- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 4, 2007

For Antawn Jamison, the adjustment period is over.

The 12 games the Washington Wizards captain missed with a sprained left knee — and the spotty play that led up to the 4-8 record in his absence — are over.

All Jamison sees these days are the 25 games left in the regular season and teams like the Miami Heat (29-29) and Toronto Raptors (32-27) who are anxious for the chance to knock the Wizards out of their current standing as the No. 3 team in the Eastern Conference.

Jamison and Caron Butler, who missed three games because of back spasms, returned to the lineup on Friday and played a key roles in helping the Wizards (32-25) end their four-game losing streak with a 93-92 victory that came down to the game’s final possession.

For Jamison, that was the one and only test run. It’s time, Jamison says, for the Wizards to start playing the way they were not long ago, when they were 10 games above .500.

“I’m still very confident in this team being able to accomplish all the goals we set both before and during the season,” Jamison said. “The key now is for us to find a way to go back to playing the way we were playing about a month ago. The truth is, I expect us to go back to playing that way immediately.”

That could happen today, when the Golden State Warriors visit Verizon Center. Bad teams from either conference always seem to struggle whenever they cross the Mississippi, even when they are coming from the superior Western Conference.

But the Wizards, who lead the Heat by 3 games in the Southeast Division, are probably going to need a few games to find their rhythm.

Jamison was solid in his first game back in more than a month, finishing with a team-high 22 points and six rebounds.

His sprained knee healed much quicker than the original prediction of three to six weeks. He had been working out with the team for the last week and working out fairly hard over the last two weeks.

But it’s going to take Jamison and Butler a few days to get back their legs and the wind necessary to compete at this level.

Their teammates, however, are willing to be patient.

“Oh, it’s lovely having them back,” said DeShawn Stevenson, who played better as coach Eddie Jordan tinkered with the lineup and juggled his rotation. “When you have both of those guys out there it makes a huge difference. They both need a little time to get their timing and rhythm, though.”

Butler clearly isn’t 100 percent recuperated from the back spasms that started bothering him about two weeks ago, but he still showed his value to the team when he was needed the most.

While he made just one of 10 shots for four points, Butler grabbed four rebounds in the fourth quarter. He also finished with a game-high three steals and five assists.

Perhaps nobody is more delighted to see Butler and Jamison back starting than Gilbert Arenas. Teams have made things miserable for him, running two and three different defenders at him at a time. As a result, Arenas shot 35.3 percent (91-for-258) in the 12 games without Jamison.

“Oh, it’s great having those guys back,” Arenas said. “They give us so many more options and they make the game easier for me. Once they get their legs back, their rhythm and their timing it’s going to be hard to stop us.”

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