Sunday, October 24, 2004

The Washington Wizards have just three games left in the preseason to develop chemistry before the games matter. Despite nagging injuries that have forced coach Eddie Jordan to tinker with his roster more than he would like, he doesn’t appear overly concerned.

Why? Because most of his injured players should get back soon, in some cases as quickly as tonight, when the Wizards play expansion team Charlotte in their only home preseason game.

“It just doesn’t seem to be as severe as last year,” Jordan said yesterday following practice at MCI Center. “Guys are just nursing some bumps and bruises, outside of Steve [Blake] and Kwame [Brown]. And they both seem to be rehabbing well.”

Against the Detroit Pistons on Friday night, Washington was without Blake (ankle surgery), Brown (foot surgery), point guard Gilbert Arenas (ankle), Jarvis Hayes (back), Anthony Peeler (dental surgery) and Etan Thomas (abdominal strain).

The Wizards have been preparing for the Nov.3 season opener at Memphis knowing that they won’t have Brown or Blake. Brown, a starter at forward, is expected to return by mid-November. Blake, a reserve point guard, is expected back in December.

Jordan expects Arenas, Hayes and Peeler back tonight. However, the Wizards are uncertain when Thomas — who suffered his injury at the end of training camp — will return.

“We just don’t want to rush anything,” Jordan said.

In the three preseason games remaining, Jordan wants to tighten up his rotation. Yesterday he indicated he had a good idea of who was going to be a part of it. But he would prefer to have had more time this preseason to get guys on the court who will be playing crucial minutes in the season.

“I have to go with what I have,” Jordan said. “It is what it is as far as people we have available. Right now Gilbert is coming back, so that helps. Fortunately, Kwame, Stevie and Etan know what we are doing. Right now the most difficult part is getting it through to the new guys, getting them in tune with what we are doing and getting the kinks out.”

This no doubt explains why Jordan has been giving newly acquired forward Antawn Jamison extended minutes on the floor. Only he and Brendan Haywood have started all five games, and Jamison has averaged nearly 32 minutes.

Jordan believes Jamison having played for Golden State with Arenas and Larry Hughes — Washington’s top two scorers last season — will help Jamison get acclimated.

“He is getting pretty comfortable, you can see it,” Jordan said. “I know where he likes to get the ball. To make it easier for him, we’ve got some sets where we can get him the ball that aren’t a part of the system and are tailor-made for him.”

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