at Charlotte

Tonight, 7

Comcast SportsNet

WWRC-1260 -- After signing a six-year deal worth about $38 million last summer, Washington Wizards forward Etan Thomas didn't expect to enter the season as a starter. He just wanted to start the season in uniform.

However, Thomas began the season Wednesday on the injured list with a strained abdomen, an injury that will keep him out of the first five games and could keep him out much longer.

The doctors "are telling me to be patient," he said. "It's definitely disappointing, I worked hard this summer. It's a setback, but one I feel confident I can bounce back from. It's just a matter of when."

Thomas said he is limited to stretching and conditioning exercises. He has spoken with teammates Gilbert Arenas and Michael Ruffin, who both missed significant action last season with similar injuries. Arenas rushed back and was ineffective, Ruffin tried to play through the injury and it got worse. "They told me, 'You can't really rush it.' They said, 'It takes time.' I don't want to come back and be able to play a little bit, then in a month, have to stop again," Thomas said. . . .

With the active roster down to eight players -- Arenas, Larry Hughes, Anthony Peeler and Brendan Haywood were serving suspensions -- Jared Jeffries was expected to start at forward. But in a surprise move, Coach Eddie Jordan started Laron Profit at shooting guard, moved Jarvis Hayes to small forward and brought Jeffries off the bench. Jordan said he made the move to put five scorers on the floor. "Crazier things have happened," said Profit, who was the last player to make the roster. "I thought John Kerry would win by a landslide. You've just got to roll with it." In 13 career starts, Profit averaged 9.7 points, 5.8 assists and 3 rebounds. . . .

NBA Commissioner David Stern was in attendance to usher in the first game in Memphis's FedExForum. "I would say there is not a better building in the league," he said. It is one of three NBA-only facilities, along with Indiana's Conseco Fieldhouse and The America West Arena in Phoenix.

-- Michael Lee