With center Ike Austin still recovering from a strained left hip flexor and his conditioning in question because of a week's worth of missed practice and games, Wizards Coach Gar Heard is prepared to start Jahidi White at center when Washington opens its season Nov. 2 against Atlanta at MCI Center.

"I don't expect Ike," Heard said. "I would love to have Ike but I don't expect him to be ready to go. If he is ready to go he won't be able to go that much. Jahidi's been pretty good. I like the way he's matured during preseason."

It also appears that Maryland rookie Laron Profit, free agent guard Reggie Jordan and free agent forward Gerard King have locked up roster spots.

Forward Randell Jackson, who made the team last season as an undrafted rookie, forward Derek Grimm and guard James Collins seem to be the odd men out. Grimm and Collins have not played in the past two exhibition games while Jackson has been used sparingly.

Washington expects to have point guard Rod Strickland in the starting lineup on opening night, but the uncertainty of the outcome of his drunken driving trial has the finalization of the starting lineup on hold. Chris Whitney would start if Strickland is unavailable. Strickland's trial resumes Thursday.

Even if Strickland does play, Whitney likely would play significant minutes because Strickland has missed almost an entire week and his conditioning has suffered, Heard said.

If White starts at center, Aaron Williams, who has played in just one preseason game because of back spasms and a right thigh bruise, likely would start at power forward with Michael Smith coming off the bench to back up White, Heard said.

Williams's offensive ability would compensate for any of White's offensive shortcomings, Heard said. At 6 feet 8, Smith would provide experience and toughness off the bench, according to Heard. Smith has started every preseason game at power forward.

Should Austin be able to start, Heard said he has not made up his mind who would start at power forward. King should get significant time at power forward regardless, Heard said.


Forward Lorenzo Williams (knee surgery) and rookie center Calvin Booth (sore right hamstring) likely will start the regular season on the injured list.