- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 7, 2006

Now that the Washington Wizards have been eliminated, every armchair fan of the team will have an opinion on what it needs to do to advance deeper in the playoffs.

One question that no doubt will surface is the status of coach Eddie Jordan, the man responsible for directing the Wizards into the playoffs for the second year running for the first time since the Bullets made five straight appearances from 1984 to 1988.

Some will say he hasn’t been able to improve the team defensively, to which the counter will be that too many personnel changes have prevented any continuity.

What will not be at issue, however, is where the team’s best player stands on the subject of Jordan, who has one year left on his deal.

In the aftermath of the Cleveland Cavaliers eliminating the Wizards 4-2 in the first round of the playoffs thanks to Damon Jones’ late jumper on Friday, point guard Gilbert Arenas threw his support completely behind Jordan.

“I wouldn’t be where I’m at if it weren’t for Eddie. He believed in me,” said Arenas, who averaged 34 points a game in the series. “When I was a free agent he called and told me that he wanted me to be his point guard when he started his team. We bumped heads our first season, but that was two guys trying to get to know each other. But since then to now it’s a totally different relationship, and I don’t want to see him go. I’ll even say if he’s not here I don’t want to be here. I’ll even go that far. That’s how badly I want him here.”

According to sources with knowledge of the situation, an extension for Jordan has not been discussed, which was fine with Jordan, who didn’t want any distractions as the Wizards battled first to reach the postseason and then to advance in the playoffs.

Wizards president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld, as a policy, never divulges personnel plans.

But make no mistake, Jordan’s future will be discussed during an offseason in which the Wizards will try to focus on getting better than the team that reached the second round last season and was eliminated in the first round this year after dropping three games by just one point.

The Wizards — who after going 45-37 last year finished the regular season 42-40 and earned the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference for the second consecutive season — will have to get better defensively. But that problem wasn’t as glaring in the Cleveland series as was the lack of scoring off the bench.

The Cavaliers’ bench outscored Washington’s 157-89 in the playoffs, an advantage that might have been smaller if Washington guard Jarvis Hayes had not suffered a season-ending knee injury for the second year in a row.

What was most alarming is that Antonio Daniels, who turned out to be a key acquisition, scored 79 of the Wizards’ bench points in the series.

Daniels was one of six new faces on the playoff roster.

Arenas knows the Wizards must address some personnel issues, most notably whether to match the offers restricted free agent Jared Jeffries will field.

But Arenas feels the Wizards can become better defensively without making wholesale changes.

“When you look at teams that are great teams defensively they have been playing a while with each other,” Arenas said. “They may get one or two new guys, but their core has been playing together for a while. That’s what we’ve got to do.”

Note — Much was made about the way the series was officiated, but Arenas has no complaints.

“People can say that there were plenty of times when they let LeBron [James] do this and they let LeBron do that. But there were plenty of times when I traveled out there and they didn’t call it,” he said. “At the end of the day, I think the games were called fair.”

Arenas and Jordan picked up technical fouls in the first quarter of Game 6 when they vehemently protested the refs’ failure to call what they thought was a foul on James when Arenas attempted a layup that resulted in Arenas being knocked to the floor.

“As much as Eddie and I got up and protested, I did use my off arm to cause contact,” Arenas said, after viewing the replay.

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