- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2007

1. How will Washington replace Etan Thomas?

Finding a replacement for center Etan Thomas, who underwent successful heart surgery earlier this month, won’t be about his 6.1 points and 5.8 rebounds a game. Although Thomas has yet to play up to his contract, he was the team’s most physical presence. Now the Wizards will go with Brendan Haywood at center and spread the remaining minutes there between Darius Songaila and Andray Blatche. Songaila should give them a boost this season now that he’s healthy; Blatche has been outstanding in the preseason. Gone are the days when a team must have a bruise to bang people around. Thomas will be missed, but it is time to find out what Washington’s biggest free agent acquisition from the summer of 2006 and the player they think they stole in the draft two years ago are capable of.

2. What roles will the three rookies play?

The most immediate answer is that 7-foot Oleksiy Pecherov, who sprained his ankle over the weekend, won’t play for at least the next two weeks. When he does return, he will join first- and second-round picks Nick Young and Dominic McGuire in trying to find room in the rotation. Antonio Daniels, Blatche and Songaila will be the first three off the bench. From there, one of the rookies will be clumped with Roger Mason, fighting for time on the floor. If there is a leader right now among the three it is probably McGuire, specifically because he is the best defender among in the group. Young is the best scorer, and after Gilbert Arenas he might be the best offensive player off the dribble. Pecherov is lengthy, and coach Eddie Jordan loved playing him on the floor at times with Brendan Haywood and Andray Blatche — a lineup that gives them incredible length.

3. Is this the season the Wizards at least attempt to play defense?

This is the question that gets asked every year, and every year the answer has been the same: No.

This year won’t be any different because most of the players who haven’t stopped anyone over the last few years are still on the roster. But let’s be real here. The players who haven’t played much defense are the team’s best offensive players, and the Wizards, just like the Suns, aren’t going to beat people by shutting them down. Jordan has preached defense incessantly, but without players with a natural inclination to stop people, it just won’t happen.

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