- The Washington Times - Friday, March 25, 2005

LOS ANGELES — There was a time the Washington Wizards were churning out wins, including a seven-game streak in January that included victories over Seattle and Phoenix.

But now the Wizards (37-29) struggle to get wins over bad teams such as Utah (21-47). Washington has earned a pair of one-point victories over Utah in the last week, most recently a 85-84 decision on Thursday in Salt Lake City.

It’s been a while since the injury-depleted Wizards have looked as good as they did in January, which begs this question: Have the Wizards, who played the Los Angeles Clippers last night in a game that did not end in time for this edition, already peaked?

“Our team peaked? No! No!” guard Gilbert Arenas said. “We haven’t had our full team yet. If you haven’t had a full team, then you’re not going to peak. It’s harder now because right now we don’t have our shooters. We’re missing guys like Antawn [Jamison], Jarvis [Hayes] and Juan [Dixon]. Those guys make us better in every aspect of the game, but especially when it comes to spreading the floor.”

Arenas makes a valid point. While there has been some mild grumbling in the locker room about the team’s offense, the Wizards don’t have and haven’t had their full complement of players all season.

While Hayes (fractured knee) might not be back this season, the Wizards, who are in the fourth playoff position in the Eastern Conference with 16 games left, will be getting both Jamison (knee tendinitis) and Dixon (sprained ankle) back in the next week or so.

“When they come back we’re going to look a whole lot better than we have lately, I promise you that,” Arenas said. “When they are out there it gets easier for everybody. They spread the floor and give everybody more room to operate.”

After Tuesday’s 127-98 beating at Denver, backcourt mate Larry Hughes expressed his frustration with team’s offense. That was the first game of the Wizards’ five-game Western Conference road trip, which continues in Seattle tomorrow.

But Hughes said that is behind the Wizards, and added the team, which has lost 10 of its last 17 games, still has its best basketball in front of it.

“I said what I had to say,” Hughes said. “I don’t say much. I just want us to get back to the style that was helping us win. I’m just really worried about putting the Ws up on the board and helping us win. We’ll get back to the way we were playing. I’m confident that we will.”

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