By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
As usual, Oleksiy Pecherov was one of the last players to leave the practice court yesterday afternoon. The difference was that for the first time since the preseason, Pecherov's extra effort could result in a chance to play.
After making the second-year forward inactive for the first two games of the regular season, Coach Eddie Jordan indicated following yesterday's practice that Pecherov may suit up tomorrow night when the Wizards (0-2) play at Milwaukee.
Teams are allowed to carry a maximum of 15 players, but only 12 can dress for games. Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood are injured and count on the inactive list so Jordan has to pick one other player to sit each night.
That decision won't always be easy and Jordan said he would typically wait until one hour before tip-off each night -- the deadline for setting an inactive list -- to make his choice.
"It's agonizing to tell a guy he's not going to play and it's always a heck of a decision," Jordan said. "We like his [Pecherov's] size, we like his ability to make shots and we like his rebounding. I don't like to keep a guy on the list that long, so he could be ready to play on Wednesday."
Jordan did not indicate whom he would make inactive, but candidates would likely include backup point guard Dee Brown, who did not get into Saturday's loss at Detroit after seeing action in the opener, and second-year forward Dominic McGuire, who has played a total of 17 minutes in the first two games.
Pecherov, the team's first-round pick in 2006, may find playing time difficult to come by in a log-jammed front court that includes starting center Etan Thomas, rookie center JaVale McGee and reserves Andray Blatche and Darius Songaila.
However, Jordan was not pleased with what he saw from Blatche on Saturday night. After Blatche gave up a couple of layups on dribble drives by former Wizard Kwame Brown during a four-minute stint in the first half, Jordan pulled the fourth-year player and never put him back in.
"If there's not enough effort there and not enough sincere play, you are not going to play," Jordan said after the game.
Yesterday, when asked whether Blatche practiced with a renewed sense of purpose, Jordan's declined to answer.
"Next question," he said.
That could open the door for Pecherov, who has not allowed himself to become discouraged while sitting. He normally remains on the court long after practice is finished, either working on his post-up game with assistant coach Phil Hubbard or shooting jump shots with shooting coach Dave Hopla, and he is among the team's most engaging personalities.
"It's a part of the NBA," Pecherov said of waiting for a chance to play. "There are guys in the same situation on every team and you just have to stay positive. I have to work on my game and stay ready. You never know when I am going to play."
Pecherov, who made his NBA debut last season after spending an extra year overseas, got off to a slow start because of a foot injury that kept him out of action until January. He eventually played in 35 games and averaged 3.6 points on 35.2 percent shooting as a rookie.
He suffered another setback early this summer when a sprained ankle forced him to miss the Las Vegas summer league, but he had a good training camp, averaging 6.9 points (35 percent shooting) and 4.4 rebounds.
One thing that separates Pecherov from the team's other big men is his ability to step out to three-point range and make shots. He connected on 8 of 17 three-point attempts during the preseason and is an active rebounder.
During the preseason, Jordan experimented with a lineup that included the 7-foot Pecherov, 7-foot McGee and 6-11 Blatche, and it's something he may try at some point this season.
Jordan's message to Pecherov has been that he needs to continue working on his game and remain ready.
"It's hard to sit and watch your guys play because you want to go out there and help, but you have to deal with it," Pecherov said. "You have to deal with it and continue to work hard. You have to show the coach that you deserve a spot."