- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 8, 2005

Antawn Jamison will have his NBA-leading consecutive games streak snapped at 386 tonight when he sits out against the New York Knicks with tendinitis in his right knee.

Even though the Wizards’ captain was given no timetable for his return, he sounded upbeat.

“I’m encouraged by the news that I received from our doctors,” Jamison said. “It is disappointing that I’ll miss the Knicks game. But I’m confident that my teammates will step up in my absence just like they did the other night in Charlotte. I’m going to use this week to rest and rehabilitate.”

Jamison left the Wizards’ 86-84 victory over the Bobcats on Saturday early in the third quarter because of the knee and did not return.

Jamison, an All-Star this year for the first time in his six-year career, is third on the Wizards in scoring (20.0) and leads the team in rebounding (8.0). He also leads the Wizards with 22 double-doubles.

However, since the All-Star Game in Denver last month, Jamison has not looked like the same player. He scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the first game of the second half, but his production has dropped off dramatically since. In his last five games, Jamison has averaged 10 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.1 turnovers, preferring to float outside and launch 3-pointers rather than mix it up inside.

The Wizards also will be without backup center Etan Thomas, who didn’t make the trip because of the flu and will miss his third straight game. Jared Jeffries, who has missed the last four games with a bruised right knee, will be a game-time decision, and Jarvis Hayes will be out at least a month with a broken kneecap.

If Jeffries can’t play, the Wizards might be forced to start Laron Profit at small forward.

Perhaps the only positive news is that the Wizards probably can expect a better game out of leading scorer Gilbert Arenas (25.5). He was bothered by an aching left knee that clearly threw his game off against Charlotte. Arenas finished just 5-for-18, including 1-for-7 from 3-point range, for 21 points.

While the Wizards haven’t lost any ground in the Eastern Conference and still would be the fourth seed if the playoffs began today, they have not been the same team of late, partially because of the injuries.

Washington has lost six of its last nine games and needed a late-game tip-in by the little-used Profit to beat the Bobcats.

The Wizards, who average 100.8 points a game, have had problems scoring recently, breaking the 100-point barrier just twice in their last 11 games. And Washington is allowing more points — 101.0 — than it scores this season, which is unusual for a team with a winning record.

Wizards president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld acknowledged the injuries have hurt the team. However, he also indicated the Wizards have other players who can and have stepped up to help out Arenas and Larry Hughes, the team’s second-leading scorer (21.6) who recently returned after missing 20 games with a broken thumb.

“I’ve said all along basketball is a team game; you need contributions from everybody,” Grunfeld said. “It’s just worked out that those three players [including Jamison] get the majority of the publicity, and they deserve it. But if you are going to win in this game, you have to have everybody contribute. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve had success. We’ve had a lot of players step up and contribute.”

Still, the Wizards would love to have Jamison back and contributing soon, especially considering the way several of the team’s other injuries have turned out worse than the preliminary diagnosis.

For instance, when Kwame Brown broke the fifth metatarsal of his right foot in late August, doctors said Brown would be ready for training camp in early October. However, Brown missed all of training camp and didn’t make his first appearance until Dec. 1. Brown since has said he came back too early from that injury.

Then, against Charlotte on Dec. 27, Brown left with a strained tendon in his right ankle, missed four games and tried to play on it Jan. 6 against Seattle. He was placed on the injured list Jan. 12 and missed 20 more games, bringing his total to 37 missed games before he was activated Feb. 23.

Thomas was supposed to be out two weeks when he strained his abdomen on the final day of training camp but ultimately missed 32 games. And, most recently, the Wizards hoped Hayes would miss just a few games with tendinitis in his right knee before X-rays revealed the break.

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