Pacers 85, Wizards 84

Jarvis Hayes was well aware of the position he was placed in Monday night. He was handed the starting job at small forward in the Washington Wizards' preseason opener against the Indiana Pacers, but it was by no means secure. Coach Eddie Jordan has let him know that he is competing with Jared Jeffries until a starter emerges for the season opener against Memphis on Nov. 3.

"It's a grown man's league," Hayes said before the Wizards lost, 85-84, on Randy Holcomb's tip-in as time ran out at Ball State's Worthen Arena. "If you don't come ready, the game will take care of you."

Unfortunately for Hayes, his performance against the Pacers left Jordan with no choice but to play Jeffries often with the first unit. With 11 minutes left in the third quarter, Hayes stood at center court with his hands on his hips, shaking his head. He had picked up his fifth foul in slapping Pacers forward Stephen Jackson after just seven minutes of play in the quarter. As Jeffries came in to substitute, Hayes walked off with his head down, waving his hand in frustration.

"The first exhibition game, getting into foul trouble and you know other guys are waiting to play -- and I am going to play other guys -- but I'm not concerned with Jarvis," Jordan said. "We need his potential to score, that perimeter shooting. He's going to help us."

Hayes said he understood his role this season with the Wizards very well: "They want me to shoot the ball. To put some points on the board." Early on, Hayes caught a pass from Larry Hughes and dipped inside for an easy layup and it appeared that he was on his way. Then he picked up two fouls in a span of two minutes and sat the bench with a towel around his neck for the rest of the half.

"It won't be like that again," said Hayes, who scored eight points on 4 of 11 shooting.

Before the game, Hayes said he wouldn't let minor setbacks affect his confidence, as they did during his rookie season.

"Confidence has never been a problem for me," Hayes said. "Last season, it was just a big adjustment for me. I never could get in the right shape like I wanted to. Being in the system. Being the shape that I wanted to be in. I think I'll be a lot more comfortable out there this season."

The Wizards know what Hayes can provide -- a lights-out, mid-range shooter who scores in a hurry when he gets hot. Hayes averaged 9.6 points last year, starting the season in place of the injured and since-departed Jerry Stackhouse. But with the addition of iron man Antawn Jamison, who can play both forward positions, along with Anthony Peeler and Samaki Walker, the competition for minutes is tougher. Jordan can shuffle the deck and experiment with rotations. Nothing is guaranteed.

"You can't take anything for granted -- in life and in the NBA," Jordan said. "It's a good evaluation process for me. It's a competition to get into the rotation. That's where the little things come into play -- how a guy talks on the floor, helps his teammates in the locker room. Is he more aggressive? Looking out for his teammates first? Who is going to sustain a defensive presence? That means a lot to me."

Hayes realizes he won't be guaranteed the 29.2 minutes per game he received last season. "The level of competition is like none other, from the point [guard] to the [center] -- and that's a good thing," Hayes said. "It builds a healthy atmosphere in the locker room. You got to go out there and bust your tail, night in and night out. I got my work cut out for me."

Wizards Notes: The Wizards will play the Philadelphia 76ers tonight at 7:30 at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C. . . .

The preseason opener provided a brief homecoming for Jeffries, an Indianapolis native and former Indiana University star. He needed 45 tickets to meet the demand for family and friends. "It's a quick turnaround, being around everybody," Jeffries said. "It's cool." . . .

Kwame Brown participated in the pregame shootaround draped in full uniform. "I can't wear that suit all day," said Brown, who is eager for a return from his surgically repaired right foot. He shot standstill jumpers but said he had to get off the floor when he almost started playing Walker in a little one-on-one.