- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 7, 2004

RICHMOND — Not once did the Red Hot Chili Peppers song “Give it Away” come booming down from the sound system at any of the Washington Wizards’ 41 home games last year, but it would have been an appropriate, perhaps even thematic.

En route to a 25-57 record, the Wizards committed more turnovers than any other team in the league, averaging 17.5 a game.

Eliminating those gaffes is at the top of this year’s list of priorities for the Wizards, who completed their second day of training camp yesterday at Virginia Commonwealth’s Siegel Center.

Almost everyone in camp believes many of last season’s turnovers stemmed from the team trying to learn coach Eddie Jordan’s complex offense. This season, though, there seems to be a prevailing confidence the players have a better grasp of it.

“They are so in tune with the offense it’s like night and day,” said Jordan, comparing the team’s understanding of the offense this season to last.

Point guard Gilbert Arenas is responsible for the offense running, and he feels comfortable in that position. He was second in the league in turnovers last season, averaging a career-high 4.11.

“Cutting them down is the number one priority, no question,” Arenas said. “I think the key compared to last season is that we understand the offense a lot better as a team. We know where players are supposed to be, so we don’t have to second-guess.”

Starting shooting guard Larry Hughes acknowledged the problem yesterday. His 2.49 turnover average was higher than his assists total (2.4), and it was his highest since he played much of the 2000-01 season at point guard.

“If Gilbert cuts his in half and I cut mine in half, we’re already there,” said Hughes, who added he would like to see the team commit at least three or four fewer turnovers a game. “We were a big part of those turnovers. If we cut them in half, I think that’s all the coaches want us to do. That’s what the team needs us to do.”

Notes — It appears the starting center job again will belong to Brendan Haywood at the start of the season.

Of Etan Thomas, a backup last season who signed a $38million contract over the summer, Jordan said, “I think right now his role is coming off the bench. I think he’s comfortable coming off the bench, and he’s forceful off the bench. And Brendan has earned the right to be a defensive stopper for us. He’s our last line of defense. It’s a good fit right now.” …

Former Washington Bullets small forward Bobby Dandridge visited with the team yesterday.

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