- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 1, 2003

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Jared Jeffries looks at Antonio McDyess’ situation and instantly realizes that his situation doesn’t mean the end of the world.

Just three years ago, McDyess was good enough to be a member of the 2000 USA men’s Olympic Team that captured the gold medal. Today, though, after two knee surgeries — the second of which forced him to miss the entire 2002-03 season because of a broken kneecap — McDyess has appeared in just 10 games over the last two seasons.

Jeffries is coming back from a torn right ACL that shortened his rookie season to just 20 games. He hopes to be ready for the start of the regular season Oct.29, 10 months after suffering the injury during a practice.

He and McDyess share the same agent, New York-based Andy Miller. As a result, the two have struck up a relationship that Jeffries says has helped him cope with the injury.

“He’s really helped me out,” says the 6-foot-11 forward. “We’ve gotten pretty close over the summer. He went through it a lot worse than I ever did. They didn’t know if his knee would ever heal right after he cracked it. It’s a hard situation.

“He’s given me a lot of advice,” Jeffries continued. “Mostly, he’s told me to be patient with it. He told me that I’m young and that I shouldn’t rush it. In the long run I’ll be better for it.”

Wizards coach Eddie Jordan is comfortable with this approach. Jeffries has not yet been cleared to play in games, and it is unlikely he will see any action when the Wizards play host to the Knicks in their only preseason home game Tuesday night.

For now, Jeffries participates in the morning practice, then goes much lighter than his teammates in the evenings.

“We’re slightly cautious with him, although he’s shown that he can go full speed,” Jordan said following the team’s morning workout at John Kreese Arena at the College of Charleston. “But we’re not going live with him. He looks great, the athleticism is there. But I’m sure he’s got some more to go.”

The sitting and watching has been the hardest part for Jeffries. This is the first major injury the 21-year-old player — the 11th overall pick in the 2002 draft — has had to endure.

“It was the worse thing I ever had to go through, especially when the team is not doing that well,” Jeffries said. “If we had been a playoff team and had an exciting atmosphere, it would have been a lot different. Having to sit there when they had to go through things, with everybody down, I really couldn’t comprehend why they were down.”

Jeffries spent much of the summer rehabbing his knee in Sarasota, Fla., at the IMG Basketball Academy, extending his body to its limits in an effort to get back to 100 percent.

“It was like a 9-to-5 job,” Jeffries said. “Weightlifting for hours, massages, all kinds of stuff. It’s all part of the process.

But being without basketball was a revelation to Jeffries, something that has helped him put everything into perspective.

“This motivated me more than anything to be the best player I’m going to be,” Jeffries said, looking forward to the days when he will be completely healthy. “It kind of makes you realize how short this career, how short this business really is. You have to be the best you can be as soon as you can be it. There’s no waiting. You have to be the best now. You have to really push yourself to be as good as you can be as soon as you can.”

Note — Former Toronto coach Lenny Wilkens joined the Wizards at practice yesterday. Wilkens, fired by the Raptors over the summer, is not being considered for a job with the Wizards.

“When I was out of a job he invited me to his camp. So he’s out of a job and I invited him to my camp,” Jordan said jokingly.

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