- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2004

The NBA’s trading deadline came and went yesterday and, as expected, the Washington Wizards were inactive.

To their defense, the Wizards have little to offer other teams and the only trade of real significance was Rasheed Wallace going from Atlanta to Detroit.

“We had a lot of conversations as most teams do at this time of year,” Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld said. “At the end of the day nothing came to fruition that we thought would be of great benefit to us in the long term.”

The fact the Wizards (16-36) did not make a trade doesn’t come as stunning news for a variety of reasons.

Although there isn’t a player on the roster the front office considers untouchable, the Wizards were not believed to be shopping players like Gilbert Arenas, Jerry Stackhouse, Kwame Brown or anyone else seen as a building block for the future.

There was lukewarm interest in veteran forward Christian Laettner. But Laettner, who has one year remaining on his contract, is scheduled to make under $6.2million next season, a hefty price for a 34-year-old, 11-year veteran who is years removed from his prime. Another reason for other teams to shun Laettner is a clause in his contract guaranteeing a 15 percent to 20 percent increase in salary if he is traded.

There was also some interest in veteran point guard Brevin Knight, who has been in and out of the rotation since the Wizards acquired him from Phoenix in exchange for Jahidi White early in the season.

Knight is in the final year of a contract that will pay him $5million and there is almost no chance the Wizards will try to keep him beyond this season.

The long-range plan for the Wizards still seems to be a potential free-agent bonanza after next season when the only players on the roster with guaranteed deals (about $19.7million) would be Arenas, Stackhouse and Jarvis Hayes.

“We do have the ability to have significant cap room,” Grunfeld said. “But if something comes up along the way that we feel is an investment that we need to make in a player, we’ll do it.”

Of more immediate concern is the sorry play of a team that must still play the rest of the season.

After showing some promise toward the end of the first half when they went 4-4 and the return of Stackhouse and Arenas after lengthy injuries, the Wizards have come unglued.

They lost leading scorer Larry Hughes to a broken wrist for four-to-six weeks and since then have been wretched, losing to Philadelphia, Houston and New Orleans by an average of 24.3 points.

Offensively they have gone from a team that scored 100 points or more in six consecutive games to one in the last three that has averaged 89. Defensively they have shown an inability to stop anyone, allowing their last three opponents to shoot a combined 53.8 percent from the field.

“The last three games have been disappointing, especially after the way we played right before that,” Grunfeld said. “But we have to regroup from it. We have to come together and get some wins here. We have 30 games left and we’re looking for continued improvement from the young players. We want to end on a positive note.”

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