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As Deadline Looms, Wizards Stick Together for a Win

Wizards 111, Timberwolves 103

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 18, 2009; Page E03

Barring an unforeseen turn of events, the same Wizards team that took the floor for last night's 111-103 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves will be in uniform Friday night when it faces the Nets in New Jersey.

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Team President Ernie Grunfeld has fielded calls from several teams looking to pry away a valuable piece of his squad before tomorrow's 3 p.m. trade deadline, with Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison leading the list of most-wanted Wizards. But Grunfeld isn't interested in giving away either former all-star in a salary dump and will likely stand pat, according to team sources.

According to sources, the Cavaliers have dangled forward Wally Szczerbiak and his $13.8 million expiring contract in separate offers for Butler and Jamison, while the Trail Blazers have expressed interest in Butler.

The Wizards have weighed various offers for Jamison, who is in the first year of the four-year, $50 million deal he signed over the summer, but the team is looking to include veteran center Etan Thomas in any major deal and hasn't found a taker.

Thomas, who is out with a left knee injury, has a contract scheduled to pay him $7.35 million next season and includes a 15 percent raise in the event of a trade.

With tomorrow's deadline looming over both lottery-bound teams, the Wizards squandered a 19-point first-half lead and trailed by six with 4 minutes 39 seconds to play. They won thanks in part to veteran guard Mike James, who made two crucial three-pointers in the final 1:25, including one from the corner that gave Washington a 105-101 edge with 28.7 seconds to go.

The Wizards (12-42) closed the game on a 16-5 run.

"You can't always be in charge of names that come up, but let me ask you something: If you were one of the other 29 teams in the league, who would you ask for?" interim coach Ed Tapscott said. "You'd ask for Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler. So we can't be in charge of who people ask for. All we can do is say yes or no. My belief is that people are inquiring and as far as I know, the answer is no. We believe in the core of this team, we know why we are where we are. We just don't have healthy bodies."

The Wizards were healthy enough to earn a win over the struggling Timberwolves thanks in part to Jamison, who led the way with 29 points and 11 rebounds for his 27th double-double of the season, and Butler, who added 17 points and six assists.

James, the former Timberwolf, finished with 15 points and connected on 4 of 6 three-pointers while playing well with second-year guard Javaris Crittenton, who played point guard throughout the fourth quarter.

Randy Foye led the Timberwolves (17-35) with 23 points while rookie Kevin Love posted 17 points and 11 rebounds. Minnesota, which played without leading scorer Al Jefferson, who is out for the season following a knee injury, shot 40.7 percent

As usual, the Wizards mixed sloppy play with moments of brilliance. Minnesota scored 20 points off 18 turnovers, but the Wizards also shot 51.3 percent and their young players sparked hope for the future.

On one first half play, Crittenton (11 points, four assists) led a fast break and spun around McCants with a behind-the-back-dribble before lofting a perfectly placed alley-oop to JaVale McGee for a dunk.

Andray Blatche returned to action after missing nine games with a strained left knee and looked good. He was active at both ends in 27 minutes and finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.

"It felt good," said Butler, who tweaked his right hip on a fall in the fourth quarter and did not return. "This is exactly what I expected as a captain and Antawn expected it as well. After a good practice, the guys came out with a lot of energy and played good basketball, and that's the goal, to play .500 basketball for the rest of the season."


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