- The Washington Times - Monday, January 8, 2007

The nightly barrage of points by the league-leading trio of Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison is both a blessing and a boon.

Together, they combine to score almost 71 points a game for the 19-14 Wizards, who play host to the Chicago Bulls tomorrow.

But a dynamic that has helped the Wizards be lethal at times, especially during a stretch in which they have won 15 of their last 20 games, also can cause some problems.

Take for example Jarvis Hayes, who has gotten fewer touches because of the success of Washington’s big three. Envisioned as a scorer capable of one day starting in the NBA, Hayes has appeared in just 75 games over the last two seasons because of a twice-cracked knee that eventually necessitated surgery last Valentine’s Day. He is still feeling his way back.

That was clear Sunday in Toronto, when Hayes heated up for 12 points in the first half and appeared to be headed for a big night. But Hayes, averaging a career-low 5.9 points this season, shot just twice in the second half — the first of which came late in the third quarter — and went scoreless the rest of the way.

While he’s happy he’s playing and is pain-free — although he did tweak his ankle in the third quarter of the Wizards’ 116-111 loss to the Raptors — the up-and-down nature of his play obviously is grating on him.

“It’s a work in progress,” said Hayes, a career 9.1 points-a-game scorer. “I’m out of rhythm, and the way this team’s structured, which I don’t have a problem with. But it’s one of those things where I have to come in and get my shots and eventually get my rhythm.”

Hayes, in the final year of his contract, will become a restricted free agent this summer. At the moment he’s averaging career lows in just about every key category, including a .371 shooting percentage. His 0.8 assists and 0.4 steals also are career lows.

In fairness to Hayes, though, he’s also logging fewer minutes than he has at any other time in his three-year career.

But while Hayes’ frustration is palpable, Wizards coach Eddie Jordan and Hayes’ teammates have an easier time acknowledging he’s still shaking the rust off his game than he does.

After he posted double figures in scoring Sunday for just the fifth time this season, Jordan was asked whether Hayes has been somewhat of a tease this season.

“I don’t know,” Jordan said. “Sometimes you can use that word, but I think it’s more a thing where we have to be patient with him. He hasn’t played in a number of games in the last two years. It’s going to take a while before he gets his confidence back. It doesn’t just come right back.”

The good news is that at 108.1 points a game — second in the league to Phoenix — the Wizards can afford to be patient with Hayes. For now they just want to see him get comfortable so that soon he will be able to do what he does best.

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