- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) — Gilbert Arenas’ knee bent the wrong way. He was just standing there, settling into rebounding position as Gerald Wallace drove baseline. When Wallace threw up one of those incredible, off-balance reverse layups, he crashed inadvertently into the left leg of the Washington Wizards’ point guard. Down went Agent Zero. And with him, perhaps, the Wizards’ hopes of achieving much of anything in the playoffs this season.

Arenas’ sprained left knee rendered nearly everything else irrelevant in the Charlotte Bobcats’ 108-100 victory over the Wizards on Wednesday night. The three-time All-Star will have an MRI on Thursday to determine the full extent of the damage, but the recovery time from such injuries is usually measured in weeks, not days, and the Wizards have only eight games left in the regular season.

“I’m hoping that it wasn’t as bad as mine,” said forward Antawn Jamison, who missed 12 games earlier this season with the same injury.

Wizards reserve forward Andray Blatche has missed six games with a sprained knee, and he’s not expected back for another 10 days or so.

“Hopefully Gil is hurt - and not injured,” guard Antonio Daniels said. “And we can get him back sooner rather than later.”

Hope and heart is about all the Wizards have left after losing both of their All-Stars in a four-day span - and back-to-back games to the mediocre Bobcats. Forward Caron Butler broke a bone his hand on Sunday - the Wizards are 2-9 this season when he doesn’t play - and he isn’t expected to return unless Washington advances deep into the playoffs.

“There are a lot of teams in this league who have had superstars injured, and they found a way to get it done,” Jamison said. “You just have to turn a negative into a positive and continue to play hard. Pretty much now, it’s all mental. Do we continue to believe we can play well as a team?”

Wallace, who survived several collisions in what became a very physical game, finished with 27 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists to lead the Bobcats. He had also stymied the Wizards the previous night, getting 34 points and 14 rebounds in a 122-102 win at Charlotte on Tuesday.

“We played them good last night, and obviously it hurt with them not having Gilbert tonight,” said Adam Morrison, who had 11 points and seven assists off the bench. “It feels good to get a win against a playoff team.”

Raymond Felton added 19 points and seven assists, Emeka Okafor had 17 points and 10 rebounds, and Walter Hermann had 20 points and nine rebounds for the Bobcats, who have won six of nine.

Jamison had 25 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Wizards, who fell one full game behind the idle Miami Heat in the Southeast Division. At least Washington is virtually assured of a playoff berth - they only need one more win to clinch.

Arenas, was injured late in the first quarter, but he had been in the game less than two minutes. He did not start for the first time this season because he was late for the team’s shootaround. He left the arena in the second half.

Arenas is averaging 28.4 points entering the game. He has been very durable the last three seasons, playing in 80 of 82 games in both 2004-05 and 2005-06.

“No matter what happens to Gil, he’s still upbeat and joking around,” said Jamison, who saw Arenas at halftime. “You couldn’t tell he was hurt other than the fact he had ice on his knee and he was laying down. He was just telling us to go out there and find a way to get it done.”

The Wizards did put up a spirited effort without their best player. Daniels got his first start of the season, giving Washington a point guard who actually played point guard. Daniels finished with 18 points and a career-high 17 assists.

Etan Thomas was dominant at times in the paint, scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in his third start since he replaced struggling center Brendan Haywood in the starting lineup. All five Wizards starters scored in double figures.

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