- The Washington Times - Monday, June 23, 2003

The Washington Wizards will close their week of interviews and workouts for prospective picks in Thursday’s draft today, running a Frenchman and a Bosnian through drills at MCI Center.

Paccelis Morlende, a 6-2 point guard from France, and Zoran Planinic, a 6-7 forward from Bosnia, will work out today. Of the two, Planinic is considered the better player but neither is considered worthy of the No.10 pick overall.

“They’re nice players but I don’t suspect they’ll be the guys the Wizards are looking at with the 10th pick,” said Marty Blake, NBA director of scouting services.

It is no secret that if they do not trade the pick — and right now things are quiet on that front — the Wizards are looking to draft either a point guard or an athletic small forward.

New coach Eddie Jordan, who has seen some workouts since being hired last week, likes for the point guard to control play. That means the position might be the team’s most pressing need, especially if the Wizards think Jared Jeffries can play some small forward in stretches.

Hired last week to replace Doug Collins, Jordan has tried his best to get up to speed and has seen some of the workouts, which have been conducted for the most part by outgoing general manager Wes Unseld, assistant GM Rod Higgins and director of scouting Chuck Douglas.

The Wizards are not likely, according to a league source, to have a president of basketball operations in place by Thursday’s draft. And even though Jordan, formerly the top assistant with the New Jersey Nets, has not had ample time to scout players, he said he is confident that Unseld and others have things well under control.

“I’m a little bit behind because we went to the finals,” Jordan said. “There are two thoughts. Do you draft the best player or do you draft for position? And you have to consider if you trade the pick. There are issues to talk about and there are capable people to have that dialogue with. I’ll have some input. I don’t know how significant it will be, but I’ll have what I have to say at the time.”

The Wizards figure that Texas sophomore T.J. Ford, despite being generously listed at 6-0, probably won’t be there when they pick. However, Kansas guard Kirk Hinrich, who helped guide the Jayhawks to the NCAA title game where they lost to Syracuse, might be available.

Although the 6-4 Hinrich could also be gone by the time the Wizards pick — Milwaukee is said to be interested in him at No.8 — the feeling around the league is that 6-2 Oregon junior Luke Ridnour, solid but unspectacular, could be there as well.

Of course, the Wizards could get lucky and land Marcus Banks, the 6-2, 200-pounder out of UNLV. Banks is a rugged defender and a good scorer who could turn out to be a very good pro.

Washington’s point guard situation was shaky last season, as it went back and forth between Larry Hughes and Tyronn Lue before Collins settled on Lue down the stretch. However, Lue is a free agent this summer and might not return to the team. And Hughes, the team found out last season, prefers to play off the ball and is not a point guard.

The pickings are probably slimmer at small forward, where there simply aren’t that many explosive players in the draft who fit the mold of the slashing scorer who can get his own shot that the Wizards would like to add.

Jerry Stackhouse — who could opt out of his contract later this month — started last season at small forward and led the team in scoring. Stackhouse has two years remaining on his contract at approximately $14million. Stackhouse has said he would like to continue his career in Washington. However, this could require that the Wizards offer him an extension, a move that would eat into future salary-cap space.

If the Wizards decide to go with a small forward, the two most likely candidates are University of Georgia junior Jarvis Hayes (6-7) and France’s Mickael Pietrus, a 6-7 shooter with a good degree of athleticism.

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