- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 27, 2002

Tyronn Lue might have been the Washington Wizard most saddened to see Chris Whitney go.
Although they competed for playing time, the two point guards had forged a relationship because veteran Whitney helped improve Lue, who had played little in the previous three seasons, through competition and some solid advice.
Essentially, the Wizards made enough quality additions in the offseason that they could trade Whitney, the team's most reliable player and an integral part of the franchise for the past seven seasons, to Denver.
"Me and CWhit were very close," Lue said. "[The trade] was just part of the business. I think he understood it, and he's OK with the decision. Guys know that we're deep."
Now, with the preseason over, the focus for coach Doug Collins shifts to trimming two players from a 17-man roster before Tuesday afternoon's deadline and Wednesday's season opener in Toronto.
Collins said Friday the Wizards "know our 15" players who will start the season, but he didn't specify which two. However, there is a short list of candidates.
Center Ratko Varda, who has not played in a preseason game because of hamstring and back injuries, is the most likely to be waived. George McCloud, acquired from Denver for Whitney, is the other top candidate although he won't even arrive in Washington until tomorrow.
Brian Cardinal and Bobby Simmons, despite playing only sparingly in preseason games, are in good position to make the roster. Simmons didn't play in the last two games and Cardinal didn't play Friday against Boston, but the Wizards are familiar with Simmons' capabilities from last season and Cardinal played well and drew praise from Collins after his only extensive preseason action Oct.15 against Denver.
Collins has remained tight-lipped about his personnel, from his projected starters to his nine- to 10-man rotation. However, given the Wizards' starting lineup in three of the past four preseason games, it is likely that Larry Hughes, Jerry Stackhouse, Bryon Russell, Kwame Brown and Brendan Haywood will start, with Lue, Michael Jordan, Etan Thomas and Charles Oakley or Christian Laettner coming off the bench though Laettner did not play Friday.
"[The rotation is] not necessarily nine," Collins said. "It could be 10 or so. It could be situational where a guy comes in [and] maybe gives us minutes here or there when we need them."
Regardless of the rotation, one thing is certain: Collins has a talented mix from which to piece together a productive starting lineup and bench. Although some teams have cut their rosters to 12 to avoid paying too much in salary and therefore the luxury tax, the Wizards have structured their team so that even players at the tail end of their roster can contribute on a given night.
"We have depth, but we're confident in our depth also," Lue said. "We understand we have to have the right combination on the floor."
Rookies Juan Dixon and Jared Jeffries showed promising signs throughout this month, but recent preseason games offer a more accurate depiction of what their playing time will be this season. On Friday, Jeffries played 20 minutes and Dixon just the final minute of the game when he replaced Jordan with the Celtics assured of victory.
The reason for Dixon's lack of playing time? The sheer numbers and talent ahead of him at guard.
"Jared will play more than Juan simply because of the number of veterans ahead of Juan T-Lue, Larry Hughes, [Stackhouse], Michael, Bryon Russell," Collins said. "Jared, I expect early, will play a lot on the front line for us."
Jeffries will see action with center Jahidi White sidelined until early November following knee surgery but also because Collins was not satisfied with the frontcourt's aggressiveness Friday.
"They've got to be willing to go catch the ball, then they have to be strong and finish," Collins said. "And right now, for the most part, our big guys are not looking for the ball."

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