Wednesday September 17th, 2008

Gilbert Arenas' name was once synonymous with several positive words. Explosive. Dynamic. Colorful. These days there is a new word that has become closely associated with Arenas, one he would undoubtedly prefer to keep his distance from.

Surgery.

On Wednesday, Arenas underwent yet another operation on his troublesome left knee. For those counting at home, that's three in the last 17 months. And though this one wasn't as invasive or traumatic as the microfracture procedure Arenas underwent last November, there are indications that this surgery could sabotage Washington's season.

According to a league source familiar with the procedure, the Wizards' All-Star point guard will not be able to play in early December, which Arenas has targeted for his return. Though the team has not offered a specific timetable for Arenas, it is expected that Agent Zero will be out until at least January and could miss as much as half the season.

How concerned should the Wizards be that their franchise player has spent the last year and a half being carved up more often than a Thanksgiving turkey? Take the New England Patriots' concern for Tom Brady -- and then multiply it by three. Predicting an NBA athlete's recovery from knee surgery can be tricky; there are positive outcomes (Amaré Stoudemire, Jason Kidd) and there are negative ones (Penny Hardaway, Chris Webber). But anytime a player's knee has to be probed three times, it significantly reduces his chances for a full recovery.

That's not a medical opinion. That's just common sense.

Of course, when considering how a player recovers, you have to take a long, hard look at the player. And although Arenas is preparing for his third go-round with rehabilitation, he still has two factors working in his favor: his age (26) and his incredible work ethic. He also has one considerable disadvantage: his incredible work ethic.

Huh? Let me explain.

By now, Arenas' extreme workouts have been well chronicled. He sprints up stairs, shoots thousands of jump shots and requires a key to most gyms so he can let himself in late at night. But rehabilitation isn't about how hard you work. Not exactly, anyway. It's the nature of your workout.

Rehabbing athletes aren't supposed to thunder up stairs. They are supposed to lie flat on their back with a stability ball. Sprinting and shooting? How about some quad strengthening exercises and stretching. The word out of Washington has been that as good as Arenas has been at coming into camp in shape throughout his career and the leaps and bounds by which he has improved since being drafted in the second round in 2001, rehab just isn't his bag. The the painstaking details that go into properly healing a complex body part like the knee just don't appeal to him.

The Wizards need to take extreme measures to ensure that Arenas fully recovers. Move a trainer into his house. Move Arenas into general manager Ernie Grunfeld's house. Leaving Arenas to his own devices is a recipe for disaster and not one the Wizards can afford after investing $111 million in Arenas over the next six seasons. Don't ever leave him alone. They need to make sure that when Arenas rehabs this time around, he does it right.

Or it won't be the last time he has to do it.

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