- The Washington Times - Friday, November 19, 2004

The day before the Washington Wizards’ 110-105 overtime victory against Boston on Wednesday, coach Eddie Jordan spent five minutes explaining to young forwards Jared Jeffries and Jarvis Hayes why Jeffries was going to start.

“Coach just told me that he needed my length on the court to make it difficult on Paul Pierce from a defensive standpoint. It made sense to me,” said Jeffries, who played well in his first start this season.

Said Hayes: “Some nights he’s the better guy for the matchup, some nights I am. I think Coach does a good job in putting us in the right situation.”

Come again?

Where are the usual player complaints about playing time in the ego-driven NBA?

For now at least, this team doesn’t seem to have that problem.

Hayes started four games before Wednesday, and at 13.5 remains the team’s fourth-leading scorer and much more likely than Jeffries to put points on the board heading into tonight’s game at New Jersey.

But outscoring teams hasn’t been a problem for the Wizards (4-4), whose 101.5-point average ranks fifth in the league. Defense is the problem, with opponents averaging 104.5 — the league’s highest yield. And even though Pierce finished with a season-high 37 points, he made just eight of 25 shots from the field and needed an 18-for-20 performance at the line to get his numbers.

In overtime, Jeffries blocked one of his shots and drew a timely charge against Pierce, who made just one meaningless basket. As a bonus, Jeffries contributed a career-high 15 points and seven rebounds.

“Right now we both have chances to show what we can do because of the circumstances, so we’re just taking advantage of them,” Jeffries said.

If the Wizards’ front line was healthy, both players would be coming off the bench. Since training camp, Jordan has envisioned a lineup with Brendan Haywood at center, Kwame Brown at power forward and Antawn Jamison playing small forward.

But Brown, who had his first full-contact practice of the season Thursday, is on the mend from foot surgery and about two weeks away from returning — according to him. But when he does, it will take time for him to get in playing shape — which means Jordan will still be relying heavily on Jeffries and Hayes.

Look for Jeffries to get the minutes against bigger guys who can score like Seattle’s Rashard Lewis. When the Wizards want to pressure the other team into being more focused on stopping their offense, Jordan almost certainly will go with Hayes.

One thing Jordan likes about the situation is that he’s not worrying about potential locker room tiffs involving the two.

“It’s always good to have good character on your team,” Jordan said. “A lot of things happen during the season. It’s an emotional roller coaster. … Things happen in your personal life. There are a lot of things going on in the locker room. I have the ability to change the lineup without having confrontations, repercussions or a change in personality or attitude. It’s a good thing to have those types of guys on your team.”

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