- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Washington Wizards had a completely healthy Antawn Jamison back on the practice court for the first time in five weeks, and he is expected to make his season debut Wednesday when the Cleveland Cavaliers come to town.

The two-time All-Star power forward, who in the past two seasons has led the Wizards in both scoring and rebounding, missed the last two weeks of the preseason and all nine of the Wizards’ regular-season games with a partially dislocated right shoulder. He was cleared for full-contact practice Thursday, but a virus kept him sidelined another three days, causing him to miss two practices and Saturday’s 106-103 loss to Detroit.

The Wizards did not practice Sunday, so Jamison - who has spent the last two weeks working on the side on his conditioning and shooting - got his first action Monday.

“He looked like ‘Twan out there,” Wizards shooting guard Mike Miller said of Jamison, who was not made available to reporters. “He makes it a lot easier, spreads the floor. Nice to have another weapon out there. It’s going to help us a lot as far as floor spacing and moving the ball.”

The Wizards are hoping that the return of Jamison, who last season averaged team highs of 22.2 points and 8.9 rebounds, can help ignite a stagnant offense and finally get them on a winning track following a 2-7 start.

“You get him back, and the guys all see how things can fall into place and the rhyme and reason of what we’re trying to do,” coach Flip Saunders said. “Not only how he plays but he’s got a high basketball IQ, and what he does is increase the other guys’ IQ. One good pass leads to another one, and he just creates spacing out there. … And as much as anything, his leadership on the floor, the things he does as far as communication and all those things are a factor. The elder statesman always brings those little things.”

Saunders doesn’t expect all of the Wizards’ troubles to be cured instantly, however. But at least Jamison’s skills and intangibles will put them closer to making strides of improvement.

“Three of those games, we just basically [struggled] the last four minutes of those games and didn’t win those games. And those are games that I’m hoping we’ll now have the ability to [win],” the coach said. “What happens when you lose players is you lose your confidence in your ability to run or execute a set down the stretch and you become too much of a one-on-one or two-on-two thing, which sometimes is not as easy to play. Now I think we’ll be able to have execution down the stretch instead of individual play.”

Oberto dinged

One of the benefits of Jamison’s return is that his teammates will be able to return to their natural roles and their workloads will lighten. That news couldn’t have come at a better time for forward/center Fabricio Oberto, who has played despite being plagued by a sore left hamstring for the past five days.

The 34-year-old Oberto started in place of Jamison for the first seven games of the season, but then switched places with Andray Blatche in the last two. The Wizards had planned on using Oberto sparingly at backup center during the regular season in an attempt to keep him fresh for the playoffs. But Jamison’s injury and the inconsistencies of second-year center JaVale McGee changed that.

Saunders said with Jamison back, he was able to hold Oberto out of the second half of Monday’s practice and hopes to continue to spare him while his heals. Blatche will move back to backup power forward.

Foye still limited

Backup guard Randy Foye, who has been sidelined since spraining his right ankle Nov. 10, likely will miss more time. Saunders said Foye, who is averaging 11.3 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists off the bench, tested out his ankle before Monday’s practice, but it’s still too sore for him to return to action.

The Wizards will continue to list Foye, who was acquired via trade this past offseason, as day-to-day.

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