- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 13, 2005

While huddling with his assistant coaches during training camp, Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan admitted that his third training camp has been significantly different than the previous two.

“We all sensed it,” Jordan said. “I can’t put my finger on it but it’s a good thing. Still, I’ve got to get a hold of it.”

Jordan, it seems, is coming to grips with the reality that this team has a different mindset than the previous two, the biggest difference being this year’s team’s greater maturity level.

The Wizards won 25 games in Jordan’s first season. Last year, still with a young roster, the Wizards upped their win total by 20 games and advanced to the playoffs for the first time since 1997.

Jordan believes the addition of playoff-tested players such as Antonio Daniels, Chucky Atkins and Caron Butler coupled with the Wizards who experienced the postseason last year have made for a different mix, one that he likes.

“This is a very different team than the one we’ve had in the last two years,” Jordan said. “It’s more veteran. The teams the last few years were younger. These guys from last year had some success in the playoffs, and the guys we picked up have had some playoff success. This is just vastly different.”

Tonight in Winston Salem, N.C., the Wizards will get a first-hand look at the league’s ultimate veteran bunch, the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, when they meet at Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Winners of three of the last seven NBA titles, the Spurs will be playing their second game in as many nights. Having added veterans Nick Van Exel and Michael Finley to the international potpourri of talent already assembled, the Spurs have few questions to answer.

The Wizards, not at the level of the Spurs, have more uncertainty.

The most interesting battle for playing time will be at small forward, where Jordan hasn’t come close to saying who will start from the trio of Butler, Jared Jeffries or Jarvis Hayes.

Jordan started both Jeffries and Hayes in Monday’s loss to Cleveland while Butler, who will be available tonight, nursed a sore groin. Jeffries turned in a balanced performance in 19 minutes, finishing 3-for-4 from the floor with eight points to go with seven assists and five rebounds. Hayes, coming back from a cracked kneecap, looked as if the injury has healed almost completely.

Jordan also has indicated that he remains undecided on who will start at shooting guard opposite Gilbert Arenas. The two leading candidates there are Daniels — who is probably in the lead — and Hayes.

Note — Both Jeffries and Arenas have minor aches and bruises — “nothing serious,” Jordan noted — and might not play tonight.

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