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In NBA, Continuity Wins

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The Washington Post's Michael Lee reports on the Wizards' Game 6 loss to the Cavaliers and looks ahead to what promises to be a busy offseason for Washington.Audio: Michael Lee/The Washington PostPhotos: Preston Keres & Toni L. Sandys/The Washington PostEditor: Jonathan Forsythe/washingtonpost.com

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By Mike Wise
Monday, May 5, 2008

I used to be a back-up-the-truck guy who believed blowing up a roster was the best way to improve an NBA franchise. Not only did the Mavericks and Suns prove me wrong, taken out in one round after making blockbuster midseason trades this past season, but the Wizards have made me reconsider that thinking altogether.

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Two days after LeBron James dispatched them to Mexico and all points Caribbean, I'm convinced they're not far from going deep into the playoffs with the roster much as it is.

Ernie Grunfeld, the team president, has already assured at least one player the club plans to re-sign free agents Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison. And Caron Butler sounded certain this afternoon, after his exit meeting with Coach Eddie Jordan at Verizon Center, that Washington's Big Three would stay together and try to advance past the first round for the first time in four years.

The thinking is the Wizards' all-stars will be healthier, their youngsters will add muscle and maturity and Grunfeld will find a key acquisition to help Eddie Jordan's cause.

It's not a sexy strategy. It's certainly not going to shake up the league. But in the NBA today, where continuity has helped keep San Antonio, Detroit and Utah alive, it works.

So on the day they cleaned out their lockers, here are five questions worth answering before the old gang reconvenes in October:

1. Are the Wizards better without Gilbert Arenas? Yes, they were better off without a one-legged Arenas, just as the Spurs are better off without a one-legged Tim Duncan and the Lakers are better off without a one-legged Kobe Bryant.

Long haul? No.

Don't confuse the player who returned from knee surgery and did what his physically ailing frame could to compete the past month with the guy whom the franchise needs to re-sign.

Arenas at full strength gives Washington a shot at going deep into the playoffs. Without him, first-round-and-out is a good year.

Never mind the antics, the blogging and the goofy, carefree kid who is 26 going on 12. Trust me, he's not going to become Dennis Rodman.

But Arenas is also not going to be that ultra-serious, win-or-die guy, because that's not who he is.


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