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Sunday, February 13, 2005; Page E10


at Hornets

Tomorrow, 8

_____ Wizards in '05 _____
Who has been the most valuable player for the Wizards during the first part of the season?
Gilbert Arenas
Larry Hughes
Antawn Jamison
Jared Jeffries
Brendan Haywood
Somebody else

How will the Wizards do the rest of the way?
Miss playoffs
Exit playoffs early
Go deep in playoffs
Win Eastern Conference
Win NBA championship

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Note: This is an unscientific survey of washingtonpost.com readers.

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich., Feb. 12 -- Wizards reserve guard Anthony Peeler, who spent almost six seasons in Minnesota (1997-2003), was shocked to hear that the Timberwolves fired his former coach, Flip Saunders, Saturday after a 25-26 start.

"Really," Peeler said before he was informed that Timberwolves vice president of basketball operations Kevin McHale would assume the coaching duties for the rest of the season. "What?" Peeler asked, displaying a befuddled look before bursting into hysterical laughter. "Wow! He's not the interim or nothing? Aw, man, those dudes are going to be running every day in practice."

Saunders was 411-326 in more than nine seasons with the Timberwolves, leading them to the Western Conference finals last season. Saunders worked exclusively with McHale, forming the league's longest tenured coach-general manager tandem.

"They've always worked so well together, I can't believe that something like that would happen," Peeler said. "It shows you how competitive the league is and how everybody was really looking forward to playing them. That's crazy -- to almost being the coach of the year last year, this year it's been tough for him. It's sad to see that." . . .

After 15 games, the Washington Wizards have a winning record since guard Larry Hughes went down with a broken right thumb.

"I hate to say we're happy, but we're surviving -- on the good side," Coach Eddie Jordan said. "We're not surviving where we're almost dying. We're surviving where things look promising because" Hughes is expected to return Feb. 23.

"I was talking to my assistants this morning and I was like, we're 8-6 without Larry," Jordan said before the Wizards played the Detroit Pistons last night. "We were [7-5] in the month of November with Larry and we were jumping for joy." . . .

The Wizards, who will face the New Orleans Hornets on Monday, and Heat are the only teams that have not lost to a team currently in last place in the six divisions (New Orleans, New York, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Golden State and Utah). The Wizards have yet to face Utah this season.

-- Michael Lee

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