- The Washington Times - Friday, October 3, 2008

RICHMOND | The Washington Wizards opened training camp on Saturday seeking further development in the defensive system that was installed last year, additional growth in the offense, a competitive atmosphere and the maturation of a young bench.

And as camp concludes Friday with an intrasquad scrimmage at VCU’s Stuart C. Siegel Center, coach Eddie Jordan is pleased with the results. Of course, the Wizards still have more work ahead of them during the month leading up to the start of the regular season, but things are off to a good start.

“No one got hurt, guys were very competitive,” Jordan said. “And it seemed like the starting group, the core group was playing very hard, and very well, and they couldn’t shake the ‘next’ guys. And that was a good sign. The last eight quarters were very close. Both guys played hard, and both played well.”

Although the teams changed from time to time, the “next” guys usually consisted of fourth-year forward Andray Blatche; second-year players Nick Young, Dominic McGuire, Oleksiy Pecherov and Dee Brown; backup center Etan Thomas; rookie center JaVale McGee; and pre-training camp signings Linton Johnson, DerMarr Johnson and Taj McCullough.

They faced off with the core lineup of Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, Antonio Daniels, DeShawn Stevenson, and backups Darius Songaila and Juan Dixon, and put up a strong fight, winning some scrimmages and falling by slim margins in other occasions.

“They’re doing a great job,” Daniels said of the younger players. “Great energy, which pushes us. Nick’s playing well, Dom’s playing well, Dray’s playing well, Dee’s playing well, and that’s great. That’s what it’s all about: making each other better. It’s not about the first five or the first six. It’s about all 12 of us. We’re called the Wizards for a reason, we’ll need everyone for the 82-game season.”

As of Thursday afternoon, Jordan had yet to settle on what players would fill out each team for the scrimmage. But he hinted that the contest will feature - at least for some time - starters versus backups, and then switch to “more-balanced teams” as he watches for a continuation of the competitive fire and strong execution that has highlighted the previous six days.

And the players have a few things they’re looking for as well, not the least of which is escaping with full health. Most of the veterans seek the same tempo and execution as Jordan. But the younger players view Friday as yet another chance to prove themselves.

“I’m looking for a little bit of everything, some scoring, some defense,” second-year guard Nick Young said. “The ‘white team’ has been going against the veterans and doing pretty well this week. So, just trying to go up against Caron [Butler], DeShawn [Stevenson], the big names, trying to get our names up there.”

Notes — Friday’s scrimmage begins at 5 p.m. and is free to the public. The Siegel Center’s doors open at 4 p.m. …

Center Brendan Haywood sprained his right wrist in Thursday’s practice, and his status for the scrimmage is uncertain. …

The Wizards’ training camp roster boasts 17 players, and Jordan said that while no decisions have been made, he has no problem carrying all 17 for the first three preseason games: Oct. 7 at Dallas, Oct. 8 at Memphis and Oct. 10 against Detroit in the District.

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