- The Washington Times - Monday, October 17, 2005

NBA coaches often welcome road trips during the regular season so their players can escape the distractions of home and bond. However, Eddie Jordan would rather see his Washington Wizards end the preseason closer to D.C. rather than crisscrossing the country.

Washington will spend the next five days playing three games in Bakersfield, Calif., Los Angeles and Houston. At the end of that jaunt, which begins tonight against the Lakers and former teammate Kwame Brown, the Wizards will play their final preseason game at Indiana before beginning the regular season Nov. 2 at Toronto.

“I would prefer playing in New York or Pennsylvania, somewhere close by, because the travel is always wear and tear on you,” Jordan said. “But you have to make the most of it, and this is what we’re going to do.”

One thing Jordan hasn’t had to deal with so far is the health of his team. Going into tonight’s game, only Jarvis Hayes likely will be sidelined as he continues to recover from a broken kneecap last season.

Jordan said Hayes, who is vying for one of two open starting jobs (shooting guard and small forward), has experienced some soreness but not a reoccurrence of the injury that forced him to miss 28 games last season.

“We’re just watching him and being cautious,” Jordan said.

In his last appearance Thursday, Hayes was sharp against San Antonio, scoring 17 of his team-high 19 points in the first half.

Jordan has yet to determine who will start the season at shooting guard and forward alongside starters Brendan Haywood, Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas. He probably will not announce the starting lineup until next week.

Jordan’s primary focus at the moment is getting a better feel for where his players are in terms of picking up the Wizards’ offensive and defensive concepts. He’s trying to get three key new players — Antonio Daniels, Caron Butler and Chucky Atkins — indoctrinated into the system.

“We’re not sitting around saying, ‘C’mon, let’s go regular season,’ ” Jordan said. “We were almost that way last season. We felt good about each other, and we were all familiar. This year we need the time to develop playing with each other and learning our system.”

Notes — Arenas is placing very little importance on tonight’s game against Brown, marking the first time their paths have crossed since Brown said he wanted to slap Arenas, his teammate for two seasons in Washington. “This isn’t Kobe and Shaq,” Arenas said. “I’ll shake his hand, say, ‘What’s up, ‘good luck’ and ‘let’s play.’ ” …

Rookie forward Andray Blatche continues his recovery from a shooting just three weeks ago. Shot in the right arm and left chest during a Sept. 26 carjacking, the 6-foot-11 Blatche dressed for practice and did some shooting and light running yesterday.



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