- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The first indicator that point guard Antonio Daniels will see action tomorrow when the Washington Wizards play host to the Detroit Pistons was the brief statement the team released yesterday announcing the dismissal of guard Mike Wilks after four games.

The more obvious sign came when the doors to the practice court at Verizon Center swung open to reveal Daniels, participating in five-on-five drills with his teammates for the first time in more than two months.

“It’s going to mean a lot to us,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said after practice. “He directs us. He’s our quarterback and we do good things when he’s in the lineup.

Daniels, who replaced Gilbert Arenas (knee) in the starting lineup on Nov. 17, hasn’t played since spraining his right knee at Miami on Dec. 13. The team initially set his timetable for recovery at two to four weeks.

“It [the knee] feels stable, strong,” Daniels said. “It’s just that I have to get that confidence of playing on it consistently. I’m not sure if it’s more mental than anything else.”

Since Daniels’ injury, the Wizards are 3-4. Before the injury Washington had won six of seven games.

One positive from the injury is th Wizards learned guard Roger Mason, who filled in for Daniels in five of the team’s seven games, has improved in his second season with the team.

In Daniels’ absence, Mason averaged 14.2 points while almost shooting 46 percent from the field. He averaged 3.6 assists, rarely turned the ball over and provided solid defense.

With Daniels in the starting lineup, the Wizards are 9-5. Daniels has averaged 11.0 points, shot almost 50 percent from the field and handed out 6.6 assists during that span.

According to Jordan, Daniels nearly returned for the team’s home victory on Saturday over Miami, but Daniels suffered somewhat of a setback and it was determined that he needed to sit out another game.

Daniels said watching the game from the sidelines has its perks.

“There is a huge benefit to it,” he said. “When you are watching, you see a lot more of what is going on during the game. Even when I’m in the game, I’ll come over to the side and ask Gil, DeShawn [Stevenson] or Roger: ‘What do you see out there.’ ”

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