- The Washington Times - Friday, October 7, 2005

RICHMOND — The Washington Wizards know they can depend on All-Stars Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison for scoring, and Caron Butler and Jarvis Hayes can help replace the scoring of Larry Hughes.

But what would excite the Wizards to no end is the prospect of throwing the ball inside to center Brendan Haywood for some post scoring.

“I think Brendan has to score more in the post,” Jamison said matter-of-factly. “I told him, when you score for us in games, it’s easy. When you have the 17s and the 15s, everything opens up. On those nights when it’s hard for us to give you the ball, we find ourselves in a dogfight.”

Last season, Haywood, the team’s starting center, showed a more complete game than in his three previous years. He has become more willing to use his jump hook in favor of the fade-away jumper that he used to rely on.

His scoring average increased for the fourth consecutive season, topping out at a career-best 9.4 points, and that was with the Wizards calling few plays for him.

However, by working hard every offseason — and this offseason was no exception — Haywood has showed up in progressively better shape for training camp.

Not only has he earned the respect of his teammates, but Wizards coach Eddie Jordan says Haywood can improve even more.

“He has been a key to our success,” Jordan said following the team’s morning workout at the Siegel Center on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth. “Brendan can be an All-Star in the East. The way he has worked and the dedication he has put into it, he can be an All-Star in the East.”

Jordan also said the offense will include an expanded role for Haywood.

“His offense is going to come,” Jordan said. “We have made it a point to get more scoring and getting more paint attempts, and Brendan is going to give it to us.”

Haywood really doesn’t like discussing the evolution of his game, mostly because he feels it still has a long way to go. Pay him a compliment, but don’t expect him to spend too much time thanking you.

Instead, he talks about the need for further improvement.

“It’s no secret how you get better,” Haywood said. “You have to put in the hours. You have to want to get better. You can’t be content. You have to have the mind-set that other people are working even harder than you are, so you can’t let up.”

Perhaps because of his size — he weighs a shade under 270 today — when he wasn’t a dominant player at North Carolina rumors circulated that he was a soft player, something that bugs Haywood to this day.

“Before he traded for me, Michael Jordan called Dean Smith and Bill Guthridge and they both told him I was a hard worker,” Haywood said. “So that doesn’t bother me. I just know that at the end of the day I’m working to be a better player than I was when the day started. That’s why I’ve continued to improve and that’s why I’m going to continue to improve. I’m not afraid to put in the long hours.”

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