- The Washington Times - Friday, December 16, 2005

They have won just four of their last 14 games, and they admit they haven’t jelled as quickly as they had hoped.

So the Washington Wizards (9-11) should be worried as they prepare to play five straight games against Western Conference opponents, beginning with tonight’s game at the Los Angeles Lakers, right?

Well, not exactly.

Last season the Wizards were 17-13 against the Western Conference. On the road, they were a respectable 6-9. They even ended the season with a 3-2 road swing in late March, marking their first winning road trip against the West since March 2000.

“We feel like it’s going to come together for us, even though right now it obviously hasn’t,” team captain Antawn Jamison said. “The season hasn’t worked out the way we wanted it to so far, but everyone believes that we will get better. It’s just a matter of when. We’re confident we can get wins.”

How confident?

“I say not winning all five games is a disappointment,” Jamison said. “We can’t go out there looking to go 4-1 or 3-2. We have to win these games, but we still have to take them a game at a time. We’re going out there with an opportunity in front of us. We’re two games below .500 with five games coming up on the road, so this is an opportunity for us to get our swagger back because right now we don’t have it.”

The Wizards have the chance to do just that between tonight and next Friday. They begin the trip with the Lakers (12-10), Portland (6-15) and Seattle (9-11 entering last night’s late game), who all lost at home to Washington last season. But the Wizards were crushed on the road last season by Denver and Phoenix, their last two foes on this trip.

The Wizards are optimistic they will have Gilbert Arenas back in the lineup, not just for the Lakers game tomorrow in his hometown but for the entire five-game swing.

Arenas suffered a bruised back Dec. 10 against the Chicago Bulls. He played through the pain in the Wizards’ overtime loss at Miami the next night but was unable to go against New Jersey three days ago.

But Arenas is a Los Angeles native and loves to play there, especially against Lakers guard Kobe Bryant.

Though Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said Wednesday that Arenas would be able to play if they had a game that day, he knows back injuries are tricky.

“I think he’s ready, but you have to be careful.” he said. “We have to make sure that his treatment goes well. If he gets out there in the layup line and tweaks that thing, we’ve still got four more games to play out there.”

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