Rehabbing Arenas sees bright side of last place for Wiz, aims for Jan. return

WASHINGTON -- Gilbert Arenas is already thinking about the possibility of a last-place finish for his Washington Wizards -- and finding the silver lining.

With Arenas still working his way back from a third knee operation in 1½ years, the Wizards are off to a 1-8 start heading into their game Friday against the Houston Rockets.

"I don't want to see them struggle," Arenas said Thursday at Madame Tussauds, where his wax figure was unveiled, "but if this is one of those years where we don't make the playoffs or we finish in last place ... that's what happened to San Antonio and that's how they got Tim Duncan and look at them now ... and that's for the better."

The Wizards haven't given a timetable for when their All-Star point guard might begin practicing or playing this season.

He, though, now is targeting the start of 2009.

"They said Jan. 1 -- there is no doubt that I will be good to go ... play 40 minutes," Arenas said, according to a transcript provided by the team.

"I definitely want to wait until after New Year's. ... It will give me time to get in shape. Plus I want to learn the new playbook," he added.

Arenas first had surgery on the left knee in April 2007, then had another operation in November, and appeared in only 13 regular-season games last season. The latest surgery was two months ago.

"The old me would have already been playing by now. Getting older I start thinking smarter and everything is going well," he said. "Right now we are just playing the waiting game."