Monday , Mar , 07 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Wizards are thinking playoffs

(Sports Network) – Washington appears to be headed for its first postseason
appearance since the 1996-97 season. In Washington’s last playoff appearance,
the Bullets, who became the Wizards for the 1997-98 regular season, were
eliminated in three straight games by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

The Wizards, who won just 25 games last season, are eight games above .500
(33-25) this late into the season for the first time since the 1978-79
campaign. Washington is trying to hold on to the No. 4 seed, which would get
it homecourt advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.

All-Stars Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison have been the catalysts for the
Wizards. Both players have been consistent all season and were deserving of
their spots in February 20th’s All-Star Game, which was played in Denver at
the Pepsi Center. In fact, Washington had two representatives in the All-Star
Game for the first time since 1987 when center Moses Malone and guard Jeff
Malone represented the franchise.

Arenas, who has missed just two games this season, has started all 56 games
that he has appeared in for the Wizards. He leads the team in scoring (25.5
ppg) and assists (5.3 apg). The 23-year-old Arenas has scored in double-
digits in 53 of 56 games and has netted 20 or more points in 44 contests.
Arenas, who has led the Wizards in scoring in 32 games, is shooting 43 percent
from the field and 36 percent from three- point range.

The 28-year-old Jamison, who is playing in his seventh season in the league,
has started all 58 of Washington’s games. He has not missed a regular season
game since the 1999-00 season and has provided the scoring and rebounding that
the Wizards lacked up front in the 2003-04 campaign. The North Carolina
product is averaging 20 points and a team-high eight rebounds per game. He is
playing over 39 minutes per game.

The 6-9 Jamison has scored in double-digits 51 times this season and has
netted 20 or more points in 29 of those contests. He has registered 22 double-
doubles and has played 40 or more minutes in 35 games.

Guard Larry Hughes, who has missed 27 games because of injuries, has been
explosive offensively when he is on the court. He is second on the club in
scoring (21.6 ppg) and has helped make Washington’s offense very difficult to
contain.

Hughes, 26, has scored 20 or more points in 22 of the 37 games he has played
in this season. The seven-year veteran works well with Arenas and Jamison, as
the three have found a way to share the ball effectively which has led to many
victories for Washington.

Head coach Eddie Jordan deserves a lot of credit for the Wizards’ success. He
has done an excellent job during his second year as the general of the club.
Eddie Jordan has been able to get Arenas, Hughes and Jamison to play together
and has also found a way to keep the three offensive-minded players happy even
though there is only one ball on the court.

Eddie Jordan has also convinced the other players on Washington’s roster that
there are many roles that need to be filled to help the team win. Players like
Jarvis Hayes, Brendan Haywood, Jared Jeffries and Juan Dixon have stepped up
on nights when Arenas, Jamison and Hughes have not been at their best.

Barring a major setback, Washington will finish above .500 for the first time
since the 1997-98 season when it was 42-40 under Bernie Bickerstaff, who is
now the general manager and head coach of the Charlotte Bobcats.

It’s hard to believe that the Wizards are fighting for positioning for the
upcoming playoffs. Washington is not going to win a championship this season,
but it has three players who average 20 or more points per game and it could
be tough to deal with in a seven-game series.

Don’t be shocked if the Wizards create some excitement in the postseason.

WAS