Sunday, April 29, 2007

Limping With the Stars 

Posted by Sasha at 9:25 PM ET

Dan Steinberg takes an irreverent look at the Wizards-Cavaliers playoff series

Sunday, April 29, 2007

On one side of the arena last night sat injured all-stars Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas, in street clothes, cheering on their teammates. On the other side sat injured all-star Crystal, doing the same.

Like Butler and Arenas, Crystal, a member of the Wizards dance team, was having a career season in this, her fourth year with the team. The highlight came in January, when she was selected as Washington's representative to the All-Star Game in an online vote, joining Butler and Arenas in Las Vegas.

"It was amazing to perform in front of all those people," she said yesterday. "It was probably the coolest thing I've done so far as a dancer."

Then came the injury bug, nipping at Crystal's heels before it reached her more celebrated colleagues. During a March 17 home win over New Orleans, the Fort Washington native leapt off a trampoline and completed a tomahawk dunk before landing awkwardly.

"I knew something was wrong, but I felt like I could walk it off," she said. "But I tried to, and I couldn't."

She was taken off on a gurney, and the team doctor diagnosed a torn ACL in her right knee, although she couldn't bear to go to the hospital that night, not wanting any more bad news. An MRI exam several days later -- at the same office that would later perform the MRI exam on Arenas -- confirmed the injury. The University of Maryland public health student is scheduled to have surgery in May, and said she won't be 100 percent until next December.

Of course, within three weeks, Butler and Arenas were also shelved by injuries, leaving Coach Eddie Jordan and his assistants the team's only unscathed all-stars.

"The coaching staff better watch itself," Butler said yesterday. "Step on a crack, break your mama's back, all that."

But Crystal -- who continued attending home games, like Butler, and even dance team practices despite her injury -- said she didn't believe the franchise was cursed.

"I just think it's a string of bad luck, and it could happen to any team," she said. "It is unfortunate, but I still have faith. It's been an amazing year, regardless of the injury. I would still do the tomahawk dunk. If I was able to tomorrow, I would definitely do it." [cont'd]

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