The Washington Times - September 18, 2008, 10:47AM

The more you think about it, the less and less the latest news on Agent Zero should come as a surprise.

During his second comeback late last season, he was far from the Hibachi level and he had to pull the plug on himself after just five regular season games and three playoff contests. The complaint was that almost constant, tingly — almost banged-your-funny bone-like — pain. Gilbert said at the time that it just needed rest to heal properly. But we should’ve known. The knee had been in rest and recovery mode for the last 69 games.

Yesterday when I asked Gil when he first found out he would need to get the knee scoped. “Like, four months ago,” he said. I guess the only surprise is that if he knew the knee had lingering debris in it that he didn’t get it taken care of then. As he said yesterday, Arenas was hoping the stuff would wash itself out over the summer. In hindsight he said “yeah, maybe I wish I did. Maybe I would’ve been ready.” But at the time, maybe the concern over how a third surgery in just over a year would impact his asking price on that new deal kept Gilbert in wait-and-see mode. Or, maybe he was just tired of operating rooms and hoping for the best.

We’ll never know.

Ernie Grunfeld insisted repeatedly during my conversation with him yesterday that the team wasn’t surprised by this and that the Wizards aren’t concerned. That was just news to everybody else, I guess. The last time I talked to Gilbert, he said he didn’t really feel like talking, that he just wanted to lay low for the rest of the summer, but that things were going according to plan.But what plan was that? The perceived plan of ready for the start of the season, or this not-expected-to-be-ready-until-January thing? Ernie either has a great poker face, or he seriously isn’t worried. Players have undergone serious knee surgeries and returned to top form. Amare Stoudemire looked like his old self last year. Jason Kidd rebounded from 2004 microfracture surgery as well.

And the Wizards made the playoffs basically without Gilbert last year anyway. What will waiting a few months longer hurt? Ernie said “there is no urgency right now and he will not be rushed back.” Early on, the trade for Dee Brown is now a more significant pickup than what was first thought. Antonio Daniels held down the point guard position for 61 games last season, but did so while battling injuries. And he’s a year older.

Right now, it looks like the Wizards made a very expensive gamble, like they shouldn’t have offered the max for a guy with what seems like a never-healing knee. But, if they can get by without Gilbert for the first month, or two, or three, of the season and then have a TOTALLY healthy Agent Zero after the first of the year, then that $111 million over six years is well worth it.