at New Jersey

Tonight, 8

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Washington Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan didn't have to think twice about inserting Jared Jeffries into the starting lineup after he saw Jeffries block a jumper by Boston Celtics guard Paul Pierce, then step in front of Pierce to take a charge in overtime of a 110-105 victory on Wednesday. Jordan thought the 6-foot-10 Jeffries would provide the defensive pressure to make Pierce work for every basket he got. But Jeffries scoring a career-high 15 points?

"That's gravy on top of the potatoes when he can do that," Jordan said.

Jeffries' inspired play in the past two games (he had a solid defensive effort against Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki, too) has given Jordan the opportunity to do what he had planned all season with Kwame Brown on the injured list -- alternating the forward position between Jeffries and Jarvis Hayes.

The Wizards (4-4) have had five starting lineups in eight games, a shuffle that has been impacted mostly by early season suspensions but also because of Jordan's desire to find the matchups that fit. He has tried Michael Ruffin, Hayes and Jeffries at forward, switching Antawn Jamsion between power forward and small forward. Jordan said he is privileged to have players who want to start but are willing to accept their roles for the good of the team.

"It is important to have good character and we have that in the locker room," Jordan said. "I have the opportunity to do that without having confrontations or repercussions or a change in a personality or attitude." . . .

Jordan had not determined yesterday which player will start tonight against the New Jersey Nets, which doesn't seem to bother either player.

"That's part of being a professional in this league," Jeffries said. "You never know about a lot of things; you just have to be ready to go when you're called upon [and] take advantage of the situation. That's what I want to do."

-- Michael Lee