- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2007

I think the Wizards would have eliminated the Cavaliers in five or six games if Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler were not injured.

This undoubtedly is basketball heresy in Cleveland, where the Witnesses can point to the playoff outcome between these two teams last spring.

I just do not like the makeup of the Cavaliers. There is something missing, something lacking, something that is perhaps beyond the control of coach Mike Brown.

He has a mishmash of parts for one thing. Two of his starters, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Drew Gooden, perform better from halfcourt sets. Two of his other starters, LeBron James and Larry Hughes, probably would be better served in a wide-open, let-it-rip offense.

A balance is not easily forged, even if James is the team’s franchise player and Hughes is arguably the No. 2 player on the roster if he is afforded greater creative license in the open floor.

The Cavaliers are a 50-win team almost by default in the wreck that is the Eastern Conference. The conference is destined to have two or three teams in that vicinity each season, no matter how weak it is, because of the unbalanced schedule between the two conferences.

The Wizards could have been in the 50-win vicinity were it not for the spate of injuries that derailed them, starting with Antawn Jamison being shelved at the end of January.

The team never could regain its equilibrium after Jamison was sidelined for a month.

Butler tried to play through a nagging injury following the All-Star break and clearly was not himself. He sat out six games. He then returned and was re-energized, and you know the rest.

He broke his hand in Milwaukee on April 1.

Arenas was lost to a freak knee injury three nights later.

How would have it all turned out if the Wizards had been able to maintain their health?

We cannot know for sure, because sports are full of surprises.

We cannot even be certain the Cavaliers will sweep the Wizards, which is the prevailing view.

We can say the Wizards were among the conference’s elite, as elite is defined down in the conference, and seemingly were relishing their portrayal as the Suns of the East.

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