CLEVELAND — The second Antawn Jamison faded away from his collision with big Zydrunas Ilgauskas and hurried to the bench dragging his arm (which is being classified as a sprained shoulder) along with him, Wizards and their fans held their breath.
Brendan Haywood ran back to the locker room to check on Jamison soon after he and trainer Eric Waters went back there. Then at the first Wizards’ time out Caron Butler went back to check on Jamison too.
“I ain’t never run back to the locker room in the middle of the game if I’m not injured,” Butler said after the game was over. “Had to check on my dude.”
Jamison’s initial thoughts: “My immediate thought, just like any time you twist your ankle, is serious. It scared me a little bit. The thing that scared me was I didn’t have any feeling. I didn’t know if it had popped out or not, I just couldn’t feel anything,” Jamison said. “But once I got back on the table, it calmed down a bit. It’s not that bad. …The most important thing is make sure it’s healthy.
Jamison and the Wizards are hoping that this injury truly is nothing more than a sprained shoulder. He’ll have an MRI done tomorrow and they’ll know more. Jamison said he’s hoping that he’ll get good news, and that he can come back next week.
“We’ll see tomorrow what happens,” Jamison said. “With these things, the most important days are the first 36 after, so I’m anxious to see how it feels Saturday. I’m a quick healer, so I might miss Atlanta, but hopefully I’ll be back out there in Philly.”
In the mean time, Flip Saunders said Andray Blatche would take over at power forward. Blatche bounced back from a poor showing last night to record 16 points and eight rebounds tonight, which is encouraging for the Wizards and their fans, but he remains unproven.
Mike Miller, who has been struggling to figure out his role on this team, had no doubts tonight when Jamison went down. He came out with guns blazing and knocked down all five 3-pointer attempts and finished with 24 points on the night.
“He went down and I felt like I needed to get more aggressive, period,” Miller said. “I’m starting to learn a little more, find my spots, see what I can do to help this team. Especially with Antawn down, I got a little more aggressive and made a few shots.”
If Jamison is out for an extended period of time, you have to think Flip would take a strong look at a lineup of Arenas, Butler, Miller, Blatche and Haywood. Blatche really is the only option at power forward. (McGuire could fill in in a pinch, but if there’s a big offensive drop-off there. But Blatche (if he can stay consistent) is good for double-digits in points and seven, eight rebounds. And Miller stretches the floor and makes opponents pay when they try to double-team Butler, as you saw tonight.
“That’s exactly what you want,” said Butler, reflecting on the worst-case scenario as to if Jamison doesn’t come back in the next two weeks. “Coach ran about four or five plays in a row for myself and for some reason they kept doubling. Shaq was coming off, and they were leaving Mike, and Mike did what he does, knock down shots. And once he got into a rhythm, it was hard to cool him off, and that’s what we need from him.”
Randy Foye picked up where Miller left off in the fourth quarter, scoring 19 of his 21 points in the final frame. He said, “felt like I was back in Minnesota, knocking down big fourth quarter shots for the Timberwolves. We didn’t have many [he paused and laughed], but the ones that we did, I felt good.”
Other than Jamison’s injury, the bad and the ugly for the Wizards had to have been their perimeter defense. They allowed the Cavaliers to rack up 12 3-pointers on 50 percent shooting. The players have been talking about improving their defensive execution, but judging by tonight that’s still a work in progress.
No practice for the Wizards tomorrow, but stay tuned as we wait for word on Jamison’s MRI, which likely will be some time in the morning.
— Mike Jones