-- Jared Jeffries is listed as a forward in the Washington Wizards' media guide and that is where he started in Tuesday night's 111-108 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Listen to Coach Eddie Jordan, however, and that label fails to summarize the role Jeffries will play this season.
For example, with guards Gilbert Arenas, Antonio Daniels and Jarvis Hayes all out of the lineup for last Saturday's game at Memphis, Jordan started the 6-foot-11 Jeffries at guard in tandem with 5-11 Chucky Atkins. The move allowed Jordan to play Caron Butler at his natural position, small forward, and created some interesting situations for Jeffries, who towers above most shooting guards (also known as "2s").
"A lot of opportunities can be created with Jared on the offensive end at the 2," Jordan said. "He can get post-ups against smaller defenders and he can get to the offensive glass. . . . Defensively, I like him out there leading our defense. He's out there frustrating and defending a guard who is not used to a 6-foot-11 guy defending him. There are a lot of heavy hitters at the two-guard in the East, whether it's [Richard] Jefferson and [Vince] Carter or [Stephon] Marbury, Ricky Davis or Paul Pierce. Guys like that are more used to a 6-4 guy defending them, so Jared can give us a little bit of a different dimension. That's what I like."
Even if Jordan elects to start Daniels or Hayes, who missed Tuesday night's preseason game against the Lakers with knee soreness, with Arenas in the back court, opponents can expect to see Jeffries used in a variety of ways.
His ability to handle the ball, defend multiple positions and crash the offensive boards -- Jeffries had four offensive rebounds in 28 minutes Saturday night -- make up for a lack of a powerful post-up game or outside shooting touch. Jeffries is also a good passer -- he posted a team-high seven assists in the preseason opener against Cleveland -- and his combination of long arms and quick feet also make him a natural fit for the full-court presses and traps Jordan likes to use.
"I don't care if it's the two, but I like playing out on the floor," Jeffries said. "I'm not big and bulky so I like being able to run and move. I've always said that those big guys have to catch me. If a guy is 270 pounds, he's going to have a hard time catching me. Then, I feel like I'm quick enough to stay with the smaller guards so I like being out there."
This will be an important year for Jeffries, now entering his third full season after missing the final 62 games of his rookie year with a torn ligament in his right knee. The 11th overall pick in the 2002 draft, Jeffries carries career averages of 6.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. The Wizards have until Oct. 31 to extend Jeffries' contract for the 2006-07 season or they can allow Jeffries to play this season out and tag him as a restricted free agent, thus allowing them to match any offer made to Jeffries by other teams next summer.
The kind of contract Jeffries commands will be determined by how he performs this season, and he knows it.
"I take it very seriously," Jeffries said. "I worked hard this offseason and I'm going to work hard this season to make sure I get better. It will determine my future and I want to make sure that I have a secure future. I think it's a situation where I have to come out and play this year. That's how I look at it. I just have to make sure that I get better and do what I've got to do. If I do that, the contract situation will take care of itself."
Wizards Notes: Arenas was back after missing two games with groin and hamstring injuries, so Jordan used his fourth different starting lineup in four games. Arenas was joined at guard by Antonio Daniels, forwards Jeffries and Antawn Jamison and center Brendan Haywood. Arenas was spectacular, scoring 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting with six assists in 31 minutes. The only contact Arenas had with former Wizard Kwame Brown came when Arenas fouled Brown as he drove to the basket for an emphatic second quarter dunk. Brown sealed the victory for the Lakers on a pair of free throws with 1.9 seconds remaining in overtime. He started at power forward and turned in his best performance of the preseason, posting 19 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists in 38 minutes. . . . Former Maryland player Laron Profit, who played in 110 regular season games with the Wizards over three seasons, saw his first action with the Lakers after missing two games with a strained calf. . . . While the Wizards played reserves during the overtime period, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson went with Brown, Kobe Bryant, Devean George and Smush Parker.