Issues with surgically repaired knee take out Arenas
Arenas, who missed most of the regular season following knee surgery, decided he was done shortly before the Wizards faced an elimination game Wednesday night in their first-round playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
With Arenas out, Caron Butler led the way and made a layup with 3.9 seconds left to give Washington an 88-87 victory and pull the Wizards to 3-2 in the series.
"Instead of me blocking the team from success, we just decided just go ahead and shut it down," Arenas said an hour before tipoff.
Hobbled by a bone bruise, the three-time All-Star played in the first four games of the series but was not the sharpshooting Agent Zero who has led the Wizards in the past.
He missed the past two days of practice to rest the knee, but then decided along with the team trainer that he would not play again this season regardless of whether the Wizards advance.
Arenas missed 66 games during the regular season and an MRI taken before Game 3 revealed that his surgically repaired left knee has a bone bruise and a pinched nerve.
"This nerve pinch, it just came out of the blue," Arenas said. "The swelling and the achiness -- I can play through that -- but the nerve pain where each step feels like you're hitting my funny bone, eventually, that was wearing and tearing. It's not going anywhere."
He averaged 10.8 points and shot 39 percent in the series, averaging just 23 minutes. His final shot was a potential tying 3-pointer at the end of Game 4 against Cleveland.
"It's frustrating because I was willing to do anything. I ended up taking the shot," said Arenas, referring to his hesitancy to numb the knee because he was "scared" of the needle.
"I'm taking four different kinds of pain pills ... just to play in a game, and it still doesn't work."
In true Agent Zero fashion, Arenas surprised even his coach with the news.
Wizards coach Eddie Jordan knew it was a possibility Arenas wouldn't play, but he found out the guard couldn't go at about the same time reporters did.
"We've performed very well without Gil. Look, we are a different team with Gilbert, very explosive. But we're ready to go without him," Jordan said.
The typically chatty Arenas didn't talk to the media for months while he was out, then ripped the Cavs in a blog entry before the series.
"I think everybody wants Cleveland in that first round," Arenas wrote. "We want Cleveland for our own reasons; we don't think they can beat us in the playoffs three years straight."
The comment was the first volley in a series that's been known more for the Wizards verbal jabs at LeBron James, than anybody's play on the court.
"I know he wants to play so bad," said James, Arenas' friend. "But the knee hasn't responded the best way. It's not good for him, but maybe it's the best thing for him so he's ready for the '09 season. He's a very good player and I know it's going to be tough for him not to be out there."
Arenas thanked his teammates for giving him the chance to play in the postseason. He said they understood his decision.
"I did everything I can. I went out there wounded and all just to play in the playoffs," he said. "It's my duty to let these guys go out there and just fight it -- put out some healthy bodies and beat this team. I can't go out there hobbling trying to help this team win because at the end of the day it's hurting us."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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