|Wizards deal with Arenas' unorthodox comeback, 2 more injuries|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 03 April 2008 11:47|
And everyone is dealing with a huge case of Gilbertology, which again has breached the bounds of basketball protocol.
The Washington Wizards were coping simultaneously Thursday with the aftermath of the bizarre return of Gilbert Arenas and new injuries to Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler - all from a Wednesday night sensory-overload, one-point loss to Milwaukee that has precarious implications for team chemistry and playoff seeding.
Defensive stopper DeShawn Stevenson turned his ankle in those same final frantic seconds, putting in jeopardy a consecutive game streak that stands at 243, the second longest in the NBA. Stevenson didn't practice Thursday, but he held out hope of playing against the Heat.
``I'm going to try to make it,'' Stevenson said. ``But it does hurt.''
Even coach Eddie Jordan was a casualty. He stayed home with sinus problems, giving assistant Mike O'Koren a chance to run practice.
Arenas, who returned Wednesday after missing 66 games with a knee injury, practiced but declined to speak to reporters, leaving the world to guess what he was thinking when he appeared to show little respect for the coaching staff in the way he handled his comeback game.
Arenas did not take part in the morning shootaround or pregame warmups and wasn't on the bench for the start of the game. O'Koren said he didn't know Arenas was going to suit up until the three-time All-Star emerged from the locker room with 5 1/2 minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Jordan only got the news minutes before the start of the game - and not from Arenas himself. Asked Wednesday night how he found out about the significant addition to his bench, the coach said it wasn't through a ``proper channel.''
Making matters worse: Arenas had told his teammates several days earlier, after he was cleared to play by a doctor during the recent West Coast swing.
``I knew on the road trip, but I didn't want to say nothing,'' Stevenson said. ``He likes to have a grand entrance. I knew a long time ago he was going to come back in that game.''
Even so, Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld defended Arenas' decision to wait until the last minute to inform the coaches.
``I don't see it as being that unorthodox,'' Grunfeld added. ``He was specifically told 'When you're ready to go, it's your call.' He was ready to go and he let the trainer know, and the trainer let the coach know. ... I'm sure he just wanted to make sure everything was fine.''
Perhaps no one should have expected anything different from Arenas, who knows the marketing value of a star player with personality quirks. He's had more than his share of run-ins with coaches - although not as many as in his early NBA days - and he makes sure everyone knows about the high-altitude room in his house or his latest idea for a shoe commercial. He turned the rehab from his November knee surgery into its own little mini-drama, even storming out of the locker room before a game against Cleveland after the doctor wouldn't give him permission to play.
Asked if Arenas' unconventional return was a distraction, Stevenson said no - because the Wizards have become accustomed to such theatrics.
``I think everybody expects that from him,'' Stevenson said. ``Some teams, it probably would be a distraction, but we love Gil a lot and we just look over it. He can do whatever he does, but when he comes on the court, he's ready to play - so I think that's why nobody really pays attention to it.''
There was always an open question as to how Arenas would mesh with the team when he returned, and his performance Wednesday night will only stoke the debate. He scored 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting in 19 minutes, but his defense was as suspect as ever. The Wizards were outscored by 15 points while he was in the game, including 24-14 over the final 7:23. He left rookie Ramon Sessions open for the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Wizards have lost three straight and have fallen into a three-way tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference. If Jamison is out for an extended period, Washington could very well drop to seventh or even eighth, setting up an unfavorable matchup against Boston or Detroit in the first round of the playoffs.
Grunfeld stressed that Arenas' return is good news for the stretch run.
``We have a player back,'' Grunfeld said. ``It's good news that he's out there after helping his teammates.''