- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Wizards do not need another project on their roster, which the No. 5 pick in the NBA Draft would be.

They need immediate help, whether at shooting guard or power forward. They need a move that renews the passion of the fan base. They need a move that quells the anxiety associated with the left knee of Gilbert Arenas.

The only untouchable on the roster, if there is such a player from a 19-win team, is Caron Butler. He is the most complete player on the roster, willing to play both ends of the floor in rugged fashion.

Antawn Jamison is a willing defender as well, just not always a capable one, too laterally slow to contain small forwards and too physically deficient to deal with power forwards. His 33rd birthday this week should not concern would-be suitors.

Because he plays on the floor and relies on a variety of unorthodox moves on offense, Jamison is certain to age gracefully. He is showing no statistical drop-off, coming off a season in which he averaged 22.2 points and 8.9 rebounds, in line with his career output.

His name has been dropped in connection to Amare Stoudemire, an indifferent defender but a rim-rattling finisher at the basket.

That rumor, persistent though it is, draws silence from Ernie Grunfeld and a laugh from Steve Kerr. Trade rumors are always preposterous until the principals are ready to call a press conference.

Grunfeld wears a poker face at this time of the year. He does not whisper his intent in gossipy asides. His last big move was the Kwame Brown trade that yielded Butler in 2005. That move seemingly put the Wizards in the vicinity of the Eastern Conference elite, at least until injuries consumed the franchise.

Now the Magic, Cavaliers and Celtics are the elite of the conference, and the Wizards are wedged somewhere between uncertain and who knows.

The trade value of Arenas is limited because of his $110 million contract and the three surgical procedures on his left knee. The smart thinking is that he never is going to be the All-Star he once was.

Abe Pollin and Grunfeld bet on Arenas after two surgical procedures, the right move at the time, contrary to the sentiment of the historical revisionists. Both Pollin and Grunfeld would have been seen as unwilling to spend big money to build a winner if they had permitted Arenas to walk.

In that scenario, of course, given the bad luck of the Wizards, Arenas would not have needed a third surgery and would have returned to his All-Star self last season.

The Mavericks are said to be interested in the fifth pick and the prospect of drafting Jordan Hill.

The teams have made nice in the past, most recently in the swap that secured Jamison in 2004. The Mavericks also were kind enough to relieve the Wizards of Juwan Howard in 2001.

The Mavericks apparently are willing to part with either Jason Terry or Josh Howard to sweeten a potential deal. The Mavericks would be obligated to accept an expiring contract of the Wizards, the one belonging to either the Poet or Mike James.

The chatter involving the Wizards is refreshing, seeing as how it conveys a modicum of hope.

The Wizards do have a number of bargaining chips: two expiring contracts, a No. 5 pick, Nick Young, Andray Blatche and one 7-footer, JaVale McGee or Brendan Haywood, depending on which center the Wizards would prefer to keep. The Wizards also have Jamison to shop if a franchise-altering deal becomes available.

Arenas, Butler and Jamison, no fault of theirs, never were able to see how far they could carry this franchise. That prospect has vanished now.

We’ll never know what could have been after the Wizards pushed their way to first place in the conference in January 2007.

We just know it is time for the franchise to look forward instead of backward, their position the last two seasons.

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