- The Washington Times - Monday, October 31, 2005

Eddie Jordan is happy with the starting lineup he’ll send out for the season opener at Toronto on Wednesday. Developing the chemistry of a rotation that will go perhaps 10 deep, however, is something on which the Washington Wizards’ coach still is trying to get a grip.

“We’ve been trying to develop that since training camp, and I have to tell you, we’ve still got a way to go,” Jordan said. “We have stretches where we look really good on the floor … but the real question is going to come when we’re on the floor at an Indianapolis and we’re looking at a 14-point lead. That’s when we’ll learn more about the guys.”

The Wizards won’t make that trip to Conseco Fieldhouse until Dec.8. In the meantime, Jordan’s focus is more short-term.

What is clear to him is his starting lineup. Center Brendan Haywood, forward Antawn Jamison and guard Gilbert Arenas have been starters since the first day of training camp. During the weekend, Jordan decided that shooting guard Jared Jeffries and newcomer Antonio Daniels, a small forward, will join them.

Jeffries won a heated battle with Caron Butler, a competition that began the moment Butler and Chucky Atkins were acquired from the Los Angles Lakers in exchange for problem forward Kwame Brown.

Jordan’s reasons for starting Jeffries are twofold: At 6-foot-11, Jefferies has length, and he is considered the team’s best defender. However, Butler, in his third season, is the better offensive player.

“Right now, the way our team is balanced, we are better off with him coming off the bench,” Jordan said of Butler, who averaged 15.5 points last season with the Lakers. “I don’t know how he feels, but if there is an extraordinary amount of production coming from him, he might crack the starting lineup eventually.”

Butler, who began the preseason with a groin strain, got progressively better and finished with 23 points against the Pacers.

“I would like to start, but the situation is what it is,” said Butler, who also started in Miami. “But we just want to go out and get to the point where we are flowing offensively. The good thing is that this offense is one where everybody is going to get opportunities. We’re going to be good.”

Jordan likes the idea of bringing Butler off the bench to give the team a scoring punch in reserve. He’s also looking forward to getting a healthy Jarvis Hayes, who hasn’t played since Oct.13, back on the court.

Hayes’ aching right knee adds to the problem of getting the players to mesh. Hayes will see big minutes alongside players like Atkins and Butler. Jordan wants that group to develop cohesion as quickly as possible.

“They can be a very good group for us, but they’ve still got a long way to go,” Jordan said. “We’re working at it, but we really are a work in progress.”

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