At this point in training camp last season, Randell Jackson, an undrafted rookie free agent, had done just about everything he needed to secure a roster spot with the Washington Wizards. The agile, 6-foot-11 forward continued to improve, making the first of eight starts less than a month into the season.
Gar Heard couldn't care less. The first-year Wizards coach wants to see results, not hear about past successes.
"One thing guys can't go by is what they did last year," an emphatic Heard said yesterday. "That's not going to get them on this team this year. They've got to show me that they want to play on this team. I don't go by what happened last year. If anybody wants to make this team they have to show me what they're going to do this year."
Jackson, a backup to small forwards Juwan Howard and Tracy Murray, entered training camp two weeks ago seemingly certain of a roster spot. But he has failed to distinguish himself.
Heard, who must trim his roster to 15 by Nov. 1, said there is a place for Jackson on the team. Jackson must regain his old form, however.
Instead of using his size and skills to aggressively penetrate to the basket--the tools he used to make the team as a rookie--Jackson has settled on a perimeter game. Not only has he opted to shoot jump shots instead of layups, but he also is shooting from outside too often.
"I think I've settled more [jump shots] than I should," said Jackson, who averaged 4.2 points, 2 rebounds and 10 minutes per game last season. "I did a lot more going to the cup last year. I have to put it in my mind that I'm going to the hole. I have to put it in my mind at this point and not wait for it."
After scoring two points and blocking a shot in nine minutes in Washington's 88-84 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers last Wednesday, Jackson suffered a right hip pointer in practice the next day. He missed four days of drills and an intrasquad scrimmage at MCI Center on Friday.
That did not help his cause.
"I think the next two weeks are very important for him," Heard said of Jackson. "He's got to get on the court and play. Some guys can't afford to be injured. He's got to get on the floor and play because he's got guys trying to take his job."
Possibly sensing the importance of getting on the court and faring well in upcoming preseason games against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday in Cleveland and Saturday in Baltimore, Jackson resumed practice yesterday.
"I'm going to do what I'm capable of doing," Jackson said. "Every year I have to progress to help this team regardless if it's fighting somebody for a rebound or whatever. I'm a scorer, that's what I do best, but I have to concentrate on other things."
Pressing Jackson for a roster spot are guards Laron Profit, Reggie Jordan and James Collins and power forwards Gerard King, Jonathan Kerner and Jason Lawson.
Though none of those players is a small forward, Heard said the Wizards would be fine with only Howard and Murray at small forward. With an additional back-court player or power forward on the roster, Heard said, he would have the flexibility of using small or big lineups.
"We're looking at the best guys who are going to help us win," Heard said.
Wizards Notes: Power forward Aaron Williams, who is suffering from back spasms, did some light work with the team today. He may travel for Thursday's game in Cleveland, although Heard said Williams may be held out of action until next week. . . .
Guard Mitch Richmond (strained right hamstring), center Ike Austin (strained left hip flexor) and forward Lorenzo Williams, who is recovering from offseason knee surgery, will not make the trip to Cleveland. Austin could play Saturday against Cleveland in Baltimore.
For the first time since training camp started, Lorenzo Williams participated in some drills yesterday, but it is not known when he will be able to play. . . . Rookie center Calvin Booth was unable to finish practice because of soreness in his right hamstring. He is listed as day-to-day.