Tuesday , Oct , 19 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Washington Wizards 2004-05 Season Preview

=== Washington Wizards 2004-05 Season Preview ===

By Warren Blatt, NBA Editor

2003-04 FINISH: 25-57

OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Antawn Jamison (F) – Trade with Dallas; Anthony Peeler
(G) – Free Agent; Samaki Walker (F) – Free Agent.

OFFSEASON SUBTRACTIONS: Lonny Baxter (F) – Selected by Charlotte in Expansion
Draft; Christian Laettner (F) – Traded to Dallas; Jerry Stackhouse (G) –
Traded to Dallas.

2004 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (5) Devin Harris (G, Wisconsin) – Traded to Dallas; 2.
(32) Peter Ramos (C, Puerto Rico).

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Gilbert Arenas, SG Larry Hughes, SF Antawn
Jamison, PF Kwame Brown, C Brendan Haywood

COACH: Eddie Jordan

(Sports Network) – Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison have been reunited in
Washington with the hope that they can help the Wizards get back to the
postseason for the first time since 1997. The pair spent two seasons (2001-02,
2002-03) together as members of the Golden State Warriors.

The Wizards big move during the offseason came on the night of the NBA Draft,
as they acquired Jamison and cash considerations from the Dallas Mavericks in
exchange for guard Jerry Stackhouse, forward Christian Laettner and the draft
rights to guard Devin Harris, who was selected out of Wisconsin by the Wizards
with the fifth overall pick.

By acquiring Jamison, who was the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year this past
season, the Wizards hope he and their starting point guard Arenas can become
one of the NBA’s top one-two punches.

The 28-year-old Jamison, who was originally selected out of North Carolina by
Toronto in the first round (fourth pick overall) of 1998 NBA Draft and then
had his draft rights traded by the Raptors to Golden State for the draft
rights to Vince Carter and cash, played in all 82 regular-season games for
Dallas this past season and averaged 14.8 points and a career-low 6.3
rebounds.

“In obtaining Antawn Jamison, we have added a player who has outstanding
talent and gives us size and versatility in the frontcourt,” said Washington
general manager Ernie Grunfeld. “We gave up some talented players, but in this
league you have to give up talent to get talent.”

Jamison gives Washington some much needed scoring in the frontcourt. Forward
Kwame Brown averaged a career-high 10.9 points last season, which was the most
by any Wizards forward. During his six-year career, Jamison has averaged more
than 20 points per game twice and has averaged 19.1 points in 418-career
games.

Arenas, who signed as a free agent with the Wizards in August 2003, had a
solid first year with Washington. He did miss 27 games because of various
injuries, but he ended up averaging team-highs in points (19.6 ppg) and
assists (5.0 apg). The 6-3 also Arenas grabbed 4.6 rebounds per game.
Originally selected after his sophomore season at Arizona by Golden State in
the second round (31st pick overall) of the 2001 NBA Draft, the 22-year-old
Arenas has averaged 16.8 points, 4.2 boards and 5.2 assists during his three
years in the league.

Head coach Eddie Jordan had a tough rookie season with the Wizards, but
Washington’s management has tried during the offseason to give him a more
complete roster to work with in 2004-05. Jordan had trouble convincing the
Wizards to play defense and that will once again be the focus of his coaching
sessions. The scoring is there, but Jordan’s mission will be to motivate his
squad to understand the fact that defense wins games. The second-year general
has his hands full.

With Arenas, who will serve a one-game suspension during Washington’s 2004-05
season opener because of a suspension he received from the NBA after pleading
no contest to a misdemeanor charge of failing to maintain proper handgun
registration while he was living in California in 2003, and Jamison on their
roster, the Wizards have two players who can score in bunches. Both players
are capable of averaging 20-plus points per night. Another positive about
Washington’s new dynamic-duo is that both players are young and should keep
getting better.

The Wizards feel that they have two important pieces to their puzzle in place.
If the rest of Washington’s roster can mesh with the explosive talents of
Arenas and Jamison, the Wizards could be getting closer to turning the corner
and contending for a playoff berth.

BACKCOURT

Arenas and Larry Hughes give the Wizards a lot of scoring in the backcourt.
The 25-year-old Hughes averaged 18.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists in
61 games for Washington. The pair gives Washington an athletic starting
backcourt that will cause the opposition fits and should benefit greatly on
the offensive end of the court with Jamison in the lineup.

Veteran Anthony Peeler, who spent last season with the Sacramento Kings, will
spell Hughes when he needs a rest. Entering his 13th season in the league,
Peeler is solid defensively and will give the Wizards a decent outside shooter
off the bench.

Maryland products Steve Blake and Juan Dixon will compete for time behind
Arenas. Blake had an average rookie campaign last season as he averaged 5.9
points and 2.8 assists in 75 games for the Wizards, while Dixon, who is
entering his third season in the league, contributed 9.4 points in 71 contests
for Washington.

If Arenas and Hughes can stay healthy and are able to understand the concept
that there is only one ball on the court, they could become a top backcourt in
the league. But the fact is that both players think shoot first and this could
become a big problem if Washington continues its losing ways.

FRONTCOURT

The Wizards are still waiting for Brown to reach his full potential. The 6-11
Brown will start at power forward, while Jamison will play alongside him at
small forward.

The 22-year-old Brown, who is entering his fourth season in the league, was
originally selected out of Glynn Academy high school by Washington in the
first round (first pick overall) of the 2001 NBA Draft. He did pull down a
career-high 7.4 rebounds last season and showed flashes of a star in the
making. However, Brown has not been consistent and has shown that his game is
still raw. This is a big year for Brown, as the Wizards will need to make a
decision if they want to invest big dollars in him.

Seven-footer Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas will man the middle for the
Wizards, while rookie Peter John Ramos learns from the bench. Haywood appeared
in 77 games for Washington last season, starting 59 of those contests.
Entering his fourth season in the NBA, Haywood averaged seven points, five
rebounds and 1.3 blocks.

During the offseason, Washington decided to match a six-year offer sheet that
was offered to Thomas by the Milwaukee Bucks. The 6-10 Thomas had signed an
offer sheet with the Bucks worth a reported $36.6 million, but the Wizards
felt it was important to make the investment and keep the three-year veteran.
The 25-year-old Thomas, who has started only 15 games during his NBA career,
had his best year as a pro in 2003-04, averaging career-highs of 8.9 points
and 6.7 rebounds in 79 games.

Jarvis Hayes averaged 9.6 points and 3.8 rebounds in 78 games in 2003-04, his
rookie season. The 6-7 Hayes, who can also play shooting guard, will take up
some minutes at small forward and will give coach Jordan some offensive pop
off the bench.

The Wizards are hopeful that Jared Jefferies, who was originally selected out
of Indiana in the first round (11th overall) of the 2002 NBA Draft by
Washington, and Samaki Walker can provide productive minutes at power forward.
Jefferies averaged 5.7 points and 5.2 boards in 82 contests for Washington
last season, while the 6-9 Walker, who signed with the Wizards as a free
agent, played 33 games for Miami in 2003-04.

Washington feels that Jamison gives its frontcourt instant credibility. The
North Carolina product was not comfortable in Dallas, even though he never
complained. Brown expects Jamison to do the one thing that he knows best,
score, and that should make him feel right at home.

OUTLOOK

The Wizards have too many one-dimensional players. Washington will once again
be very weak defensively and that will mean an eighth straight season out of
the playoffs. If the Wizards don’t show a some improvement on their 25 wins of
a season ago, Jordan could find himself looking for a new job.

WAS