- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Washington Wizards will play their final nationally televised game of the season when LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers come to town Thursday. But the Wizards may have to do it without the recently returned Gilbert Arenas.

When the $111 million man announced last week he would make his season debut after missing the first 73 games of the year, Arenas said he would play in all four remaining home games and possibly two road games (April 8 at Cleveland and April 15 at Boston).

But even as interim coach Ed Tapscott said the team’s plan was on course - with the Wizards holding Arenas out of Wednesday’s game at Memphis - the star guard let on that he may be calling an audible.

“That was the plan? I don’t know,” Arenas said when asked about playing Thursday. “I need to see how it feels coming Thursday. I’ll have to see how it feels [Wednesday] if I play [Wednesday]. Then I can’t play Thursday.”

Arenas was asked whether he meant to say he was considering playing at Memphis, and he replied, “If I feel good, yeah.”

All appeared to be going according to the script that Arenas, the team’s medical staff and Tapscott had agreed to. Arenas returned Saturday against the Detroit Pistons (posting 15 points and 10 assists), then sat out the following night’s game in Indiana.

The Wizards returned to practice Tuesday, and Arenas went through the entire session - including a highly competitive scrimmage - as his team prepared for Wednesday’s game in Memphis. Tapscott said that although Arenas will travel to Memphis, the team would save him for Thursday’s date with Cleveland.

“We set the parameter - no back-to-backs,” Tapscott said. “This is a back-to-back, so we’d rather have him on the back-side this time at home against Cleveland. So he won’t play at Memphis.”

Arenas’ comments seemed to make “the plan” of playing only home games and select road ones seem like more of a guideline than a strict set of rules.

“I’m just going game-by-game,” Arenas said. “Just depending on what the trainer says [Wednesday], see how my knee feels.”

The eccentric guard, who has always embraced the spotlight, went out of character and indicated he didn’t see much appeal in playing on the big stage associated with the TNT broadcast against the rival Cavaliers, who own the best record in the NBA.

“I’m not here for the show right now,” he said with a shrug. “I’m here to work on my rehab, not to play up to the crowd and the hype right now.”

Arenas said his knee feels fine and that the possible change in plans had nothing to do with any type of a setback. Instead he is growing more comfortable each day and going hard at his teammates in practice, even arguing calls during scrimmages.

And as usual with Arenas, there’s plenty of unpredictability and uncertainty up until game time.

Notes - The Wizards had as close to a full roster for Tuesday’s practice as they have in weeks. Arenas practiced, as did Caron Butler, who missed seven games before returning for the Detroit and Indiana games last weekend. …

Forward/center Darius Songaila, who has missed the last four games with a pinched nerve in his neck, also was back on the court. Songaila said he still feels a few slight twinges in his shoulder, which he struggled to even lift last week. He added he may play Wednesday. …

Brendan Haywood (wrist) also practiced; Tapscott said although the center is making progress, he still needs “more time” to improve his conditioning and get into game shape.



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