- The Washington Times - Friday, April 25, 2008

The morning after he limped off the court in the second quarter, suffering from a bone bruise and pinched nerve in his surgically repaired left knee, Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas said he remains hopeful that he can play in Sunday’s Game 4 of his team’s Eastern Conference matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Arenas, who last night made his first start since Nov. 16 but was limited to two points in 10 minutes of play, is getting treatment on his knee two to three times a day and is optimistic that with rest, his condition will improve.

The three-time All-Star, who in the last year has had two surgeries to repair a torn meniscus, suffered the latest injury in Monday’s Game 2 116-86 loss to the Cavaliers in Cleveland.

He said today that he missed the two practices leading up to last night’s game and then received an MRI before Game 3 and learned of the bone bruise and pinched nerve.

“I said I would go out there, try to warm it up [pregame]. See how long I can last,” Arenas said. “I knew I was gonna play no more than 10, 15 minutes. While I was out there I was just trying to energize the crowd, get everybody excited about being home and get some people involved until my time was up.”

Arenas electrified the Verizon Center crowd when he was announced as a starter, but he left the game after six minutes of play with only two points and an assist and the score tied 10-10.

At the start of the second quarter, Arenas warmed up on an exercise bike in the tunnel leading from the locker room to the arena and re-entered the game with 7:08 left in the second quarter and with Washington up 30-22.

Arenas led two fastbreaks, picking up two assists, and then limped off the court for good four minutes later.

“I think when I got subbed out and I sat for so long, [then] I was just trying ride the bike to keep my body still heated,” Arenas said. “But once I got back out there, a couple plays later I could feel the achiness and just couldn’t handle it anymore.”

Arenas, who didn’t practice today, said he felt good this morning.

He said the only treatment he can receive for the bone bruise is a numbing shot, which he hesitates to receive because of his fear of needles.

He said the treatment for the pinched nerve is repeated massage, which elongates the tendon.

“It’s in the joints. It’s loose today. It’s OK if I rest. If I go out full-speed it’s catching it,” Arenas said, adding that surgery isn’t an option. “No, no, no, no. I told them I’m not doing surgery anymore.”

Arenas said he hopes to start again on Sunday but that it could be another brief appearance depending on how he feels after resting.

The guard isn’t putting himself at risk of further injury, coach Eddie Jordan said. He and his staff will continue to closely monitor Arenas’ minutes, likely scaling his limit back to 20 to 25 minutes a game — if the knee cooperates.

“I am optimistic,” Jordan said. “He’s not damaging himself. He’s not doing any further damage structurally to his knee. It’s just, it’s sore and it gets tired. I do that drinking coffee in the morning. My elbow and my biceps. But in our evaluation, we’re not hurting him.”

Arenas had his 2006-07 season ended when he tore the lateral meniscus in the same knee and had the first surgery in April 2007. He returned by the beginning this season after putting himself through a rigorous training regimen and started the first eight games on the schedule.

But Arenas continued to experience pain in the knee and had to go under the knife again on Nov. 21 after learning that during his rehab he had torn the medial meniscus in the same knee.

Arenas then missed the next 66 games while recovering. He returned to action as a reserve on April 2 against Milwaukee. During the final five regular season games he played in, Arenas was limited to 20 to 25 minutes of action. He averaged 14.6 points in 21.6 minutes of play. His best game came on April 20 when he scored 12 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter and also finished with seven rebounds and five assists.

His minutes increased in the first two games of this Cleveland series, but his production has been mixed. Arenas scored 24 points in 28 minutes off the bench in Game 1, which the Wizards lost 93-86. Then he struggled the next time out, mustering seven points on 2-for-10 shooting in a 116-86 drubbing in Game 2 on Monday.

Arenas’ return to the lineup was somewhat of a last-minute decision. An hour before the game Jordan said he expected Arenas to come off the bench.

But after Arenas got the MRI done and then testing his knee out with a rigorous workout session, informed Jordan and his staff that it would be better for him to start since he was already warmed up.

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