Taylor and Blatche Are Playing Catchup
Wizards 110, Hawks 105

By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 24, 2006

ATLANTA, Oct. 23 -- Heading into Monday night's game against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena, guard Donell Taylor and forward Andray Blatche had played more minutes than any of their Washington Wizards teammates this preseason.

Taking a serious look at his two second-year players was exactly what Coach Eddie Jordan had in mind when training camp opened on Oct. 3. With only one preseason game remaining, Tuesday night at Detroit, it appears that neither Taylor nor Blatche has earned a place in the regular season rotation.

"They've both struggled, to put it in a nice way," Jordan said Monday before watching the Wizards beat the Hawks, 110-105. "We're still looking for some intelligent playmaking, a little more energy and for them to fulfill their roles. Mostly we need to see the hustle plays and them not breaking down defensively."

Both players have had impressive stretches, such as when they helped the Wizards erase a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit in a win at Cleveland on Oct. 14, but Blatche has struggled with his shooting (13 of 50 from the field) and defense, while Taylor has not convinced Jordan that he can run the offense.

Blatche, who turned 20 in August, learned a valuable defensive lesson Saturday night at Dallas when he defended Mavericks all-star Dirk Nowitzki for a long stretch. Nowitzki displayed an array of pump fakes and post moves while giving the 6-foot-11 Blatche a taste of what he can expect down the road.

"I haven't experienced playing against someone like that," said Blatche, who averaged 5.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 turnovers in the first six preseason games. "He has those dangerous pump fakes, he can drive around you if you get too close and he can get that shot off if you back off."

Jordan and his coaches have continually preached the game's basic skills to Taylor, who primarily played shooting guard at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, and Blatche, who entered the NBA after one season at a prep school.

"You have to stick to fundamentals," Jordan said. "You have to stay down on pump fakes, you have to slide without your feet coming together on defense and don't let people penetrate on you. It always comes back to those fundamentals. If you can do that, you can kind of manipulate your way around the defensive end and adjust to who you are guarding."

Taylor played only two minutes and Blatche only six as Jordan shortened his bench Monday night. Starters Gilbert Arenas, DeShawn Stevenson, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison and Brendan Haywood played nearly the entire first and third quarters.

The starters established a 20-point third-quarter lead, but Atlanta charged back with a 20-6 run to take a short-lived advantage before the Wizards put away the game. Arenas, who did not play in the fourth quarter, led all scorers with 29 points on 8-of-11 shooting.

Wizards guard Jarvis Hayes, an Atlanta native who starred at the University of Georgia, played in his home town for the first time since the 2003-04 season when he was a rookie. His return required extra preparation, as he had to work to line up enough tickets for friends and family.

"It's been a while, so I have to hustle up like 30 tickets," said Hayes, who scored 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting. "It always feels good to come home, though, especially when you know you are going to play."

When Hayes entered the game in the first quarter, he was greeted by several traditional Georgia Bulldog barking sounds from the stands.

Wizards Notes: Rookie forward Mike Hall returned to Washington on Monday to have his strained right knee examined by team doctors.

Hall suffered the injury during Saturday's game at Dallas and remains day-to-day. . . .

Forward Darius Songaila (pinched nerve in his lower back) did not make the trip and remains out indefinitely. . . . Forward Michael Ruffin was held out of a second straight game with soreness in his right foot. Ruffin said the injury is not serious but he will not play against Detroit. . . .

The game at Detroit will be streamed in live audio at http://www.washingtonwizards.com . . . .

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Drew Gooden must be putting together a personal scouting report for the Nov. 1 regular season opener because he watched Monday's game from a second-row seat.

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