Wizards Raise Curtain, Hayes Offers a Glimpse
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
After Jarvis Hayes elevated over Fred Jones and released a high-arcing jump shot that hit nothing but net in the fourth quarter of last night's preseason opener against the Toronto Raptors, Gilbert Arenas leaned back in his seat on the Washington Wizards' bench, turned toward the scorer's table and winked while nodding his head.
On a night when the Wizards and Raptors engaged in an otherwise mundane preseason game, a contest won by the Raptors, 93-88, the performance of Hayes provided a glimpse of what can be expected from the new-look Wizards.
The fourth-year shooting guard, who missed 89 games the last two seasons with knee injuries, made 6 of 11 shots and scored 14 points in 19 minutes while energizing the Verizon Center crowd of 10,902.
It was the first game action for Hayes since December, when he re-injured his right knee while defending Lakers guard Kobe Bryant during a game in Los Angeles. Hayes underwent surgery in February, worked hard all summer to strengthen his leg and has shown no signs of favoring the knee since camp opened last week. Last night, Hayes seemed to be the player who averaged 10.2 points before getting hurt midway through the 2004-05 season.
"I walked into the arena today and I felt like a little kid going to play pickup," Hayes said. "The preparation for this game was so different because I knew I was going to finally get to play in a game. I feel good."
Hayes feels so good, he even made a prediction about what Wizards fans can expect from him this season.
"Sixth man of the year," Hayes said. "And comeback player of the year. Both of them. Yep."
Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan was encouraged by more than just seeing a healthy Hayes. He liked the way his starting unit, which featured free agent addition DeShawn Stevenson at shooting guard, got after the Raptors defensively at the start the first and third quarters.
It was a run of impressive defensive plays that enabled the Wizards to open up an eight-point lead late the third quarter.
A steal by Caron Butler led to a fast-break layup by Arenas. A deflection by Butler led to a pretty reverse layin by Antawn Jamison. The Wizards followed those plays by forcing the Raptors into a 24-second shot clock violation.
"Our first team played very well defensively," Jordan said. "DeShawn was our captain and got it going defensively and Gilbert was very good, so our two guards started our defense and really got after it. We won the first quarter and at one point had a 14-point lead, so that was solid."
Jordan started Brendan Haywood at center last night and Etan Thomas will get a start tomorrow in Chicago. Haywood posted a game-high nine rebounds, while Thomas finished with five points and five rebounds.