- The Washington Times - Monday, January 12, 2009

Washington Wizards captain Antawn Jamison missed practice Sunday while resting the strained patellar tendon in his right knee.

Jamison, who leads the Wizards with 20.4 points and 9.3 rebounds a game, injured his knee late in the second quarter of Washington’s 92-89 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday night. He returned for the start of the third quarter and played 18 minutes in the second half, when he scored seven of his 13 points.

After the game and before the extent of the injury was learned, interim coach Ed Tapscott said Jamison would be given Sunday off. It’s the same knee the forward bruised in the preseason, when he missed three games.

Listed as day-to-day, Jamison will be evaluated after Monday morning’s shootaround. But the belief within the organization is that he will play in Washington’s game against visiting Milwaukee at 7 p.m.

If he can’t go - or if he can but has to carry a lighter load - it will mean more minutes for the team’s younger reserves, who finally seem to be coming around. During the first three months of the season, the younger Wizards struggled. But beginning with a stretch that began in the final week of December, those players have improved.

Fourth-year big man Andray Blatche, who has started 15 of the past 16 games at center, is averaging 10.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists as a starter. In the past five games, second-year small forward Dominic McGuire is giving Washington 4.2 rebounds to go with 6.4 points a game.

Second-year shooting guard Nick Young appears to have broken out of his slump, averaging 12.7 points in his past six games, including a career-high 28 points Friday at Chicago. Lately, point guard Javaris Crittenton has been the first guard off the bench and is playing with more confidence while setting up the offense. After averaging just 4.9 minutes in his first month with the Wizards, in January he has logged 20 minutes a game while handing out 2.3 assists.

“I’m getting more comfortable every game, just being in there that many minutes, being in the game toward the end of the stretch, so I’m definitely getting more comfortable,” he said. “You can run the offense in practice, but when you’re in a [live] game situation, now I know how to find players better, when to drive or run the offense. There’s just a lot that I’ve learned.”

After sitting out four straight games, rookie JaVale McGee gave a re-energized performance Saturday with nine points, four rebounds and a block in 19 minutes.

Despite those improved contributions, the Wizards have lost four in a row, so they need even more from their young players.

“I see a lot of improvement,” forward Caron Butler said. “They’ve come a long way, but they still have a ways to go. This league is brutal, and it’s about consistency. It’s all about consistency and bringing it night in and night out, and once you’re able to do that, then you’re a true professional.”

Tapscott said he will continue to go young off the bench - as long as those players continue to produce and remain disciplined.

“We have to make sure that everybody plays to a team scheme,” he said. “When people divert, then other people get a chance. And if they play well, they stay.”

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