- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 12, 2009

To the notion the Wizards are too small, Ernie Grunfeld and his brain trust push back with the irrefutable breakdown that Brendan Haywood and Antawn Jamison will consume approximately 65 of the 96 minutes at the center and power forward positions.

That leaves 30 minutes to go to JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche, Dominic McGuire and a player to be added later.

The fear that somehow the Wizards have become the incredible shrinking team came about after Grunfeld dumped Etan Thomas, Oleksiy Pecherov and Darius Songaila to land two shooters, Randy Foye and Mike Miller.

The fear is misplaced, considering two of the departed sat on the end of the bench and the third wore cement shoes.

Wizards observers find it reassuring to have a do-nothing 7-footer sitting on the end of the bench, Grunfeld probably could lure Peter John Ramos back from Puerto Rico.

If you recall, Ramos was a captivating 7-foot-3 mascot in his two seasons with the Wizards. He would work on his 3-point shooting before each game and then exchange body bumps with the starters during pregame introductions before taking a well-deserved rest on the bench each night. Ramos scored a grand total of 11 points in the 2004-05 season, but they apparently were a high-quality 11 points.

The obsession with who is on the end of the bench - tall or short - is upside-down. Championships, after all, are not decided by 12th men.

“You play only eight or nine players most games,” Grunfeld said after the summer league team’s practice Saturday morning. “We’re very versatile now. We have at least three players at every position, and that’s what you want.”

Four holdovers - Javaris Crittenton, JaVale McGee, Dominic McGuire and Nick Young - will be playing in Las Vegas. A fifth, Andray Blatche, is expected to make a cameo appearance there.

The rest of the team’s summer league roster is filled with future nomads, the 10-day-contract brigade and the I-got-to-meet-Sam-Cassell types.

McGee, a 7-footer who has added 10 pounds of muscle to his lithe frame, is feeling more self-assured than he was at this time last year.

“I’m a lot more comfortable out there,” McGee said. “I’m not trying to rush things. I’m just going to keep working hard and do what I do.”

That means run the floor, block shots and play with considerable energy.

If McGee needs a role model, Grunfeld has provided one in Chris Anderson, the ink-stained whirlwind of the Nuggets.

The 21-year-old McGee is taller than Anderson but not nearly as flappable.

“He’s an outstanding athlete who is not afraid to work,” Grunfeld said of McGee. “He’s still learning the game. It’s up to him.”

Big guys inevitably require more development patience than perimeter players.

That is what is dictating Grunfeld’s thinking with Blatche, the up-and-down forward who is having a quiet offseason, legally speaking.

Grunfeld was equally patient with Haywood, which turned out to be the best trade he never made.

The thought of putting both Haywood and McGee on the floor together is at odds with an NBA that finds itself with more multiskilled players in the frontcourt.

One of the least appreciated developments of the NBA playoffs was the emergence of Hedo Turkoglu, the point forward who was the overlooked MVP of the Magic.

That will become apparent soon enough after the Magic essentially replaced Turkoglu with Vince Carter, who too often launches shots without thought to team chemistry and offensive flow.

The Wizards are not seen as a threat to the Cavaliers, Celtics and Magic at the moment, although the addition of Rasheed Wallace in Boston and Carter in Orlando could prove to be toxic.

The Wizards figure to have a deep team with a potential second unit of McGee, Blatche, Miller, Crittenton and Nick Young.

That is an agreeable prospect for a team that has been decimated by injuries the last two seasons.

• Tom Knott can be reached at tknott@washingtontimes.com.

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