- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Washington Wizards guard Larry Hughes will miss four to six weeks because of a broken left wrist, depriving the team of its leading scorer just a week after long-absent stars Jerry Stackhouse and Gilbert Arenas returned to the court.

“It’s very disappointing,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said yesterday. “He was playing well. He was taking a lot of hits. When we got Gilbert back and Stack back it seemed like Larry was flourishing with those two guys on the court. The game was coming much easier to him, and he looked very comfortable on the floor.”

Hughes, 25, led the Wizards in scoring with an 18.7 average and started in all but one of the team’s 49 games. Hughes also averaged 5.0 rebounds and 2.4 assists.

Hughes is believed to have suffered the injury in a 103-101 loss to Memphis a week ago. Hughes scored 27 points against the Grizzlies and then had 21 Friday in a win against the Los Angeles Clippers.

However, the pain in his wrist became intense Saturday in the Wizards’ 106-88 victory at Cleveland, and Hughes left the game scoreless after seven minutes.

The game against the Cavaliers is the only one this season in which the Wizards have fielded their full roster. Stackhouse missed the first 45 games of the season following arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. Arenas has appeared in 23 games mostly because of a severely strained abdomen he suffered in late November.

Hughes, perhaps as much as anybody, was looking forward to the time when the Wizards were completely healthy. Through much of the season, Hughes and Kwame Brown were the only Wizards who merited constant double-teaming.

With Arenas and Stackhouse back in the lineup, Hughes expected the double-teams to come with far less frequency, freeing him up to do more than be the main option at the end of games.

“It’s tough,” said Hughes, wearing a hard cast. “In the time that we spent on the court in the last couple of weeks we definitely know that we have what it takes to win, especially in the Eastern Conference. To lose another player is tough.”

If Hughes is sidelined four weeks, he would return in the second week of March. If he comes back in six weeks, his return most likely would come during a West Coast trip toward the end of March.

The Wizards did not make a roster move yesterday and have 11 healthy players. They could move to activate either Chris Whitney or Mitchell Butler from the injured list.

The Wizards have not ruled out making a deal before the Feb.19 trade deadline.

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

However, Hughes’ injury is not something that is likely to force the team’s hand. Stackhouse and Juan Dixon can both play Hughes’ two-guard spot. And the Wizards believe they also can plug in rookie forward Jarvis Hayes at the position, if necessary.

However, the logical lineup change would be to insert either Brevin Knight or rookie Steve Blake at the point and move Arenas to play the two guard.

After tonight’s game in Philadelphia against the 76ers — who fired coach Randy Ayers yesterday and are swirling in turmoil — the Wizards don’t play again until Tuesday thanks to the All-Star Game break.

And despite having the third-worst record in the league, Washington is only five games out of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

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