- The Washington Times - Monday, October 31, 2005

The Bench Mob.

That’s what the Washington Wizards’ reserves are calling themselves as the NBA season begins, and why not? The team very easily could field one of the deepest benches in the league.

Last season the bench was not very good at providing an offensive spark. In fact, after Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Larry Hughes had combined for their league-leading 67.1 points, the rest of the team — including two starters — added just 33.4 points nightly.

But as the Wizards await tomorrow night’s season opener at Toronto, it is obvious this season could be far different.

As starters last season in Los Angeles, Caron Butler (15.5) and Chucky Atkins (13.6) combined for more than 29 points a game. Also ready to help is Jarvis Hayes (10.2), whom the team says is fully recovered from knee surgery and will be available tomorrow.

And this doesn’t even take into account big men like Etan Thomas, Calvin Booth and Michael Ruffin, all of whom have experience starting.

Butler, who has started 211 of the 223 games he’s played with the Miami Heat and Lakers, learned that his role on the Wizards — for now, at least — will be that of a sub. Following practice yesterday, Butler said he is clearly not satisfied with a reserve role but that won’t present a problem.

“I’m not used to it, and I’m not going to get used to it,” Butler said, “but I’m going to go out there and continue to play 110 percent. … We’re going to keep the flow going that the starters established, keep the intensity up, and we’re going to leave it all out on the floor.”

While having the usual concerns about developing team chemistry, what with all the new faces, Wizards coach Eddie Jordan has not made any attempt to hide the new-found size of the team.

The 6-foot-8 Hayes, meanwhile, was expected to be a starter before he experienced swelling in his right knee — broken in February — following a preseason game Oct. 13 against the NBA defending champion San Antonio Spurs..

“Jarvis had a terrific game against San Antonio, and we thought he was our starting shooting guard,” Jordan said. “He knew the offense, and with that there is a degree of continuity there. He has the size I was looking for.”

Hayes, who had his contract extended through 2007, yesterday proclaimed himself 100 percent healthy for tomorrow’s opener, saying, “No pain, no problems, no swelling. I’m ready to go.”

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