- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 18, 2009

SEEN AND HEARD AT VERIZON CENTER

Even before the game began, the Wizards kicked off their post-All-Star stretch with a positive development: Center Andray Blatche was back in uniform.

Blatche had missed the last nine games after suffering a strained left knee in a collision with the Suns’ Shaquille O’Neal on Jan. 26. He didn’t start, but after entering the game at the start of the second quarter Blatche logged 14 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes.

Blatche’s return came a game earlier than expected. He first practiced with the team Monday, and while the fourth-year big man showed no ill effects, Tapscott said he wanted to see Blatche go through one more session to ensure his knee was fine.

But after Blatche showed more production during Tuesday morning’s shootaround and was cleared by the team’s medical staff, Tapscott welcomed him back.

“I need bodies,” Tapscott said with a chuckle.

Since Blatche’s injury, the Wizards have had only eight to 10 healthy players on a given night.

Blatche’s teammates Brendan Haywood, Gilbert Arenas, Etan Thomas and DeShawn Stevenson remained out, however. Haywood has increased activity with his surgically repaired right wrist and is working to resharpen his dribbling and shooting with that hand after not being able to use it for the past four months. Arenas is taking part in individual drills but has yet to resume contact portions of practice.

—Mike Jones

QUOTABLE

“It gets to a point where you can’t put the same thing down every year on your tax form, things change. That’s what I’m telling our young guys: At a certain point when you play two thirds of the season, you can’t keep calling yourselves ‘young guys.’ ”

—Wizards coach Ed Tapscott

BY THE NUMBERS

28.9 Percent shooting by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first half.

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