- The Washington Times - Monday, April 4, 2005

Washington Wizards forward Antawn Jamison implied he would be in uniform and available to play against the Boston Celtics tonight when the Washington Wizards continue the fight for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Asked about his frustration watching the Wizards (41-31) struggle, particularly at the offensive end, Jamison said, ‘That’s why I’m coming back tomorrow, and hopefully we don’t lose a step.’

Jamison, the Wizards’ third-leading scorer (19.6) and leading rebounder (7.8), has been on the injured list since March 18 with tendinitis in his right knee. After Sunday’s 79-76 loss to the Indiana Pacers at MCI Center — a defeat that dropped Washington into a tie for fourth with Chicago, which holds the tiebreaker — the Wizards’ record without him was 7-5.

In recent days Jamison’s knee has been feeling better. On Friday, when the Wizards won at Orlando, Jamison threw down a ferocious 180-degree dunk in warmups, an indication he was getting ready to rejoin the Wizards.


And with just 10 games remaining in the regular season, Washington needs him. The Wizards, whose four-game winning streak was snapped by the Pacers — not only are trying to outduel the Bulls — winners of nine straight — but are attempting to stay ahead of the eight or so teams jockeying for the final four Eastern Conference playoff berths.

?It means the world,? Jamison said about having homecourt advantage. The Wizards are 25-10 at MCI Center. ‘I think that’s the one thing we don’t have a grasp on, but it makes a big difference playing here instead of playing at Cleveland or Chicago. That can make the difference of a game or two.

‘We have to realize that it’s important to have homecourt advantage. Imagine coming into this building, a place that hasn’t been in the playoffs for 10 years. Imagine that atmosphere. That could really give us the momentum we need, the confidence that we definitely need. I can just imagine the atmosphere and having those guys behind us.’

Actually, Washington never has played a postseason game at MCI Center. The team, then known as the Bullets, was last in the playoffs in April 1997, and the building didn’t open until December.

Wizards coach Eddie Jordan never says whether a player will return to the lineup, but he did acknowledge what Jamison gives Washington just being on the floor.

‘We don’t know how Antawn is going to react,’ Jordan said. ‘First of all, he is a leader; we do know that. Whether he has it physically or not, he is still a leader. We know we have that. What he brings to the floor we don’t know until we see it.’

The Wizards might see the return of reserve guard Anthony Peeler soon as well. Peeler has been plagued by tendinitis in his right knee and last appeared in a game more than a month ago.

‘I’ll probably be ready to go in about a week or so,’ Peeler said. ‘My tendinitis has been killing me, but it’s not hurting that much anymore.’

While Jamison could play, the Atlantic Division-leading Celtics (39-34), losers of four of their last five games, could be without starting power forward Antoine Walker (bruised left knee).