- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Do the Wizards have a shot at reaching the playoffs in an improving Eastern Conference given their injury woes?

That’s the $111 million dollar question. If the Wizards can survive until Gilbert Arenas heals and Agent Zero can return to the form that made him a three-time All-Star, the Wizards could make a strong push in the second half of the season and return to the playoffs. Their seeding could be lower than last year’s fifth spot, but if they’re peaking at the right time, they could be a dark horse in the East.

Who will be this year’s Roger Mason Jr. - the guy who comes off the bench and provides a spark?

For now, not even the Wizards know. Coach Eddie Jordan has said several times in the past few days that he trusts his starters - Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Antonio Daniels, DeShawn Stevenson and Etan Thomas - and reserves Darius Songaila and Juan Dixon. But beyond that, he doesn’t know what to make of the younger players on the bench. His hope is that Andray Blatche will figure things out, settle in and produce like he’s capable of with 14 or 15 points, nine to 10 rebounds and a block and that Nick Young will play at a high level - like he did last week against the Spurs. If he can average 10 points or so, the Wizards will be good to go.

Is Etan Thomas back to full strength, and can he slide right in for Brendan Haywood?

Yes, Thomas is completely healed. His heart was fine late last season; it was just his sternum that needed to heal. He doesn’t appear to be limited in any capacity now. He’s no scoring threat, but the Wizards don’t ask their centers to score - just grab rebounds and play strong defense. The Wizards will miss the vocal presence Haywood brings. He helped call out defensive assignments and is one of the most intelligent players on the team. There could be an early drop-off defensively, but as Thomas gets back into the mix and with Blatche and JaVale McGee chipping in, the center position should be fine.

How much will rookie center JaVale McGee play?

It wouldn’t be surprising if he becomes a starter this season. He’s a hard worker and a fast learner. As athletic as he is, things come easily to him. He needs to get stronger, but he always seems to make something happen. He crashes the boards fearlessly and can fly down the lane for an easy dunk, and those long arms make it difficult for opponents to get shots off. He’s going to be a good one.

- Mike Jones