- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Washington Wizards, desperate to snap a five-game losing streak, anxiously looked to this weekend for what they anticipated would mark both the season debut of team captain Antawn Jamison and the return of starting shooting guard Mike Miller.

Jamison and Miller - as well as backup point guard Randy Foye, who sprained his ankle Tuesday - could be back in uniform for the Wizards on Saturday night when they host the Detroit Pistons, but the team will be far from whole again.

And that’s if they play.

Jamison, who has been sidelined since Oct. 13 with a partially dislocated right shoulder, was cleared for practice Thursday. But his status for Saturday is in doubt because of a virus that kept him from practicing Thursday and Friday.

Miller, who sprained his left shoulder Nov. 4, took part in noncontact activity Thursday, then went full speed Friday. He said he still is experiencing a good deal of pain, however, and coach Flip Saunders said the team would wait to see how Miller and Jamison felt after Saturday morning’s shootaround before determining whether they would play.

Miller on Friday described his shoulder as “playable” even though he said the pain made this injury the worst of his 10-year career. He’s willing to play, though, because the sense of urgency associated with getting his team on track is more intense than the discomfort in his shoulder.

“We need a win,” Miller said. “I’ll be all right. I’m not going to put myself in any jeopardy. I’ll be fine. … I told Flip that I’ll be ready to play. If he feels I’m hurting the team, take me out. If not, I’ll be ready to play. My job is to play basketball.”

Foye was able to do light jogging and work on an elliptical machine while watching his teammates practice, and he also said he would have to see how he felt Saturday before deciding whether he could play.

Although returning prematurely creates risk for more damage, Miller said he thinks he’s at the point where he can’t cause further problems. Foye said he’s been told by the team’s medical staff to take his time.

But with the Wizards already owning the worst record in the Southeast Division and the third-worst mark in the Eastern Conference, taking it slow is itself a risk.

“It’s definitely a push to come back as far as us guys,” Foye said. “No one’s pushing us to come back, but we just want to get out there and produce. I think [it’s] just the competitive nature of wanting to get out there and help your team win.”

The Wizards hope that once Jamison, Miller and Foye are back to full strength, they can break out of an offensive slump in which they have mustered just 86.2 points a game during the five-game skid.

Despite being a shooting guard, Miller proved himself to be one of Washington’s best facilitators during the preseason and a five-game regular-season sampling. Jamison, the club’s top scorer and rebounder the past two seasons, averaged 18.8 points and 8.5 rebounds in four preseason games and would be an instant offensive upgrade over the defensive-minded Fabricio Oberto. And Foye’s return would mean the addition of 11.3 points and 2.4 assists a game.

Poor ball movement and an deficiency in assists have been the main problems for the Wizards this season, translating into 15.8 turnovers a game and 43.5 percent shooting. The Wizards are banking on the return of those three players to cure the ills.

“We know you can’t make excuses, but we’ve got two scorers gone, and they are big to what we do, which is stretching the floor,” center Brendan Haywood said. “The reason we score so many points is because we have a [power forward] like Antawn Jamison who can stretch the floor, score the three, or from a number of angles, and that makes it easier for myself and Caron [Butler]. Mike Miller is the best 3-point shooter in the game.”

Added Butler: “Twenty games in, we’ll revisit this and see where it’s at. It’s still early for everybody. We just have to continue to play together. … You saw a glimpse of it in the Dallas game, and hopefully we’ll get back to that when we have Antawn healthy and Mike Miller and Randy Foye and all those guys, and we’re going to have a great year.”

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