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Wednesday, January 12, 2005; Page D08


vs. Trail Blazers

Tonight, 7 p.m.

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The Wizards have had three all-star game participants in the past 10 years -- Juwan Howard (1996), Chris Webber (1997) and Michael Jordan (2002 and 2003) -- but they arguably have three deserving candidates this season in point guard Gilbert Arenas, guard Larry Hughes and forward Antawn Jamison. Arenas, Hughes and Jamison form the highest-scoring trio of teammates in the league and have led the Wizards (19-13) to the third-best record in the Eastern Conference.

"I would put our guys against the top guys on any team and we match up," Hughes said. "There is no question who puts up better numbers on either side of the court -- that's rebounding, stealing the ball, making shots."

While Jamison ranks fifth in the latest fan ballot for conference forwards with 204,226 votes, neither Arenas nor Hughes ranks in the top 10 for guards, meaning that each player will likely have to rely on coaches to get their first invitation to an all-star game. Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said he won't campaign on behalf of his players.

"I haven't thought about doing it. I don't know if our players want me to do it; maybe their agents," Jordan said. "I'll let their games do the talking."

Arenas ranks 10th in the league in scoring and is averaging 23.1 points, 5 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals. Hughes is averaging 21 points, 6 rebounds, 5.2 assists and leads the league with 2.7 steals. Jamison is averaging 20.7 points and leads the team with 8.8 rebounds.

"Everybody wants to be an all-star," Arenas said, but added that leading the Wizards to the playoffs for the first time since 1997 is more important. "If we make it to the All-Star Game and we lose every game after the All-Star Game, we had a bad season, right? But if we don't make the all-star team, we make the playoffs and we go deep in the playoffs, we're winners."

Said Jamison: "My main focus is, no matter what, it's the success of the team. I was supposed to be there two or three times. I'm at a stage in my career that it's all about playing in the playoffs and having an opportunity to play for a championship."

Hughes said the players realize that their identical production could cancel out each other. "We're not really worried," he said. "If one of us makes it, the other two can go to support that guy. The other two should be right there."

-- Michael Lee

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