- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 22, 2005

DENVER — The move by Washington coach Eddie Jordan on Wednesday to insert Caron Butler in the starting lineup paid off for the Wizards, helping them to a much-needed 116-110 win over the Denver Nuggets.

Surprisingly, the switch didn’t involve sending forward Jared Jeffries to the bench and using either Chucky Atkins or Antonio Daniels opposite point guard Gilbert Arenas. Instead, Jeffries is now being used as a sort of hybrid player, a testament to his versatility that the coaching staff touts.

Ask any Wizards player or coach, and they say Jeffries is now the team’s starting shooting guard, the latest player in a group that has included Daniels, Atkins and the injured Jarvis Hayes this season.

The 6-foot-11 Jeffries is skilled enough to have the ball in his hands and push it into the frontcourt and still can guard the oppositions’ most dangerous frontcourt player, whether that is Tim Duncan or Kevin Garnett.

The primary reason for Jeffries being dubbed the team’s starting two guard is his familiarity with the offense.

“Jared is the two because he knows the offense so well,” said Arenas, who scored 36 points and had 11 assists to help the Wizards (10-14) end their three-game skid and win a road game for the first time since Nov. 25. “Caron only knows it for the three. You can put Jared at the one, two, three, four or five because he knows the offense so well.

“So instead of taking him out the lineup, we have a bigger lineup. Really, if you really want to understand what Coach is doing, Caron is your two in a shooter’s sense and Jared is your defensive three. But in our system, Jared is a two.”

With bigger players on the floor, the Wizards — who conclude their five-game road trip tonight at Pacific Division-leading Phoenix (15-9), where they have lost 15 of their last 16 games — won the rebounding battle 45-36. And they appeared more aggressive at the offensive end since they began the season 5-1.

For Jeffries, this is nothing new. For a tall player, he can get the ball off the defensive glass and into the frontcourt quickly.

With Jeffries in this hybrid position, Butler is able to be more involved in the offense from the outside in. Butler who by nature likes to attack the basket, is able to shoulder some of the scoring load carried by Arenas and Antawn Jamison. It also makes double-teaming Jamison more difficult than it has been at any point this season.

Jeffries is comfortable in this role, mostly because the Wizards have been experimenting with it for some time.

“We worked on it a little bit during the preseason, but I feel comfortable with it for the most part,” Jeffries said. “I know the position and it’s going to give me a chance to handle the ball a little bit more and run around. That’s what I like to do, utilizing my size and help create matchup problems. We become a bigger team. We can match up better with bigger teams and we should be able to rebound better.”

In his new role, Jeffries also turned in one of his more complete performances of the season, scoring 10 points on 4-for-5 shooting with six rebounds and three assists before fouling out.

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