Think Times Are Hard for the Suns? Try Loving the Washington Wizards, Phoenix's Opponent Tonight.

In 2004-05, the Washington Wizards boasted the NBA's most fearsome backcourt. Led by ex-UA Wildcat standout Gilbert Arenas, Antwan Jamison, and Larry Hughes, Washington earned a modest forty-five victories in the regular season, but turned heads during the NBA Playoffs with its first-round conquest of the Chicago Bulls (before being swept by the Miami Heat).

That was so four years ago, dude.

The Wizards' decline to piss-poor status is just another example of how things quickly change in the NBA. Unlike elite college programs that can just reload at will, pro b-ball is filled with massive salary demands driven by inflated egos and a big-business mentality. It's rare for professional teams, aside from juggernauts like the San Antonio Spurs, to stay consistent winners.

Wanna know how much things have changed since the 2004-05 campaign? Well, the 9-34 Washington and other playoff teams from that year, including the aforementioned Bulls, as well as the Memphis Grizzlies, are riding a combined 38-88 record at the time of writing.

Ouch.

Surprisingly, the team-first Jamison is still the main man in D.C. His 21 points, 9 boards, and 38 minutes played per game lead the team. But that's about the only good thing going for the cellar-dwelling Wizards, who are 25 games out of first place in the Southeast Division. They could be better if Arenas, a franchise player and arguably one of the top 10 ballers in the league, could stay healthy. Unfortunately, the 6-4 point guard hasn't played this season, and continues to rehab from off-season knee surgery.

Ouch-a-rama.

There's been some talk of late that Larry Hughes (currently with the Chicago Bulls), a key to the Wizards playoff run in 2004-05, will be dealt back to Washington. On Thursday, the Chicago Tribune confirmed with Bulls general manager John Paxson that they are trying to deal Hughes. However, Paxson failed to mention a specific team. Although Hughes has been mostly average the past few seasons, his presence at small forward would add a much-needed scoring threat that the Wizards desperately need.

But for now, Washington will need to make do with what they have -- namely Jamison, forward Caron Butler (19 points and 4 assists per contest), point guard Mike James, and the much-improved Andray Blatche as the team's starting center -- when they take on the struggling Phoenix Suns at Washington D.C.'s Verizon Center. Tip-off's at 5 p.m. tonight. National TV: NBA TV. Local TV: My45. Radio: KTAR 620-AM.

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