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Josh Howard practices, Drew Gooden seeking buyout after trade to Washington Wizards from Dallas Mavericks

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 17, 2010; D01

In a season where little has gone right, even the reboot had a glitch for the Washington Wizards. At practice on Tuesday, three days after pulling off a seven-player deal with the Dallas Mavericks, the Wizards were able to welcome only three of the four players they had acquired.

The centerpiece of the deal from a talent and financial perspective -- swingman Josh Howard -- was working on dribble-drive moves with Wizards assistant Sam Cassell. Defensive-minded guard Quinton Ross was rebounding jump shots for Earl Boykins and high-energy forward James Singleton was shooting jumpers with Dominic McGuire. Power forward Drew Gooden was nowhere to be found.

The Wizards said that Gooden was going to arrive after settling some personal matters, but league sources later revealed that Gooden was hoping to negotiate a buyout on the remainder of his $4.5 million contract.

Gooden, who would be on his eighth team in eight seasons after joining the Wizards, has been traded at the deadline in each of the past three seasons and a league source said that he had no desire of moving again. A person with knowledge of the situation said the Wizards might not make a decision on Gooden until after Thursday's trade deadline, after which they will have a better sense of their roster needs. The Wizards have already talked about moving Gooden in another trade to acquire an asset, according to sources.

Gooden arrived later in the evening and is expected to be in uniform when the Wizards kick off the unofficial second half of the season against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday at Verizon Center. With two starters -- Brendan Haywood and Caron Butler -- and a sometime starter in DeShawn Stevenson shipped to Dallas, Coach Flip Saunders said that he wasn't sure who would start for the new-look Wizards.

"We'll probably roll the dice and see," Saunders said.

The Wizards (17-33) could look markedly different by their next game on Friday, with rumors swirling that the team could move Antawn Jamison, the only player left from the last team to win a playoff series. They intensified talks about Jamison with the Cleveland Cavaliers, with Yahoo Sports reporting that the Wizards have offered Mike James and Jamison for Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Jamario Moon and a first-round pick.

The Cavaliers are also reportedly in pursuit of Phoenix all-star big man Amare Stoudemire, Indiana forward Troy Murphy and Golden State swingman Corey Maggette. Jamison has also drawn interest from Boston and Miami.

"You don't make trades to make trades. It's not like trading cards," Saunders said. "Antawn has been a very important part of what this franchise is and right now, I'm planning on Antawn being here."

Team President Ernie Grunfeld said that the trade with Dallas -- which sliced nearly $2.5 million off this season's payroll and saved almost $15 million from next season's -- might not be the last deal that he makes before the deadline. Grunfeld would not talk specifically about Jamison.

"We still have a lot of conversations going on," he said. "We want to see what this group does. If we don't make a move between now and Thursday, there are opportunities to do things during the summer. That's just life in the NBA. A lot of teams are out there talking, a lot of teams want to make moves. I thought the thing we did is going to be good for our team in the long haul."

Howard, a seventh-year veteran and former all-star, had spent his entire career in Dallas, helping them reach the 2006 NBA Finals and finish with a league-best 67 wins the following season. But his career has fallen on hard times the past two seasons, through injuries and some bizarre off-court incidents. He is averaging 12.5 points per game, his lowest total since his rookie season, and a career-low 40.1 percent shooting after having ankle surgery last summer.

"Sometimes you outgrow things and it's time to move on," Howard said. "The Mavs are trying to make a push. I know it wasn't my fault that I got traded. I did everything I could in my ability to help them win. I guess it was time to part ways."

The Wizards have a team option on Howard's $11.8 million salary next season. He was asked about leaving a perennial playoff contender and joining a team that has underachieved and is next-to-last in the Eastern Conference.

"Dallas is a great organization, taught me a lot," he said. "Being able to go to the playoffs all my years was a blessing, but what I learned down there, I'll bring up here and hopefully make a positive turnaround. It was a good thing to be spoiled by the Mavs, being able to make it to the playoffs, but we can make a strong push to get that eighth spot or even the seventh spot. I'm coming here with a positive attitude, trying to play hard and get us to the playoffs."

Grunfeld said that he had to make a move.

"It was time to make some changes," he said. "A lot of things happened that were out of our hands, out of control, but the bottom line is, this is the NBA and you want to win and you want to put the best group out there. And I don't think this group was meshing very well. We played selfish basketball and we didn't win as much as we'd like to win."

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