Shoulder sprain sidelines Wizards’ Jamison

CLEVELAND | The Washington Wizards’ hopes of being among the NBA’s elite this season may have taken a serious hit Wednesday night. Power forward Antawn Jamison left the Wizards’ preseason game against the Cleveland Cavaliers with what the team called a sprained right shoulder.

Jamison, a two-time All-Star who has led the Wizards in scoring and rebounding the past two seasons, suffered the injury to his shooting arm with 4:33 left in the first quarter. Jamison jumped and swatted at a shot by Cleveland center Zydrunas Ilgauskas beneath the hoop. While Jamison’s arm came down in a chopping motion, the 7-foot-3 Ilgauskas was still going up, and he collided with Jamison’s armpit.

Jamison immediately hurried toward the bench, doubling over in pain with his right shoulder hanging by his side. He tossed his mouthpiece to the floor and headed for the tunnel with trainer Eric Waters.

“It’s hard to explain what happened, but it just did something awkward,” Jamison said as he left the locker room with his arm in a sling. “I won’t say it popped out, but it did [have] some movement in there. I didn’t hear anything pop; I just knew initially when it happened it was definitely something serious. And after it happened, I got numb and lost sensation in my fingers. … It scared me.”

After the Wizards’ 109-104 victory, team spokesman Scott Hall said Jamison would have an MRI on the shoulder Thursday, but he didn’t know how long the forward could be sidelined.

Jamison said he is anxious to see the results but added, “I’ve always been a fast healer.” He said he was hopeful to be back on the court sometime next week.

“We’ll have to wait and see tomorrow,” coach Flip Saunders said. “I’m sure he’ll be sore; I’m sure we will not do anything from the standpoint of taking any chance, but we should know more tomorrow or the next day. … Antawn is pretty tough. For him to be out an extended period of time is going to take a lot.”

Jamison’s injury is Washington’s second of the preseason. Starting center Brendan Haywood sprained his right ankle three minutes into Friday’s matchup with Dallas. Haywood has sat out the past three games but could return to action this weekend.

Jamison’s injury appeared to be far more serious, however, and depending on the MRI results, his availability for the Oct. 27 season opener in Dallas likely is in doubt.

The Wizards hope the injury isn’t another of the many strokes of bad luck the team has experienced in the past four seasons. Since acquiring forward Caron Butler in 2004 and pairing him with Jamison and point guard Gilbert Arenas, the Wizards’ mantra has been that they can compete with the league’s elite - if they stay healthy.

But year after year, injury has claimed one or more of their core players - whether it be Jamison, Butler, Arenas or Haywood - shattering their lofty postseason aspirations.

Butler has missed an average of 16.3 games during his four seasons in the District, and three knee surgeries from April 2007 to September 2008 have limited Arenas to just 15 games in the past two seasons. Jamison missed 12 games in 2004-05 with a knee injury and 12 more games two seasons later because of knee problems. In the past two seasons, Butler, Arenas and Jamison have started together only 10 times.

“He’s a key guy on our team,” said Butler, who during the first timeout after Jamison’s injury ran back to the locker room to check on his teammate. “We need him healthy. We need our core guys healthy - everybody healthy.”

When Jamison went down, backup Andray Blatche and offseason acquisitions Mike Miller and Randy Foye stepped up. Blatche had 16 points, Miller led the Wizards with 24 on 9-for-12 shooting (including 5-for-5 from 3-point range) and Foye added 21. Arenas had 18 points, nine of them coming from the foul line.

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