EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Feb. 26 -- Washington Wizards forward Antawn Jamison on Monday participated in his first full practice since spraining his left knee against the Detroit Pistons on Jan. 30 and didn't appear to show any effects from missing the past month. Jamison worked up a sweat fighting for rebounds and hitting jump shots.
"He made every shot, seemed like," Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said.
"You looked good out there," said Caron Butler, whose recent back spasms forced him to miss Sunday's loss in Minnesota, after gingerly strolling over to Jamison.
Jamison wiped the sweat from his brow, gave an approving nod and said, "Felt good."
Jamison was coy about a possible earlier-than-expected return, but he didn't rule out a return against the New Jersey Nets on Tuesday night. "If it was up to me, I'll play. It'll be more on how I feel after the light workout [Tuesday morning], making sure it's no stiffness," Jamison said. "I'll go out there and play in a wheelchair if I have to. We just want to be smart about the situation and make sure I help the team and not hurt it."
Jamison said he felt "pretty good" after practice, but it was hard to truly gauge his workout because he felt most of his teammates were unwilling to attack him the way an NBA opponent would in an actual game. Jordan said Jamison didn't drive to the basket much in practice and agreed that his teammates probably took it easy on him. "They know where the bread is buttered, I guess," Jordan said with a laugh.
Point guard Gilbert Arenas sat out Monday's practice as a precautionary measure, Jordan said, but will start against the Nets. Arenas, who has soreness in his right shoulder, sat in a chair shouting encouragement and cracking jokes with his teammates.
Jordan was asked when he thought Arenas, Butler and Jamison would be back on the floor together. "I don't know," he said. "We were fortunate to have our top three guys, the trio, until Antawn got hurt. It's like, it's hitting now a little bit with the top three guys. Antawn had his first full contact practice today. That's no indication he is going to play [today]. Caron didn't practice. Gil didn't practice. When that time comes, I hope we have everyone else, too."
Butler will be a game-time decision. He said he had been playing through mild pain in his back for past few weeks, but it became unbearable this past weekend, when the Wizards endured weather-related travel delays on their way to Minnesota and he was unable to receive treatment. "That set us back a lot. It's real tight," Butler said of his back. "Everybody wants to gut through the tough times and everything, but I got to be healthy. I'm not as mobile as I want to be. If it was something that I could play through, I would play through it. I don't want to be out there not performing at a high level."
When asked about his return two weeks ago, Jamison said he targeted the first week in March. Reminded of his estimate on Monday, Jamison smiled and said: "That's in, what, two or three days? March is definitely the due date, now it's just when in March. It's not up to me."
The Wizards (31-23) have lost the first two games of a three-game road trip and are 4-6 without Jamison. But Jamison, who hasn't experienced any setbacks since he began rehabilitating his knee, said the struggles of the team would have no bearing on when he returns. "I don't care if we was struggling or playing well. I just want to go out there and play," he said. "We let some games slip away, now it's time to make it up. It's a great opportunity that you don't want to slip away, as far has having the best record in the Eastern Conference and having home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. It's still reachable.
"Our opponents are not going to feel sorry for us at all. We faced teams that had their problems. Now we have them," Jamison said. "We just have to be more mentally tough to handle the situation. I hope I'm back soon, so we can have the whole team healthy and play the last two months together."