- The Washington Times - Monday, February 16, 2004

The Washington Wizards’ luck with injuries — all bad — continued over the All-Star break. They resume their season tonight as perhaps the only team in the NBA to suffer an injury over the weekend.

Rookie Jarvis Hayes, expected to fill in for the injured Larry Hughes over the next few weeks, is questionable for the Wizards (16-34) against the Rockets (30-22) in Houston after spraining his right ankle Friday in the Rookie Challenge game in Los Angeles.

“He’s sore,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “I don’t know if he’ll be able to go.”

Also questionable with a sprained ankle is Etan Thomas. The backup center was injured in the team’s final practice before Wednesday’s game at Philadelphia, which the Wizards lost by 25 points.

The Wizards play at New Orleans tomorrow. Both players are going on the trip and could be available.

The Wizards will be exploring trade possibilities up until Thursday’s 3p.m. deadline. But Washington is not expected to be much of a player because it is looking ahead to next summer, when it could play a major role in the free agent market.

Dating to Michael Jordan’s days as president of basketball operations and right into the present administration under Ernie Grunfeld, the team’s philosophy has been to avoid taking on any long-term deals and, if possible, to rid itself of any cumbersome contracts.

The Wizard most frequently mentioned in trade rumors is reserve forward Christian Laettner.

Laettner clearly has fallen out of favor within the organization since his five-game suspension last month for violating the league’s drug policy. A sometime starter before being suspended starting with the Wizards’ Jan.13 game against Houston, the 6-foot-11 Laettner was averaging close to 23 minutes a game.

But since he returned against Boston on Jan.23, Laettner has appeared in just five of a possible 10 games and has seen his playing time reduced to an average of just 15.2 minutes.

One possible deal has Toronto sending Michael Curry and Morris Peterson to Washington for Laettner. Both Curry and Peterson are in the final year of their deals, while Laettner is scheduled to make approximately $6.1million next season in the final year of his contact.

Grunfeld’s policy is to refrain from commenting on any possible trade.

“We’ve been exploring some trade opportunities, and that’s what you do at this time of year,” Grunfeld said.

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