WASHINGTON -- With the Washington Wizards trailing by two and 4.5 seconds remaining, Gilbert Arenas missed a free throw but chased down the rebound. He whirled in the corner -- rushing himself a bit, -- and put up a 3-pointer that could have won the game against the Detroit Pistons.
Alas, the ball barely made it out of his hands. Former Wizards flop Kwame Brown blocked the shot. Agent Zero threw up his hands asking for a foul as he landed, but he knew that the official had made the correct no-call. The comeback game would end without his perfect ending.
Caron Butler grabbed the ball and missed a jump shot at the buzzer, and the Pistons survived with a 98-96 victory Saturday night.
"I'm going to think about that the whole way to Indiana," Arenas said as the team prepared to catch a postgame plane to play the Pacers on Sunday. "I should've called a timeout, or I should've just drove the lane off the rebound, but that's what happened. We've got to live with it. ... Just had a mental block."
That's easy to forgive, considering the rust Arenas had to feel in his first game since April 27, 2008. The three-time All-Star had missed 156 of his Wizards' previous 173 games, including playoffs, thanks to a knee injury that spawned two overeager comeback attempts and three surgeries during an 18-month span.
Arenas finished with 15 points on 3-for-12 shooting and 10 assists in 30 minutes, helping the Wizards rally from a 15-point, second-half deficit. After the two failed comebacks, he had been determined to make sure he was completely healthy before trying again, especially with Washington mired in last place in the East.
"You've ever heard that expression, 'If you want it to rain, wash your car'? That's what happened this morning," Arenas said. "I got here, knee's been feeling fine this whole time, as soon as I got here it started aching. 'Oh man, see, I knew this was going to happen.' So I said I wasn't going to play. And then once I got home, I felt better. I said, 'Oh, it's just nerves kicking in.' Once I got out there, it was all basketball from there."
Indeed, his knee seemed to pose him no problem. He hit the floor several times and was never slow getting up, even when he was tripped by Rodney Stuckey during a drive to the basket in the fourth quarter.
Just to be on the safe side, Arenas does not plan to play any back-to-backs for the rest of the season, which means he'll be a spectator Sunday against the Pacers.
"At the end of the day, you're going to have to test it out," said Arenas, playing his first game since signing a $111 million, six-year contract last summer. "Now or at the beginning of the season next year. I'm going to have to find out where my knee was. It's easy to play in practice and do my own thing, but to come here with the adrenaline and other players coming at you, that's the test I needed -- and that's the reason I came back."
Richard Hamilton, back after missing six games with a left groin injury, scored 16 of his 31 points in the third quarter for the Pistons, who broke a three-game losing streak and steered their tenuous playoff hopes -- at least temporarily -- back in the right direction. Detroit had lost six of its previous seven, including five of six without Hamilton, and is teetering precariously in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. The win moved the Pistons within percentage points of Chicago for seventh place.
Brown was certainly an unlikely candidate to make the big play at the end. The 2001 No. 1 overall draft pick by the Wizards was one of the biggest disappointments in franchise history, and he's booed heavily every time he returns to the Verizon Center with another team.
"I saw Gilbert already going into his shot," Brown said. "He was loading up before he went up for the shot, so I just jumped. Then he tried to kick his leg out to get the foul. Good job by the ref not calling it. He tried to initially throw it off me, but I kind of blocked it a little bit. Caron got a clean look. That was the longest four seconds I've ever seen."
Hamilton made 11 of his season-high 29 attempts and seemed to put the game comfortably in Detroit's favor by camping out along the baseline for wide open 3-pointers in the third period. The Pistons led by as many as 15 in the third before the Wizards rallied, feeding off the energy of younger players such as Javaris Crittenton, Nick Young, Dominic McGuire and JaVale McGee and the presence of Arenas.
"I'm just out here trying to figure out what I can do," Arenas said, "what's my limitations, how many minutes I can play without feeling pain going into next season."
- Jamison scored 21 points to lead the Wizards.
- Butler returned after missing seven straight games with a sore left hamstring.
- The Pistons remain without forward Rasheed Wallace, who missed his 10th straight game with a strained left calf, and guard Allen Iverson, who sat for the 16th in a row with a sore back. Coach Michael Curry said both players will be back for Tuesday's game at Cleveland, and that Iverson might play against Philadelphia on Sunday.
- Wizards F Darius Songaila (sprained neck) and G Juan Dixon (right ankle tendinitis) did not suit up.
- The Pistons committed eight turnovers in the fourth quarter.