- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 17, 2009

SACRAMENTO, Calif. | Gilbert Arenas finally appeared to be gaining comfort and playing with more aggression last week - a last-second missed layup and two missed game-saving free throws in two games aside.

Then came a setback against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, when Arenas missed 10 of 14 shots, turned the ball over six times and finished with just 16 points.

But the guard - working his way back from a two-year layoff in which he underwent three knee surgeries and played just 15 regular-season games - says he still is making progress toward regaining his old form.

Arenas said Saturday the Wizards’ current strenuous four-game, six-day western swing would further reacclimate him to the game. Even after Monday’s off performance, Arenas believed he still could emerge from the trip as the three-time All-Star who from 2004 to 2007 ranked as one of the most electrifying scorers in the league.

“I’m making progress every day. The team is waiting for me to kick it on, and I’m getting back there,” said Arenas, who is averaging 20.5 points, 6.9 assists and 3.7 turnovers. “Every day I’m learning something new. I’m learning my game.”

Arenas said he steadily is regaining his confidence and timing.

“I’m close to that. It’s just taking a bit for me get my clutch shot back,” he said. “It just takes clutch shooting down the end. You can’t practice making big shots.”

Miller progressing

Mike Miller has been out since Nov. 21 because of a badly strained calf, but the shooting guard made the trip with the Wizards and is expected to resume running next week.

Miller, who had remained in the District rehabilitating while his teammates traveled, was at Staples Center on Monday training with strength coach Drew Cleary and said he is feeling good.

Miller remained in Los Angeles, where his wife and children live, and planned to see a physical therapist and rehab there while the Wizards travel to Sacramento for Wednesday’s game and to San Francisco for Friday’s matchup with the Golden State Warriors.

Miller was expected to join his teammates in Phoenix for Saturday’s game against the Suns.

Coach Flip Saunders said Miller’s time off because of the calf injury was a blessing in disguise. Before suffering the calf injury, Miller played despite a badly sprained left shoulder that many times forced him to pull down rebounds and make passes with one hand. Miller also routinely walked with his shoulder drooping and pinned to his side to avoid causing further pain.

Saunders said the shoulder now is healed.

“I believe things happen for a reason, so maybe the calf happened so his shoulder could heal,” the coach chuckled.

James stays home

The only Wizards player not to make the road trip was backup point guard Mike James, who has played only one game this season.

James received DNPs in the first five games this season and the day after getting his first action - he recorded six points and three assists against the Indiana Pacers on Nov. 6 - broke his left ring finger. He missed the next 13 games and went through two practices last week but still was listed as inactive for Washington’s games against the Boston Celtics and Indiana.

Saunders said James needed more practice time to work his way back into game shape. James remained in the District to continue his conditioning program because, with four games in a six-day span, the Wizards were scheduled to practice only twice.

Fellow backup point guard Javaris Crittenton, who has yet to play this season while he rehabs from a bone bruise and exploratory surgery on his left foot, did make the trip and said he is “coming along” and that he hopes to return to action soon.