- The Washington Times - Monday, May 8, 2006

Eddie Jordan has earned a contract extension with two consecutive playoff berths.

That possibly would encourage Brendan Haywood to act his height instead of his diva-like alter ego.

A coach’s contract extension is a sign to the players that the burden is on them.

Otherwise, a coach in the last year of a contract sometimes finds he has lost the power to communicate with his players.

Players are not unlike the rest of us.

They sometimes think all their problems in the workplace can be eliminated with a change in bosses.

The problem before Haywood and the Wizards is an oft-stated one.

Their interior defense can cause eyes to roll up in the back of the head in disgust.

The problem is easy to identify. It is hard to fix.

There are plenty of post players around the NBA with the capacity to push the Wizards to the 50-win mark next season.

They either are not available or the numbers in their contracts do not fit within the salary cap.

Ernie Grunfeld has made the personnel moves that have restored the relevance of the Wizards. His next move is perhaps his most challenging one.

This summer’s free agent class is hardly inspiring.

Ben Wallace is the best of the frontcourt bunch, but there is no indication he feels inclined to leave the championship prospects of the Pistons.

That leaves a fading Alonzo Mourning and a long list of the modestly gifted, which is being kind to Nazr Mohammed and Michael Olowokandi, to name two.

The NBA Draft next month is a limited avenue, so depleted are the college ranks.

Hilton Armstrong or Josh Boone possibly will be available to the Wizards, if someone of that quality is a genuine antidote to the team’s defensive misfortunes.

Apparently, there are an infinite number of trade possibilities, according to the self-appointed general managers who call Scott Jackson after each game.

One recently suggested that the Wizards trade Jared Jeffries, Etan Thomas and Billy Thomas to the Timberwolves in exchange for Kevin Garnett.

It is a shame Grunfeld has chosen to ignore this plaintive plea of Kevin McHale after the trade deadline.

The Wizards have a restricted free agent to resolve in Jeffries, a versatile defender who has a bad habit of breaking your heart on offense.

He looks exceptional on offense while dribbling the ball the first 90 feet. It is the last four feet — punctuated with a finger roll that clangs off the rim — that often reduces grown men to a puddle of tears and a heartfelt question.

Why, Jared?

The fear is that someone is liable to throw stupid money in the direction of Jeffries, as was the case two summers ago with the Bucks and the Poet.

The Wizards ended up keeping the Poet with a six-year, $36.6 million deal, which hardly has been cost-effective to the team at this point in the contract.

If the Poet puts in the work this summer — which he was unable to do last summer because of an abdominal strain — perhaps he can start meeting the terms of his contract in a more persuasive manner.

For now, the Wizards are sentenced to be among the playoff also-rans because of the inconsistencies and limitations of their post players.

Haywood fluctuates between being a serviceable center for a few games to one who disappears for weeks at a time.

Even in Game 6, when he scored 17 points in nearly 28 minutes, he was able to grab only four rebounds.

That leaves the Poet and Michael Ruffin, a gritty defender who records more personal fouls than points.

Yet Grunfeld should not feel inclined to make a big personnel splash at the risk of the continuity that has been established.

It could turn out the Wizards are in a better position than the Cavaliers long term, considering the frailties of Zydrunas Ilgauskas and the advanced years of Eric Snow and Donyell Marshall.

There is no need to jump off the cliff following a series that easily could have gone to the Wizards.

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