With Playoff Loss Still Fresh, Wizards Visit Cavaliers

By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 14, 2006

The atmosphere inside Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland for tonight's Wizards-Cavaliers preseason game won't approach the excitement of the night of Nov. 1, when the teams open the regular season. But tonight's game won't be devoid of meaning for the Wizards.

"We're playing a team that we lost to in the playoffs, and guys may want to lick their chops just a little to get a taste of it," Washington Coach Eddie Jordan said. "Even though it's preseason, it's in Cleveland and it's a chance to reacquaint ourselves with how they play."

It was unclear how Cleveland Coach Mike Brown would set his lineup, because the Cavaliers played the Boston Celtics last night in New Hampshire. Jordan likely will go with his regular starting lineup, which consists of Gilbert Arenas and DeShawn Stevenson at guard, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison at forward and Brendan Haywood at center.

Haywood and Etan Thomas have been alternating starts in their competition to win the starting center job, while second-year players Andray Blatche and Donell Taylor have been attempting to show that they belong in Jordan's rotation this season.

With the exception of Stevenson, all of those players carry fresh memories from last spring's first-round playoff series, which the Cavaliers won in six games. Three of the Wizards' losses in that series were decided by a point, and the team has had six months to ponder how close it was to reaching the second round for the second straight season.

"I know it's something I thought about every day this summer," Arenas said during training camp. "I'm sure the other guys feel the same way."

Guard Antonio Daniels could be available for the Wizards. Daniels turned his left ankle in practice on Thursday and was limited in practice yesterday but said he wants to play.

"I plan on being out there," said Daniels, who has primarily manned the backup point guard position in the first two preseason games. "If the ankle feels okay, I'll go."

Ramos Is Let Go

The team released center Peter John Ramos yesterday. Ramos, who was selected in the second round of the 2004 draft, appeared in six regular season games a rookie but has not appeared since.

The 7-foot-3 Ramos was viewed as a project from the start. He was discovered in New York by a scout from Puerto Rico when he was 14 years old and wound up playing four seasons in Puerto Rico's Superior Basketball League.

The Wizards have been patient with Ramos, hoping that with time and enough instruction, the 21-year-old would develop. Ramos played in three NBA summer leagues as a Wizard, was assigned to the NBA's Development League last winter and worked with his own assistant coach last season.

However, Ramos has not moved up the depth chart and the team quickly was running out of options. Ramos was no longer eligible to play in the D-League, as the league is reserved for players in their first or second NBA seasons, and the Wizards have three centers with guaranteed contracts (Haywood, Thomas and Calvin Booth).

"We have a lot of centers on our roster, plus Darius [Songaila] and Michael [Ruffin] can play center also, so Peter was in essence a sixth center for us," Jordan said. "He wouldn't have been better than Darius or Michael if we had to put them at center so there really wasn't a place for him."

Jordan has been intrigued by what he has seen out of center James Lang this preseason. The 6-10, 285-pound Lang was drafted by the Hornets directly out of high school in 2003 and made brief stops in Toronto and Atlanta, but has yet to appear in a regular season NBA game.

The Wizards now have 16 players on the roster, including Songaila, who has been out with a pinched nerve in his lower back. Songaila made the trip to Cleveland but won't play tonight.

A New Look

The Wizards will hold a "Meet the Team" party for season ticket holders on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Verizon Center. That night, the team will unveil new alternate uniforms. The Wizards will wear the black and gold uniforms for the first time on Nov. 18 in a home game against Cleveland.

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