Laron Profit already has grabbed Washington Wizards Coach Gar Heard's attention.
After just three practices, Profit, a rookie shooting guard, has displayed the ballhandling skills of a point guard. Heard knew Profit specialized in defense and transition offense--reasons Washington dealt a conditional second-round pick to Orlando for the former University of Maryland player almost three weeks ago--but Heard did not expect such a diverse package.
"I like what I'm seeing from him," Heard said. "He's a very competitive kid. He's a much better ballhandler than what I thought. He can run two or three positions. I would like to see a little bit more of him. Hopefully he can improve his shooting, but overall I really like what I've seen."
With one guard spot available, Profit, 22, is locked into the most competitive battle in training camp with Reggie Jordan and James Collins. Jordan and Collins have spent time in the CBA and NBA, and neither wants to return to the minor league.
With three hungry players trying to capture Heard's attention, the margin for error is small. Each has to show versatility, relentlessness and the gumption to practice with abandon and urgency each time he steps on the court.
Profit said he is worthy of all challenges.
"There's a lot of things about my game people don't know about now that they are going to see over the next few years," Profit said after practice today at Shepherd College. "In college I was asked to score and do those type of things. It was successful for us. At this level you'll see more of me handling the basketball, breaking people down off the dribble, getting to the cup and finishing."
Nice, but that is not what the Wizards want from their fifth guard. Heard is counting on starting guards Rod Strickland and Mitch Richmond and backups Chris Whitney and Richard Hamilton to provide offense.
Heard wants his fifth guard to be able to match up defensively against some of the league's bigger guards and provide transition offense. In transition, Washington's fifth guard primarily will create opportunities for other players.
Heard wants that player to be able to play point or off guard and some small forward, if need be. Jordan, Collins and Profit, all 6 feet 4, have played all three spots during their careers.
"They want me to play defense, and I'll still get to show what I can do at the other end," Profit said. "Defense has always been my forte."
Profit finished his four-year career with the Terrapins ranked sixth in the Atlantic Coast Conference and second at Maryland in all-time steals (252).
Collins, Jordan and Profit are on equal footing, Heard said. However, Jordan may have a slight inside track because of his NBA experience and history with Heard.
Jordan, 31, spent time in training camp with the Indiana Pacers a few years ago when Heard was an assistant there under Larry Brown. Heard liked Jordan then and persuaded Washington's management to get him into camp.
Jordan's defense, ability to play point guard and his 150 games of NBA experience with four teams are in his favor.
"Whenever I come in the game I give the team a lift," said Jordan, who averaged two points, two rebounds and 1.5 assists in 11 minutes per games last season with Minnesota. "Competing with guys for a roster spot is what I've been doing my whole career. I just look at it as going for another job, doing the same things I've done every day. What more can you ask out of a guy than have him go out, work hard and compete for his livelihood every day?"
Collins, who spent last season in the CBA after playing in 23 games with the Los Angeles Clippers as a rookie in 1997-98, shone for Washington in the Boston Summer League this year.
"I think I showed them in the summer league a little bit of what I could do," said Collins, 26. "I want to let them know that I am a guy that can help this team. I'm very hungry."
Heard said the preseason performances of the three guards likely would determine who makes the team. Heard has not ruled out keeping more than one.
"I like what all three of the guys have done so far," Heard said. "We have to see what happens when we get in the real competition. Once we get into preseason games we'll see what happens. Some guys shine in practice, but once you get into games things change.
"Reggie has played in the league so he knows what it's about. Laron has great potential, and I like what I've seen out of him talent-wise. James, we like what we've seen out of him all summer. Those guys have really done a lot of things to impress the coaching staff."
Wizards Notes: Mitch Richmond strained his right hamstring in this evening's practice. The severity of the injury will not be known until further tests are conducted Thursday morning. . . . The Wizards will hold an open scrimmage at Shepherd College Thursday night at 6:30. Admission is free, but the school is accepting donations for its sports programs.