Washington Wizards rookie Andray Blatche stopped by MCI Center yesterday morning and visited with teammates one day after being released from the hospital.
Blatche, the team's second-round pick in June's NBA draft, was shot in his right arm and the left side of his chest early Sunday morning in what police say was an attempted carjacking near his home in Alexandria.
"Andray is in good spirits and feeling a lot better," Wizards President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld said. "We're just grateful that he didn't get hurt worse."
Grunfeld said Blatche might attend Tuesday's opening of training camp in Richmond but won't participate. The team hasn't set a date for Blatche's return, but the 6-foot-11 forward will likely miss all of camp, which runs through Oct. 9 at Virginia Commonwealth University.
The Wizards will open the preseason Oct. 10 at MCI Center against Cleveland and start the regular season Nov. 2 at Toronto.
"I'm recovering well and want to thank all of the people that have supported me since this occurred," Blatche said in a statement. "It is unfortunate that this happened and I have certainly learned from this situation.
"We have no timetable for my return, but I'm working hard and expect to make a full recovery. I'm anxious to get back on the court and help my teammates anyway I can."
The good news for the Wizards is that apart from Blatche, the team is healthy and ready to begin preparations for the upcoming season.
Last week during an informal pickup game at MCI Center, all-star point guard Gilbert Arenas completed a fast break by throwing a crisp bounce pass to swingman Jarvis Hayes, who caught the pass in stride, rose and threw down a dunk.
The play was a sign that Hayes, who averaged 10.2 points and 4.2 rebounds in 54 games last season, could be well on his way to recovery after missing the final 28 games of the regular season and the Wizards' entire playoff run with a fractured right patella.
"It's 100 percent healed," said Hayes, who didn't undergo surgery and had to simply allow the knee to heal. "So there is no fracture and no damage to the knee. Now, it's a matter of strengthening the knee and getting my legs back to where they were. I feel good, though. It's been 61/2 months, so it just feels good to be back out there playing."
Meantime, all-star forward Antawn Jamison appears to have recovered from his own knee problems, which forced him to miss 14 games last season and had him playing in pain during most of the team's run to the playoffs.
Jamison, who underwent surgery on his right knee days after the Wizards' second-round playoff loss to Miami, has shown no signs of favoring the knee during workouts.
"Right now I feel as good as I've felt in a long, long time," said Jamison, an eighth-year pro out of North Carolina. He averaged 19.6 points and 7.6 rebounds on his way to earning his first all-star game invitation. "The knee feels great. In the second round of the playoffs, I couldn't do what I wanted to do. That was frustrating. What's driving me is to get back to that point and be healthy."
The team's other injury concern involves center Etan Thomas, who missed the first 32 games of last season with an abdominal strain he suffered on the second-to-last day of training camp. Thomas came back to play in 47 games with 10 starts during the regular season and played in eight playoff games before aggravating the same injury in Game 2 of the Miami series.
Thomas recently began scrimmaging for the first time after using most of the offseason letting the muscle mend. According to Grunfeld, Thomas will be ready for full participation when camp opens next week.
If the Wizards can avoid injuries during camp and the preseason, they will be in far better shape than they were last fall, when each day seemingly brought more painful news.
Over the course of the season, every Wizard got hurt, with the exception of Arenas, who missed one game because of a suspension and another with the flu. Larry Hughes, now with Cleveland, missed 20 games with a fractured right thumb. Center Brendan Haywood missed 14 games with a fractured left thumb and a left knee contusion.
Forward Jared Jeffries missed five games with a broken nose and a bruised knee. Still, the Wizards avoided any prolonged slumps, finished 45-37 and won a playoff series for the first time since 1982.
"One of the things I was most proud of was that we didn't allow injuries to become an excuse or a reason why we shouldn't play well," Coach Eddie Jordan said. "One thing you have no control over in this league is injuries, so it's something you just have to deal when it happens. The good news is that we have our guys back and we've added some depth so we should be good to go."
Wizards Notes: The Wizards did not match the two-year contract offer made by Portland to restricted free agent point guard Steve Blake. Blake, who spent two seasons with the Wizards after the team drafted him in the second round of the 2003 draft, will join former Maryland and Wizards teammate Juan Dixon with the Trail Blazers.
Dixon signed a three-year contract worth around $8 million as an unrestricted free agent with Portland in July. Dixon and Blake became expendable when the Wizards acquired point guard Chucky Atkins and guard-forward Caron Butler in a trade with Los Angeles and signed Antonio Daniels, who can play point guard and shooting guard, as a free agent.