Washington Wizards guard Jarvis Hayes was decked out in NBA dress code-appropriate clothing Thursday night as he watched his team play the Charlotte Bobcats in a preseason game at Staples Center.

Hayes, who missed his third consecutive game with a sore knee, will not play in the final three preseason games but is confident that rest and strengthening exercises will allow him to be in uniform rather than street clothes when the Wizards open the regular season Nov. 2 at Toronto.

"Right now it's just precautionary," said Hayes, who averaged 12 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists while shooting 55.6 percent against Cleveland and San Antonio. "I want to be pain-free and ready to go all out when the season starts."

Hayes missed the second half of last season and the Wizards' playoff run with a torn right patella tendon. The injury required rest rather than surgery and Hayes wasn't able to play in full-contact scrimmages until just before training camp opened Oct. 4.

After going full speed throughout camp, Hayes appeared to be back to his old self when he scored 19 points against San Antonio. Hayes was explosive and appeared to play without favoring the knee, which was protected by a thin sleeve. However, Hayes woke up with soreness and swelling in the knee the next morning and has been limited to shooting drills since.

"The good thing is that it wasn't a reoccurrence of last year's injury or anything like that," Hayes said. "I just need to give it some rest and get it back to where it's not causing so much pain."

Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said he will monitor Hayes closely as the season gets started and rely on team doctors when deciding how many minutes Hayes will play. Hayes, who averaged 10.2 points and 4.2 rebounds in 54 games last season, has been competing for the starting guard spot vacated by Larry Hughes. In the preseason, Jordan has alternated Hayes, veteran Antonio Daniels and forward Jared Jeffries in the back court in tandem with all-star Gilbert Arenas.

Daniels made his second straight start Thursday night in a 96-89 overtime win and could be the starter if Hayes is not back in time for the season opener. However, the Wizards would love to have the 6-foot-8, 220-pound Hayes in the mix because of his outside shooting touch and ability to defend the league's top-flight shooting guards.

"It's a situation where we're going to have to monitor Jarvis as the season goes along," Jordan said. "That's just a part of coaching in the NBA. Injuries are going to happen throughout the season and you have to adjust."

Wizards Notes: With only a few hundred people in the stands at tip-off, the game against Charlotte had the feel of a typical pick-up game at the local YMCA. The stands began to fill in the second half. A preseason game between the Lakers and Denver Nuggets followed.

The win improved the Wizards to 2-3. They were 3-5 in the preseason last year.

Arenas led the Wizards with 24 points and four assists. Jeffries finished with 18 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists.

Arenas, who played a preseason-high 41 minutes, said: "I wanted to go out there and get my wind, so I'm glad Eddie left me out there in overtime. Even though it's only the preseason, you still want to get the win."

Jeffries turned in the play of the game, a spectacular one-handed dunk over Emeka Okafor in overtime.

The Wizards and Bobcats will play four times during the regular season, the first coming Nov. 26 in Charlotte. Jordan said preseason games don't offer much strategic insight into what to expect once the games count, but a preseason game against the expansion Bobcats last year did set a tone. The Wizards won all four games against Charlotte (18-64) last season but the games were competitive.

"We knew from that [preseason] game last year that they were going to be a tough team to play," Jordan said. "You know they are going to play hard and execute." . . .

The Wizards entered Thursday's game as the only team in the NBA shooting less than 60 percent from the free throw line.

Jared Jefferies glides past Charlotte's Primoz Brezec, right, and Melvin Ely during a preseason overtime victory.