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WIZARDSINSIDER

Monday, February 28, 2005; Page D04

WHO'S NEXT?

vs. Rockets

Wednesday, 7 p.m.

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Guard Larry Hughes missed his third game since he was activated last week, but he sounded encouraged after seeing an X-ray on his broken right thumb yesterday. Hughes still couldn't pinpoint a date for his return. "It's pretty much healed, so that's good news," Hughes said. "Last week, it wasn't completely healed." After the Wizards' 110-108 loss to the Sacramento Kings, they are 9-11 since Hughes broke his thumb on Jan. 15. "I'm actually looking to get ready soon," Hughes said. "It's pretty much on me. I just want to be reassured by the doctors that I'm not jumping the gun. It's a lot better." . . .

Jarvis Hayes, who has started the past 18 games in place of Hughes, was forced to miss the second half with tendinitis in his right knee. Hayes has been playing despite the injury but he said he hurt himself after a dunk in the first quarter. "I came down awkward. I'm hoping I can" play Wednesday, Hayes said. . . .

The Kings had a 7-1 record without Chris Webber this season, but Sacramento Coach Rick Adelman was asked if the team lost its star power with the six-player trade that sent Webber to Philadelphia last week. "I'm sure you do," Adelman said. "He's been our main guy. We lose that leadership. We lose the guy who's been there. But I think the other guys have shown that they can step up when he's not there, and that's what we're hoping for. We feel we have that core group of guys, and they're all young, all in their prime. You look at [ Mike] Bibby, Cuttino [Mobley], Brad [Miller], Darius [Songaila], and you forget about it. Bobby Jackson's not playing [because of a left wrist injury]. We felt they need to step up. Somebody needs to establish how we're going to play." . . .

Kings forward Peja Stojakovic missed his seventh consecutive game with a strained right hamstring and said he was surprised about the trade. "I thought I was going to be gone," said Stojakovic, who denied there was any feud between him and Webber. "We were always cool," he said. "We really had a good relationship." . . .

During pregame warmups, a boy in the second row at MCI Center held up a sign that read, "Hey, Gilbert. It's my birthday. Can I have your jersey?" Point guard Gilbert Arenas spotted the kid, then sent a Wizards' equipment man to the locker room to get a home white jersey for the birthday boy. Arenas then went out and tied his career-high with 43 points.

-- Michael Lee


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