the hot hand."

Butler said that players ultimately have to be accountable for their performance.

"The truth is told out there," Butler said. "If you're doing what you're supposed to be doing out there, you'll play. . . . Everybody knows. People can see who is playing well and who isn't."

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