- The Washington Times - Friday, November 28, 2003

Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan doesn’t feel the need to pull aside rookie forward Jarvis Hayes and point out the obvious — he’s in a slump.

Nonetheless, as Hayes continues to shoot poorly, Jordan can’t help but be concerned.

“Jarvis was a little bit more tense in terms of trying to get his shot off,” Jordan said of Hayes’ recent outings, placing special emphasis on the team’s West Coast trip on which it went 1-3. “He’s really fading back a lot more than normal so that he wouldn’t get his shot blocked, deflected or disturbed, so maybe he was doing a little bit more of that.”

Hayes averaged 13.5 points and shot 45.3 percent from the field over the Wizards’ first 10 games, prompting talk he could become the best Washington rookie since Juwan Howard averaged 17.0 points and 8.4 rebounds in the 1994-95 season.

But recently the basket has looked a lot smaller to Hayes. Although he scored 22 points in the team’s last game, a 120-99 rout of the Los Angeles Lakers, most of Hayes’ recent outings have been ugly.

Before going 10-for-18 from the field Wednesday — with most of the baskets coming on layups and dunks — Hayes had shot just 14-for-59 (23.7 percent) over the last six games.

After scoring in double figures in the team’s first eight games, Hayes has done so just twice in the last seven. This includes the Lakers game, which was virtually over at the half.

The good news is that Hayes knew playing in the NBA would get difficult at some point, and he is fully aware it will happen again.

“I know it was coming,” said Hayes, who was selected with the 10th pick in the NBA Draft. After his smooth start, however, he thought it might come a little later in the season.

“It’s just one of those things,” he said. “I have to shoot myself out of it, I guess.”

Hayes understands that, because the NBA season is much longer than the college season, a slump 15 games into the season is not the end of the world.

“I was telling somebody the other day, 15 games into the college season and you’ve just got about 10 games left,” he said. “Here you’ve got more than 65 games left. So you can’t really think about it.”

The Wizards need Hayes to get back on track. Gilbert Arenas is on the injured list with a severe abdominal strain, although he is eligible to come off at any time. Star Jerry Stackhouse remains on the injured list, and starting power forward Kwame Brown and center Brendan Haywood have been alarmingly inconsistent.

“We definitely need him to come up as far as another perimeter guy able to be able to play, to shoot the ball, score some points and be able to slash to the basket,” shooting guard Larry Hughes said.

However, Hughes is already convinced Hayes is going to be a good player in this league.

“Everybody struggles, especially rookies,” Hughes said. “The good thing is that he’s already built the confidence that he knows he can play. He knows that this is an 82-game season.”

The Wizards are enduring one of the most ruthless stretches of the season. Tonight’s home game against a tough Detroit team serves as little more than a break from the road. After spending seven days on the road, the Wizards will take off again for four games in eight nights, beginning Tuesday at Dallas.

“No doubt it’s time for all of the guys to step it up,” Jordan said.


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