- The Washington Times - Friday, December 12, 2003

There is a good chance that Washington Wizards point guard Gilbert Arenas will be activated for tonight’s home game with the Minnesota Timberwolves after being on the injured list since Nov.25 with a severely strained lower abdomen.

“He practiced today,” general manager Ernie Grunfeld said. “We’ll have it re-evaluated on Friday, and if he’s feeling good there’s a good chance he’ll be available.

Regarding his first workout with the team since the third week in November, Arenas said, “I was a little winded, but overall I felt good. As far as tomorrow is concerned, we’ll have to see how I feel.”

Arenas has been eligible to come off the injured list since Dec.6. He said doctors have pretty much left the decision up to him.

“They said that if it hurts, don’t do it,” said Arenas, who was examined before Wednesday night’s loss to Orlando.

His return couldn’t come at a better time for the Wizards. In the nine games he has missed, Washington has gone 2-7.

In the 13 games he has played since signing a six-year, $64.3million deal last summer, Arenas has been as good as advertised. The 21-year-old leads the Wizards in scoring (20.8) and assists (5.5), and he has been a strong rebounder (5.1) from his backcourt position.

“There’s no question what he means to us,” coach Eddie Jordan said earlier this week. “I think some guys have done a good job filling in for him, but Gilbert is Gilbert.”

This, however, has meant taking the good with the bad. Arenas was benched in the second half of a loss to Cleveland earlier this season because of some comments he made the night before in a rout of Toronto. In that Cleveland game, Arenas, not satisfied with his own play, hurled the basketball into the Gund Arena seats at halftime.

In the Wizards’ last game — the disappointing home loss to lowly Orlando — Arenas, wearing the team’s road blue uniform, was ejected from the bench for vociferously expressing himself after a no-call.

“If people want to blame me for that, it’s OK,” Arenas said. “But we went up nine after that. Look, I’m the type of guy who has a hard time separating from my teammates. I want to win so bad, sometimes I speak when I just need to shut up. ”

Arenas, who did not accompany the Wizards on a recent four-game trip, said he wore his road jersey while watching games on TV. He also said that he got so fired up while watching one of the games he got himself thrown out of a sports bar in Maryland.

“They changed the channel and said I had to get out,” Arenas said sheepishly.

Wizards reserve point guard Juan Dixon acknowledged that Arenas played with the first-unit offense and said he didn’t show any signs of rust.

“He looked good,” Dixon said. “He was working hard and running hard. He looked like he was anxious to be out there playing again.”

Arenas’ injury has had somewhat of a domino effect because, as Jordan has said often, the point guard position is the catalyst of everything the Wizards do.

With Arenas sidelined, Jordan has been forced to juggle his roster. He began by starting veteran Chris Whitney at the point, but that lasted for only four games.

Dissatisfaction with the team’s performance prompted Jordan to make wholesale changes in the lineup, inserting rookie Steve Blake at the point and also going with Christian Laettner and Etan Thomas as starters in place of Brendan Haywood and Kwame Brown.

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