The NBA trade deadline arrives at 3 p.m. today but, barring the kind of offer that is simply too good to turn down, the Washington Wizards' lineup will look the same when tonight's game against the Sacramento Kings tips off at Verizon Center.
Despite several injuries, including forward Antawn Jamison's sprained left knee, the Wizards (30-21) are in good position to earn the top seed going into the Eastern Conference playoffs and have a shot at posting the franchise's first 50-win season since 1978-79.
"I think we're positioned very well right now," Wizards President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld said yesterday. "We have the second-best record in the East, and now we're getting our players back healthy.
"Antawn is right around the corner, and I think our players are motivated and excited about the second half. Obviously, at this time of year, you're on the phone a lot and having lots of conversations, and if the opportunity presents itself to improve, that's something you have to look at But right now, I like our team."
The Wizards are 3-4 without Jamison after a 112-100 win over Minnesota on Tuesday, and they expect to get Jamison back in two to four weeks. Forward Darius Songaila recently returned after missing the first 45 games with a back injury, and second-year forward Andray Blatche has emerged during Jamison's seven-game absence.
Barring another injury, the team will have every player available for the first time all season once Jamison returns.
Grunfeld has taken calls inquiring about the availability of several players, including centers Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas. The two players have traded punches on at least three occasions the last two seasons, but neither Grunfeld nor Coach Eddie Jordan believes that one of them has to go for the team to succeed.
Thomas returned to action Tuesday night after serving a two-game suspension for his latest altercation with Haywood, a fight that took place at practice on Feb. 9. Each played 22 minutes in the win over Minnesota, though Jordan said that was coincidental.
"I'm confident that it won't be an issue," Jordan said. "We feel confident about it. We think the discipline is put in place, discipline is controlling an act or behavior. I think from the owner to the front office to the coaching staff and players, we all understand the discipline in that area. We feel good about that now."
Thomas and Haywood have said they want to put the latest incident behind them and concentrate on basketball. The two have not spoken about the issue face to face but did express a willingness to get along through intermediaries.
"We kind of talked through different channels about, hey, let's put it to the side," Thomas said. "We don't have to be best friends. We don't have to be, but we can definitely work together and the thing is, the team needs both of us. I think we're a great tandem. We can come in and provide different kinds of looks, different kinds of matchups. Some days, he's going to play more, some days I'm going to play more. That's a good option to have basketball-wise."
With the recent return of Songaila and Michael Ruffin from the injured list as well as the emergence of the 6-foot-11 Blatche and some solid play from center Calvin Booth, Haywood and Thomas are only two of several options Jordan has in the front court.
While the Wizards primarily relied on the scoring of Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Jamison to carry them during the first half of the season, the team's two most recent wins -- over Minnesota and at Philadelphia last Wednesday -- were products of a deep bench and production from up and down the lineup.
A deeper rotation is one reason Jordan doesn't think any moves need to be made before this afternoon's trade deadline.
"Not at all," Jordan said. "We're finally seeing our people come back healthy, and once Antawn comes back . . . it'll be really good depth, all the depth we've been talking about. You see Darius playing well, Michael and Calvin contributing. I'd like to see Jarvis [Hayes] make more shots but that will come. We still like his defense and execution. So let's give it a shot. I really like our roster, I really do."