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There is not a trace of hope in the house on Abe Pollin’s Fun Street. If Arenas becomes the next Penny Hardaway or Grant Hill - once All-Star players reduced to competent by injuries - the franchise will need five to seven years to recover.

That is assuming no team would be willing to accept Arenas’ contract until the final year of it.

It is easy to second-guess the gamble of Pollin and Grunfeld. It is easy to say they should have let Arenas walk last season. Those critics would have been the first to question the franchise’s commitment to winning if Arenas had not been re-signed.

That was the criticism leveled in Pollin’s direction during the brouhaha involving Juwan Howard and the Heat. That charge eventually prompted Pollin to overpay for Howard once the team received a do-over from the league office.

So now the Wizards are stuck anew with a player whose contract appears incommensurate with his value.

That reality is ever more frustrating because of a conference that is shedding its junior varsity label. Franchises in the conference that could be counted on to supply the Wizards with a couple of victories each season have moved ahead of them. The Magic will remain a worthy team in the seasons ahead because of center Dwight Howard. The Hawks are young and energetic and appear to have a future. Even Dwyane Wade and the Heat are in recovery mode.

Arenas reminded everyone last summer how the Wizards were in first place in the conference in February 2007 before the injuries started to fell them.

But that conference is no more, starting with the Celtics, who went from a lottery team to a championship team in that time.

And to the lottery is where the Arenas-tied Wizards are heading this season.