- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

SEATTLE — The Washington Wizards were waiting last night for the results of an MRI on guard Gilbert Arenas, who strained an abdominal muscle late in Sunday’s loss to the Seattle SuperSonics.

The Wizards plan to hold him out for the final two games of their western trip, which resumes tonight in Portland.

Chris Whitney will replace Arenas in the lineup for now.

“I’ve been in this situation before, playing behind a great point guard,” said Whitney, who often stepped in for Rod Strickland in his first stint with the Wizards. “Now it’s Gilbert. I don’t go out there and try to do things that I don’t do. Those guys are special. I just go out there and try to play the game the right way.”

Arenas was walking better at practice yesterday than he was Sunday, when he suffered the injury while trying to back down a defender late in the 88-85 loss. Washington scored a franchise-low 24 points in the first half.

When Arenas fell to the ground, he said he heard something “pop.” He couldn’t make it to the team’s bench on his own, and he had to be helped to the dressing room by Brendan Haywood and Christian Laettner.

He returned to the bench but was unable to go back in the game.

As he awaited the results of the MRI, preliminary indications were that there were no muscles torn from any bones.

Arenas, 21, said he played through a variety of injuries last season — including a broken pinkie and turf toe — on the way to earning the league’s most improved player award.

And even though Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said Whitney will get the nod for the rest of the trip, Arenas was not ruling himself out of today’s game at Portland and tomorrow’s against the Los Angeles Lakers.

“It’s still sore; I’m walking a little bit better than I was last night,” Arenas said. “Whatever day they tell me I can come back, I’m going to make it a couple of days earlier. I’ve played through every injury I’ve ever had.”

According to Arenas, the Golden State Warriors wanted him to sit out games on numerous occasions because of injuries. But Arenas said he never heeded their advice.

“They say that every time I do injure myself,” Arenas said. “I just never miss games because of injury. I’m not planning on it here. I’ll take pain relievers tomorrow. When I’m 45 years old I won’t care about walking. All I know is basketball. I just can’t sit here and watch it.”

Although they are not sure how long Arenas will be out, the Wizards know they must find offense in other places. Jerry Stackhouse, who led the team in scoring last season (21.5), isn’t expected back from knee surgery until January.

Arenas leads the Wizards this season in points (20.8), assists (5.1) and steals (1.9). Jordan hopes the team will be able to generate some points with its defense.

“Gilbert gave us a lot by pushing the ball and getting to the rim,” Jordan said. “We still have to get some paint scores. We’ll see how it develops. I really don’t know who is going to step up and give us that. I really don’t know yet. What we do need to get is maximum effort from everyone. Let’s see who’s going to step up and do it.”

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