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Ousted Wizards cry over aches



Published: Sun, May 4, 2008 @ 12:00 a.m.

Washington is singing the blues inspired by injuries.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Washington Wizards sang a familiar tune in the aftermath of a third consecutive first-round series loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The words were almost cut-and-paste from a year ago.

“Who knows what happens if we have a healthy team?” point guard Antonio Daniels said.

“If we was whole, who knows what would have happened?” All-Star forward Caron Butler said.

“We haven’t been able to see what we would be like if we were healthy for a long period of time,” center Brendan Haywood said.

Once again, the world has been deprived of a full-strength Wizards team in the playoffs, their brief run ending Friday night with a 105-88 home loss to Cavaliers in Game 6.

The possibilities will be endless when there finally arrives a spring in which the Big Three of Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Butler are simultaneously hitting on all cylinders after years of building chemistry together. Eastern Conference finals? Piece of cake.

But how long can the front office wait for that healthy postseason to come around? Isn’t every team banged up at this time of year? Weren’t the Cavaliers, who struggled down the stretch after a major trade-deadline move, ripe for the picking despite the domineering presence of LeBron James? Is it time for change after so much of the same old, same old? Is there a new voice needed in the locker room?

Team president Ernie Grunfeld will have to address those questions in the offseason. Jamison, the veteran locker room leader, is set to become a free agent. Arenas plans to opt out of his contract so that he can sign for more money. Both have said they want to return, and Grunfeld — who is expected to address the media later this week — has previously indicated he’d like to have both back.

But the business side of sports is a funny thing.

All it would take is an impasse in negotiations, a too-good-to-turn-down offer from another team or simply a change of heart among the principals to give the Wizards a dramatically different look next season.

“I’m the only one of the Big Three that has a contract,” Butler said. “But that’s no guarantee to be back next year. Anything can happen. But I’ve got faith in this organization, and I strongly feel that we’ll stay intact.”


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