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News » Pistons-Wizards Preview 2009-03-27

Pistons-Wizards Preview 2009-03-27

Pistons-Wizards Preview 2009-03-27
Over 16 months have passed since Gilbert Arenas was last in the starting lineup for the Washington Wizards. With a playoff spot on the line, the Detroit Pistons can't wait much longer for their trio of stars to return.

The struggling Pistons have to contend with Arenas' season debut, but hope to have Richard Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace back when they face the lowly Wizards on Saturday night.

Arenas is set to start for Washington (17-56) for the first time since Nov. 16, 2007. The veteran point guard, who has missed all of this season and played in only 13 games in 2007-08, has been dealing with a left knee injury that led to three surgeries in an 18-month span.

"The plan is still holding," Washington interim coach Ed Tapscott said. "So we're still on schedule for launch, I guess."

Arenas developed into one of the league's top scorers before getting hurt. He's averaging 30.6 points and 7.8 assists while shooting 52.5 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from 3-point range in five career games against the Pistons (34-37) at Washington.

Arenas has been sorely missed on a Wizards team that has the worst record in the Eastern Conference, and is set to miss the playoffs for the first time in five years.

Detroit, meanwhile, has lost seven of nine and is in danger of having a seven-year playoff run come to an end largely due to injuries suffered by three of its best players. The Pistons, in eighth place in the East, have been without Allen Iverson (back) the last 15 games, Wallace (calf) the past nine and Hamilton (groin) has missed six straight.

Hamilton, though, is expected to return Saturday, and he may be joined by Wallace. Detroit hopes Iverson will be able to play next week.

"It's a psychological lift knowing they're going to return soon," Detroit coach Michael Curry said.

The Pistons are in desperate need of a boost from that group. Even when healthy, Detroit wasn't playing with the kind of confidence that helped it advance to at least the conference finals in six straight seasons.

The Pistons lost 92-77 to the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night for their third straight defeat.

Washington took down a playoff hopeful Wednesday night, beating Charlotte 95-93 after losing its previous five.

Arenas' return could give the Wizards a boost down the stretch of an otherwise lost season. If Arenas can prove his knee is healthy, that would erase a good deal of uncertainty for Washington heading into the offseason.

Arenas, who began practicing at full speed last month, is getting his first chance to prove he deserved the six-year, $111 million contract he signed last summer.

Caron Butler, who along with Antawn Jamison has carried the Wizards in Arenas' absence, may be back in the lineup after missing seven straight games with a sore left hamstring.

Butler and Arenas were two of the four projected starters the Wizards played without Wednesday. Center Brendan Haywood (wrist) has yet to play this season and DeShawn Stevenson (back) has been out most of this year.

Jamison, a two-time All-Star, is one of two Washington players to have played all 73 contests this season. Reserve guard Nick Young hasn't missed a game, either.

Jamison, averaging 22.3 points, has been held to 15 or fewer in three of his last four games versus the Pistons. Detroit leads the season series 2-1.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: March 27, 2009


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