- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2008

Reiterating his sentiments from a week ago, Washington Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld indicated yesterday it’s unlikely he will make a trade by today’s 3 p.m. deadline.

And although the injury-plagued Wizards have lost nine of their last 10 games, Grunfeld still has faith in them.

“I think the group we have has shown that when we’re all healthy that we can be very competitive,” Grunfeld said. “Last year when we had Gilbert [Arenas], Caron [Butler] and Antawn [Jamison] all together we had the best record in the East. I think we need to get healthy so we can see what we’re capable of.”

Grunfeld said teams have contacted him, and he has listened to see whether any offers would upgrade the Wizards. He wouldn’t rule out a deal but did restate his comfort with his roster.

Coach Eddie Jordan — who had to conduct practice with only nine healthy players yesterday — said he has no choice but to feel comfortable with the roster.

“I can sit here and say you would like to see this, you would like to see that,” he said. “But we’re coaching the guys that we have in our locker room.”

Jordan couldn’t coach four of his players yesterday. Arenas (knee surgery), Butler (hip), DeShawn Stevenson (knee) and Etan Thomas (heart surgery) all missed practice.

He said Arenas, whom the team cleared two days ago to resume light noncontact work after his November knee surgery, “didn’t do anything in practice today. He went for maybe five minutes, and that was it.”

Arenas joined the team for Monday’s practice but didn’t take part in any five-on-five drills. Jordan said Arenas had some soreness in the knee but hoped he could do a bit more in the next practice.

Butler missed another practice with his strained left hip flexor. He has missed nine of the last 11 games. The two-time All-Star participated in a full practice Monday and in Tuesday morning’s shootaround, but he did not play that night against the visiting Knicks. He said he still has soreness in the hip.

Stevenson, hampered by a sore knee, described missing practice as a precaution because he wants to give a full effort in tomorrow’s practice.

And Thomas, who took part in Monday’s practice — his first this season after doctors repaired a leak in his aortic valve in October — had to scale back yesterday because of soreness in his chest. Thomas, who performed light shooting and walkthrough drills yesterday, said Tuesday night his heart is fine, but his sore sternum has forced him to take it slowly.

So while the trade deadline has demanded several teams’ attention, the Wizards‘ main focus is getting healthy and preparing for Cleveland tomorrow.

“We’re doing the best we can,” Jordan said. “With some guys we can go live with, and some guys we can’t practice. So it’s pretty difficult, but we’re trying to find ways to get reps in for our young guys and we walked through a lot of defensive situations at the end of practice. So we got something accomplished, it’s just pretty tough to do any scrimmaging or go live.”

Elsewhere in the league, trade rumors continue to fly. The latest reports have the Nets shopping Vince Carter to the Knicks and the Pacers and New York discussing a deal of center Eddy Curry to Miami. Fellow Knicks player Zach Randolph and the Kings’ Ron Artest also are subjects of trade rumors.

And while none of the Wizards seem to have reason to worry, Jamison said deadline day can make for an unsettling time.

“I can remember in Dallas there were rumors floating around about me and Michael Finley being traded,” said Jamison, who has been traded twice his 10-year career. “I remembering wondering that night [of the trading deadline] if I was going to wake up in the morning and be playing in a different city. So something like this can happen during the season, and that can be tough.”

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