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In addition to being more seasoned — opposed to 2006 — and fully loaded — contrary to 2007 — the Wizards say the key to success will be defense. The team in the offseason added defensive specialist Randy Ayers to Jordan’s staff to bolster Washington’s biggest weakness.

And after giving up an average of 104.9 points a game and being outrebounded 43.0-41.2 last season, the Wizards have improved, limiting opponents to 99.2 points and narrowly outrebounding their foes 41.6-41.2.

The players grasp the importance of a better defensive effort, having learned from the past and adapted Ayers’ philosophy.

“We talked about this before the season got started. We all had a chip on our shoulder,” forward Antawn Jamison said. “We all had a lot to prove. We all wanted to do this. We all wanted to do that. We had the injuries last year, then had Gil out for a good bit this year. This is the first time we’ve been healthy in a while. We feel confident about the makeup of our team. We feel good about our bench. They’ve gotten to play a good bit this season, so we have a lot to feel good about. We’re confident, man.”