- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 4, 2003

CHARLESTON, S.C. — With guards like Jerry Stackhouse, Gilbert Arenas and Larry Hughes, it would be no surprise if Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan were a little giddy about his backcourt.

After all, Stackhouse has been an All-Star, Arenas won the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award last season and Hughes is a dangerous combination guard. But Jordan is reserving any judgment on what this group — collectively earning more than $20million — can or will become.

“I don’t want to predict anything — it’s too early for that,” Jordan said following yesterday’s practice at the College of Charleston. “I want to see how we grow and how we share. And how we’re committed to playing defense. The best backcourts defend first of all.”

Jordan is quick to note that while New Jersey’s Jason Kidd, arguably the best point guard on the planet, gets most of the attention for what he does on offense, he also was named to the NBA All-Defensive second team. The tough defense played by the two-time Eastern Conference champion Nets begins with Kidd.

It’s doubtful, though, that New Jersey’s backcourt is anywhere near as deep as Washington’s, which includes Chris Whitney and Maryland Terrapins products Juan Dixon and Steve Blake.

Yesterday, the first that all players were required to be in camp, the guards appear to have bought into Jordan’s philosophy.

“All of us have to put our egos aside and worry about one thing, and that’s making the playoffs and winning games,” Arenas said.

The backcourt no doubt will do most of the Wizards’ scoring, but Arenas says there will be no bickering by players not getting enough shots.

“I think this offense will help us out a lot because we have to rely on each other rather than just trying to do it ourselves,” he said. “But one thing we know: What Coach wants us to do first is play defense.”

Stackhouse knows something about having to share the basketball. He spent all of his second season in the league and 22 games of his third trying to mesh with Philadelphia shooting machine Allen Iverson.

Even though both have become stars, their early pairing never produced a playoff victory. That is why, despite the potential of the Wizards’ backcourt, Stackhouse advises caution.

“It’s good to look at it on paper and see the names, but the learning curve is the most important thing,” he said. “We have to work on learning our system. Once we learn our system, then we’ll see how deep we are at every position.”

All of the players sound impressed with Jordan’s flowing offensive system, which is a good thing. Another good thing is that they believe it can work this season once they’ve grasped it. And though everyone wants to get out and run, Jordan is impressing them that defense is of utmost importance.

“Really, it’s all about cohesiveness, and I think they are open-minded to that,” Jordan said. “But I mostly want them to share and to help each other.”

Meanwhile, the Wizards released forwards Casey Calvary and Rolan Roberts to have 18 players in camp.

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