Revolving-door roster forces Wizards to get to know an influx of players

Rookie Alonzo Gee, right, signed two 10-day contracts with the Wizards and appeared in 11 games before bolting to the Spurs.
Rookie Alonzo Gee, right, signed two 10-day contracts with the Wizards and appeared in 11 games before bolting to the Spurs. (David Zalubowski/associated Press)
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By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 4, 2010

Cedric Jackson agreed to sign a 10-day contract with the Washington Wizards while the team was on a two-game trip, and the quick turnaround didn't give team equipment manager Rob Suller enough time to have a jersey prepared for him. So when Jackson dressed for a game in New Orleans on Wednesday, he was given a jersey that had the No. 88 and no name on the back -- the only stock uniform that the Wizards had in tow.

Jackson didn't play that night; he later joked that it spared him the embarrassment of running on the court as an irrelevant player with no name and a ridiculous jersey number. "Then again, it doesn't matter. I'm here," said Jackson, a rookie point guard who started this year with the NBA Development League's Erie BayHawks.

Jackson now has his preferred uniform with his name and number (9), and whenever he makes his Wizards debut -- possibly Sunday night against the New Jersey Nets (11-65) -- he will become the 24th player to set foot on the court for the team, which will be a franchise record.

The Wizards (22-53) had never used more than 21 players before this tumultuous season. They left training camp in Richmond with 15 players, but only five of them remain with the team and are healthy enough to play Sunday: Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee, Nick Young, Mike Miller and Fabricio Oberto.

Over the course of the season, six players have been shipped out in trades, two have been bought out, two were suspended for the season, one has been waived, and another left for guaranteed money elsewhere. The Wizards have added another four players in trades, signed one off the scrap heap, and brought in five more players on 10-day contracts.

"It's been in and out. It's been hard. You have relationships with people, you get to know them and then they're gone," Young said. "You try to welcome them in, be cool, good with them and get a good vibe out there on the court. It's like having to start all over, starting a new school or something like that."

There has been so much movement that four numbers have been worn by more than one player: No. 2 (Shaun Livingston and DeShawn Stevenson), No. 3 (Caron Butler and Quinton Ross), No. 5 (Dominic McGuire and Josh Howard), and No. 33 (Brendan Haywood and Mike Harris). Jackson will make it five, since Paul Davis had No. 9 before him.

The Wizards have actually had 27 players on the roster, with Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Drew Gooden and Javaris Crittenton never appearing in a game.

Ilgauskas was acquired in a trade with Cleveland for Antawn Jamison but only arrived for his physical before agreeing to a buyout and returning to the Cavaliers. Gooden participated in one morning walk-through and was dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers that night. And Crittenton missed the entire season with a foot injury and a 32-game suspension for his involvement in a gun-related dispute with Gilbert Arenas.

The in-season roster moves began and ended with injuries to Randy Foye. A day after he sprained his ankle on Nov. 9, the Wizards signed Earl Boykins, and Jackson joined the team when Foye was lost for the season with a torn ligament in his left wrist.

In between, Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld reset the roster with some cost-cutting trades to get the team below the luxury tax threshold, and a season-ending knee injury to swingman Howard created a rotating roster spot. Since Feb. 23, Miller has looked over at the once-empty locker room stall to his left and seen it filled by Harris and Alonzo Gee, who was so quiet and unassuming his first few days in Washington that James Singleton didn't know he was on the team until he looked across the locker room and noticed an unusual nameplate.

"I'm looking like, 'Who's Gee?' " Singleton said.

Gee set the record as the 22nd player to don a Wizards uniform and eventually became a surprise starter. Coach Flip Saunders had hoped to sign him for the rest of the year before Gee bolted for the San Antonio Spurs after his second 10-day contract expired.

"Gee was real shocking," Young said. "Me and him starting talking, getting close and then I came in and somebody said, 'You heard what happened to Gee? He's gone to San Antonio.' I was like, 'How did that happen?' "

The Wizards then replaced Gee with Cartier Martin, another D-League call-up. "That locker's been a rental spot," Miller said with a smile, "but hopefully Cartier will hold it down for us the rest of the year. We've had a little more unique situation, where we've had to move in and out with players, but that's part of the business I guess. My 10 years, I haven't seen it."

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