- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Steve Blake thinks he is ready to play and could be activated this week, perhaps as early as today. The Washington Wizards backup point guard underwent surgery to remove bone chips in his right ankle in September after sustaining the injury during a pickup game at his summer camp.

Blake completed his first full-contact, full-speed practice yesterday and pronounced himself ready for game action tonight against Boston or Saturday at New Jersey.

“It could happen,” Blake said, “but it’s not always up to me. If it was up to me, I’d have been playing a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully, they’ll let me come back as soon as I can. Maybe New Jersey might be a possibility.”

The Wizards will likely make a decision on Blake’s status tonight after their shootaround this morning.

“He went hard and long today,” coach Eddie Jordan said. “The next step is to see how he recovers.”

To make room for Blake, the Wizards will have to place another active player on the injured list. Originally, Blake was expected to be on the injured list until mid-December.

“He looked good today but he didn’t have his wind,” fellow guard Larry Hughes said.

When the Wizards were hit by a barrage of injuries last season, Blake demonstrated the skills most league observers said he would need to survive in the league. Washington thought so highly of the former Maryland point guard that it protected him in last summer’s expansion draft over former first-round pick Juan Dixon.

Blake started 14 games last season, appeared in 75 and averaged 5.9 points and 2.8 assists. He had a very productive summer, including making the Pro Summer League All-Star team in Orlando.

Although the ankle set him back, the playmaker is now confident he has recovered not only physically but mentally from the injury.

“I trust [the ankle],” Blake said. “I put it out of my head. Once the action starts up, you have to block it out of your head. If you just go out and feel a little pain, you might have to back up a little bit. But you have to go out and have no fear.”

In Blake’s absence, Dixon, who becomes a free agent next summer, has taken advantage of his opportunity. Blake’s backcourt mate on Maryland’s 2002 national champions is averaging 11.4 points and 2.7 assists in just under 22 minutes a game.

Meanwhile, Kwame Brown (foot) is back to running in practice, but is banned from contact. The 6-foot-11 forward/center is still experiencing swelling in his right foot and is thought to be some two weeks away from returning.

Power forward Etan Thomas has no particular timetable for his season debut. The physical force suffered a strained abdomen on the final day of training camp last month.

“They say I’m going to according to plan,” said Thomas, who signed a $39million contract over the summer. “They just can’t tell me when [I’ll be ready]. It’s real frustrating. You don’t have a timeline where you can say, ‘OK, by this game I’ll be out there.’ It’s kind of hard when you can just look forward to the next treatment. There’s nothing I can do about it. They don’t want to rush it, because they say that would be counterproductive.”

Though Blake should bolster an already deep backcourt, the absence of big men Thomas and Brown has made the Wizards’ interior a prime point of attack. In Washington’s four losses, teams are averaging 112 points and shooting just under 52 percent.

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