Friday, March 27, 2009
Arenas may return Saturday
WASHINGTON -- Gilbert Arenas loves to keep everyone guessing.
Is he going to make his season debut Saturday night, when the Washington Wizards host the Detroit Pistons?
Wizards interim coach Ed Tapscott confirmed after practice Friday the plan is for Arenas to suit up against Detroit -- and probably start, too. Still, Tapscott felt the need to caution that the three-time All-Star guard's status will be a game-time decision.
Wizards co-captain Antawn Jamison said that, as far as he knows, Arenas is going to play.
And what about Arenas himself?
Well, by the time Washington's practice court was opened to the media after Friday's light workout, Arenas was nowhere to be seen.
When he left the locker room later, he walked straight past the assembled reporters and TV cameras, not pausing for interviews.
Asked whether he would play Saturday, all Arenas did was shrug.
Asked why he didn't take part in the full practice, Arenas shrugged again.
Asked why he wasn't talking, Arenas said: "I don't have anything to say."
And then he ambled down the stairs to the garage.
"I'm sure he's probably anxious," teammate Caron Butler said. "Probably real nervous."
Perhaps. By every account, though, Arenas finally is ready to go. He's been sidelined all season after having his third operation in 1½ years on his left knee.
"The most important thing is seeing a healthy Gilbert. That's something we haven't seen in a while. But the last couple of practices, he's looked normal, talking trash," Jamison said, smiling. "This is the guy that you're accustomed to seeing, and this is the guy that you want to see get back healthy and entertain people. And I think you're going to see him entertain."
Arenas originally was injured in April 2007, and he played in only 13 games last season. His latest comeback picked up last month, when he began practicing at full speed.
Tapscott estimated Arenas could play 24 to 28 minutes against Detroit, which would be the first court time under his $111 million, six-year contract.
"We'll see how it goes. I don't think people should have any expectation of a scoring explosion," Tapscott said. "He'll play the game, and he'll let the game come to him as he knows how."
Teammates are looking forward to seeing Arenas back on the court, even if they don't necessarily expect him to immediately return to being the same old Agent Zero, a player capable of scoring 30 points and known for making buzzer-beaters.
Without Arenas, without starting center Brendan Haywood -- who's missed the entire season after wrist surgery -- and missing several other players at times because of various injuries, the Wizards are 17-56.
No NBA team has more losses.
"I just want to win, and in order for that to happen, we need our franchise guy back out there," Butler said. "It would mean a lot just to see him back out there, healthy, establishing a rhythm, and getting him back into the flow of things by the end of the season."
The Wizards are used to playing without Arenas.
They prefer to play with him.
"Up until I see him getting focused, the head phones on before the game ... I'm treating it as if he's not playing," Jamison said. "I just want him healthy. That's the biggest thing for me, is to make sure he's healthy and ready to go, especially next year, when we start everything off on a clean slate."
The teams expect a sellout crowd Saturday; there was a spike in single-game ticket sales after word emerged of Arenas' return.
The Pistons have been paying attention, too.
"I know he came back early last year and missed most of last year and this year, but I'm sure their medical staff has been advising him the right way, in terms of getting him on the court this year," Detroit coach Michael Curry said. "I wish him well, as far as healthwise. I just hope he doesn't have a good game against us."