The Washington Wizards point guard was scheduled for surgery Thursday for a left knee injury that will sideline him for two to three months. Even the most optimistic scenario has him coming back only if his team manages to make the NBA finals without him.
"It's pretty much down," said guard DeShawn Stevenson, assessing the mood of the locker room following Thursday's practice. "But at the same time we are a playoff team. We have to worry about the playoffs and winning games."
Arenas was diagnosed with a lateral meniscus tear and was to have arthroscopic surgery at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington. He was injured in the first quarter of Wednesday night's 108-100 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats.
Arenas, who averaged 28.4 points and six assists, was always coming up with a new catch phrase. The best ones were his nickname - Agent Zero - and "Hibachi!" which he would yell when shooting his jumper.
"It's an unfortunate incident," coach Eddie Jordan said. "As coaches in the NBA you have to be prepared for what one of my old coaches use to call â€˜thunderbolts.' And I think we are prepared."
Thunderbolts, indeed. The Wizards have lost both of their All-Stars to injuries in less than a week. Caron Butler broke a bone in his hand in Sunday's loss to the Milwaukee Bucks and is out for six weeks.
"It's very difficult, to lead a conference and be the best team, and then all of a sudden injuries kind of plague the team," captain Antawn Jamison said. "But it's basketball. It's not the first time this has ever happened. It's just difficult for us because we were on the brink of doing something special as far as contending for the best record and really making some noise. Not to say that is too far-fetched now, but the identity of the team is totally different."
With Arenas gone, Antonio Daniels will run the team like a true point guard.
"The bottom line is you can't reinvent the wheel in April," Jordan said. "You stay with your system, but you shift the gears."