- The Washington Times - Monday, November 28, 2005

The Washington Wizards’ reshuffled roster has meant plenty of changes for everyone. Just ask Jared Jeffries.

Jeffries won the starting forward job opposite Antawn Jamison coming out of camp. His reward? Some of the toughest defensive assignments on the team.

One night his job is to guard San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, and another it’s to chase Seattle’s Rashard Lewis all over the court. And if that’s not enough, he has been tasked to slow down Minnesota’s Kevin Garnett.

As a result, Jeffries has struggled, particularly at the offensive end, where some of his key numbers — such as scoring and minutes — are down from last year.

The 6-foot-11 Jeffries is averaging 20.4 minutes a game, down from the 26-plus he averaged last season. Like last season, Jeffries has fewer plays called for him than any other starter. As a result, his scoring has suffered as well. This season he is averaging 4.3 points, down from last season’s 6.8.

“It’s kind of hard for me to put up bigger numbers because I’m not playing as much as I did last season and I don’t get my number called a lot,” Jeffries said. “But if I can get out in transition, run and grab some offensive rebounds, that’s going to help us a lot.”

There have been times when Jeffries has looked out of it, such as the night he played 13 scoreless minutes and failed to get a rebound against Minnesota — almost inexcusable for someone his size.

On other nights he has made an impact, such as when he hauled down 15 rebounds, scored seven points and had a block in the Wizards’ 120-114 double-overtime victory against Detroit on Friday.

Jeffries’ inconsistency mirrors the recent fortunes of the Wizards (6-7), who after starting the season 5-1 have lost six of their last seven. But Jeffries and those around him don’t believe the Wizards — and their fourth-year forward, for that matter — are on the way to a failed season.

“Oh, I’m not worried about Jared,” Antawn Jamison, the Wizards’ most consistent player this season, said following yesterday’s practice at MCI Center. “He’s a unique player. He’s the kind of guy who will make things happen for us in transition and off the glass. We didn’t call a lot of plays for him last season, and he still helped to make a difference.”

With the Wizards’ roster much deeper than last season, coach Eddie Jordan’s job becomes more difficult because he has to find more minutes for more players. Every player in the locker room has acknowledged the difficult task is partially responsible for the team’s recent struggles.

Jeffries, drafted by the Wizards with the 11th pick overall in 2002, did not receive a contract extension before the season. However, Washington gave a nearly $50 million deal to newly acquired forward Caron Butler, selected one place ahead of Jeffries in the same draft by Miami.

As a result, Jeffries will become a restricted free agent this summer, but he said he understands this is the business of the NBA. At the moment, he’s more concerned that the Wizards bounce back from their slump.

“We just have to start trusting each other more,” Jeffries said of the Wizards, who play host to Portland tomorrow. “I think everybody enjoys being around each other, but there is still a lack of trust. It will come. But when you add three or four new guys to a team like ours and you have the kind of chemistry we had, it takes a while for guys to get to that point. But they will.”

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