No Margin For Error

By Carla Peay
Updated: September 24, 2008

WASHINGTON — The NBA season starts in about five weeks, and for the Washington Wizards, it is once again, all about “Agent Zero.”

Wizards fans held their collective breath, and likely uttered the dreaded phrase, “not again”, when the announcement came last week that All-Star guard Gilbert Arenas had undergone yet another surgical procedure on his left knee.

Arenas initially estimated that he would be ready to play by early December, but not even a week had passed before Arenas revised his own estimate to late December or early January.

While Arenas may feel the third procedure is a positive move that will “allow [him] to come back faster”, even he must understand that fans in this town are nervous about the fact that Arenas, who inked a six-year, $111 million contract in July, will start the season in street clothes.

For a little clarity on the most talked about left knee in the nation’s capital, a little recap: Arenas tore the meniscus in his left knee in April of 2007 in a game against the Charlotte Bobcats, when he collided with Bobcats guard Gerald Wallace. Following surgery number one, Arenas’ was projected to be out for about three months.

Arenas did start the 2007-08 season, but continued soreness in the knee prompted Arenas to get a another set of tests, revealing there was still a partial tear in the meniscus, along with some minor bone damage. Arenas had surgery number two in November.

Again, a three month time table was given for his return.

Arenas returned in April, but a bone bruise and a pinched nerve limited his effectiveness, and he shut it down during the first round playoff series against the Cleveland Cavaliers. After an off-season of rehab, Arenas had the knee cleaned out on Sept., 17, which makes surgery number three.

Never one to keep his fans in the dark, Agent Zero kept the world informed about the status of his knee on his blog. “The doctors said that if I do get it cleaned out, then it might help me out in the long run because it might actually speed up my recovery because I won’t have that pain that’s keeping me from the stuff I need to be doing,” Arenas wrote.

While reluctant to undergo yet another procedure, at least this time, Arenas did heed the advice of his doctors. “I don’t think it’s the tune-up that people are hemming and hawing about, I think it’s just that it came about so all-of-the-sudden.”

“But just how you guys [the fans and the media] are thinking is the same way I’m thinking, like, “Man, another one?” I’m spending more time rehabbing than I actually am playing basketball,” Arenas wrote.

Arenas is correct about the hemming and hawing, and the genuine fear that his knee may never be completely right, and the explosive Agent Zero that was one of the league’s best players before the knee troubles began may not be seen again any time soon, if ever.

And while that’s certainly a worst case scenario, an equal number of fans have expressed more cynicism about the team’s part in all this, as they have concern about the health of the team’s young superstar. In other words, what did the team know and when did they know it?

Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld stated that the organization was aware that Arenas might need another procedure, and might not be ready to start the season, prompting fans to wonder why this news came after the due date for season ticket payments.

This is, after all, a town where conspiracy theories run amok, as the Chronicles of Agent Zero continue.