- The Washington Times - Monday, February 5, 2007

It has been an amazingly manic week for the Washington Wizards.

On Tuesday the Wizards lost starting forward Antawn Jamison to a sprained left knee in the first half of a win against the Detroit Pistons. The next night Washington dropped a 119-109 decision in Toronto without Jamison. Chris Bosh hit a franchise-record 15-straight field goals, and Toronto made 59 percent of its shots.

Then on Thursday, the Wizards found out that Jamison — who has averaged 19.3 points and 7.9 rebounds — will be sidelined for the next three to six weeks, that Caron Butler will join Gilbert Arenas at the All-Star Game on Feb. 18 and that Eddie Jordan will coach them, all in the span of about eight hours. The three Wizards give the franchise its largest All-Star contingent since 1979, when Dick Motta coached the Bullets’ Elvin Hayes and Bob Dandridge.

On Saturday, on two days’ rest and with a chance to regroup and prepare for the Lakers — and the hullabaloo that accompanied the Kobe Bryant-Arenas rematch — the Wizards again looked as if they missed their captain in a 118-102 home loss.

Arenas consistently saw two and three defenders running at him and finished with a 9-for-29 shooting night. Without Jamison on the floor, the court continued to look crowded, and the fluidity that has been the Wizards’ hallmark was gone.

“We have yet too prove that we can play without Antawn,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said following the game against the Lakers. “We didn’t have the leadership on the floor. I’m not faulting our effort or our purpose for playing hard, but we didn’t play together, and we didn’t play smart.”

The Wizards defense was also bad, especially in the second half, when the Lakers scored 64 points and shot 73.3 percent from the floor in the decisive fourth quarter.

Despite the effort, Jordan believes his team can learn from its mistakes and move on from the events of the past week. The Wizards get a chance to prove their coach right in tonight’s home game against the Seattle SuperSonics.

“This [Lakers] game will be good to move forward from,” Jordan said. “This game was played with a little bit of hype in our guys’ minds, and that’s okay. It’s going to happen sometimes. But the things that happened the last few days with the All-Star stuff, that’s over with. It’s in the past, and now it’s time to get back to doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”

Jordan had talked about the possibility of using multiple starters in place of Jamison. However, that quickly changed following the loss at Toronto. He went with 6-foot-11 Calvin Booth at forward opposite Butler, mostly to compensate for the size Toronto has in its frontcourt.

But after seeing hordes of players run at Arenas, Jordan decided going with more offensive-minded forward Jarvis Hayes in the frontcourt would enable the Wizards to more closely resemble the juggernaut they have been for most of the season.

Hayes has some starting experience and feels he can contribute with his outside shooting and the ability to body-up on players out on the perimeter. He looked comfortable against Toronto as he connected on four of five field goals and scored 13 points.

However, he followed that up in his first start by making one of five attempts from behind the 3-point arc against the Lakers and scoring just five points.

“I think we’ll be fine. It’s just an acclimation period,” Hayes said. “I’ve started in this league, so it’s not like it’s an adjustment for me. It’s going to take a couple of games, and hopefully those couple of games have already passed.”

Another good sign: Darius Songaila was pain-free at yesterday’s practice.

“I felt good,” said Songaila, who is coming off back surgery. “It’s going to be a gradual progression. But as long as I’m getting out there and getting spot minutes eventually I’m going to be fine.”

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