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Wizards at Magic, more Gilbert

Is tonight a playoff preview? I guess we'll find out after the Wizards get back from next week's brutal West Coast trip but we pretty much can count on the Orlando Magic staying in third-place. I arrived at the arena early (the hotel is right across the street) and saw Gilbert Arenas go through an extensive shooting workout.

I'll say this: the guy has not lost a bit of range and I didn't see him favoring the left leg in any way. At one point, he drained 10 of 13 shots from four of five feet behind the three-point line. Patrick Ewing, who is on the Magic staff, and a group of Orlando assistants watched Arenas intently.

Arenas also offered something of an update on his possible return.
"I'll be back way before the playoffs," Arenas said. "Hopefully, within this week, I'll be playing or maybe on the West Coast trip."
For the record, the Wiz play at Miami Friday night, host Detroit Sunday night and open a five-game trip at Portland on Tuesday.

Never one to let the foks with notebooks down, Arenas showed why he is the favorite of writers in most NBA towns by offering an honest answer to a question from Orlando reporters about the possibility of the Wizards facing the Magic in the playoffs.

"We're not scared of any team," Arenas said. "There's no team that actually frightens us out there. When you have three guys that can score 20, we're more frightening because no one has actually seen us as a whole group yet. Everyone has seen spurts of our team but they don't have a scouting report. If they have a scouting report, it's from last year so, we're kind of the favorite going in of you look at it from that aspect."

So there you have it, the Wizards are the favorites. Gilbertology baby, you gotta love it!

He also talked about what kind of Arenas fans should expect.

"To be honest, this year, I don't think I'm going to be able to play like I play. I'll probably be a shooter, distributor but probably won't be as aggressive. We probably won't see that until the playoffs or I might just wait 'till next year before I start attacking, just throwing my body all over the place."

He also expanded a bit on why he is more hesitant to rush back from the second surgery than the first. (Which goes to my theory that he simply doesn't trust that he's going to go out there, cut loose and not wind up under the knife a third time in less than a year. Hard to blame him for that).

"That's what happened last time," Arenas said. "As soon as they said I was cleared, I got hurt again. That's what's really on my mind. I got the MRI (in early November), it said I was clear. They said: 'there's just puffiness in there' and I asked the question: 'can anything happen?' and it was "oh, no, no, no.' Then two games later, I said: 'let's get an MRI again, and it was: 'oh, you need surgery.' I was like: 'what the hell, you just told me to go out there and play free now.' Then, as soon as I go out there and play free, I'm back here. So, that's the big worry. I've heard this one before."

More on that: "I'm looking for the miracle where it doesn't hurt. I don't know if I'm going to wake up all of a sudden and there's no pain and it's healed. Or, is there going to be achiness until I just actually stop playing for a while. Players have told me: 'you're going to keep feeling it. You're going to keep feeling it until you just actually sit down for a month or two and just strengthen in. Once it gets stronger, you won't feel it."

Elsewhere in the locker room before the game, DeShawn Stevenson shed some new light on why he busted out and called LeBron James "overrated" after last Thursday's win over the Cavaliers. In case you didn't notice, the two were jawing at each other all night long and it began before the opening tip.

Apparently, James said something about DeShawn to former Cav Drew Gooden, who recently related that information to DeShawn. He didn't appreciate it.
"We're all in the same profession," Stevenson said. "We don't need to talk bad about one another. So, that's how it happened. I was ticked off and that's why I said something to him at tip-off. So, it goes back further than people think."

I asked DeShawn if what James said was basketball-related or personal and he said: "It was both. I won't say what he said. I said something back and we'll leave it at that."

Maybe James, who wears a beard, is jealous of the one Stevenson is growing?
Stevenson with a laugh: "I don't know what he's jealous of. He makes more money than me that's for sure."

Coach Eddie Jordan reported that all went well with the curfew he imposed last night so the fellas should be well rested. They get tonight off after the flight to Miami and will be back under curfew Thursday night. Not me though. The book stores stay open very late on South Beach.

By Ivan Carter  |  March 19, 2008; 6:52 PM ET
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