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Washington's Jarvis Hayes (left) is finally healthy and has
KEVIN WOLF/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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By ADAM HIMMELSBACH
WASHINGTON--Jarvis Hayes took a pass along the right arc and slipped a 3-pointer through the net. Twenty-five seconds later, he squared up about 18-feet from the basket and converted another jump-shot.
Quickly, the forward had helped the Wizards turn a tie-game into a 73-68 lead against the Chicago Bulls.
Hayes radiated a certain confidence. He looked sure of himself, sure of his once-balky right knee.
Bulls coach Scott Skiles called a timeout. Hayes trotted toward the Wizards' bench, and his teammates patted his back and tapped the back of his head in an approving way. The Wizards went on to win the game, 113-103. Hayes went on to score 10 points, giving him double figures in back-to-back games for the first time this season.
For Hayes, whom the Wizards selected with the 10th overall pick of the 2003 draft, such nights were supposed to come frequently and without surprise.
But the forward has been grounded more often than he has taken flight. After a strong rookie year in which he averaged 9.6 points, Hayes has seen the last two seasons end prematurely, both times the result of a broken right kneecap.
But now he's feeling better. Not quite go-out-and-score-30 better, but better nonetheless. Each game he feels a little more confident, a little more sure of himself and his footing.
"It's definitely been a while since I felt good out there," Hayes said Wednesday night. "Playing the last couple of games, and even at practice, I'm starting to feel more comfortable with my shots."
Hayes missed the final 28 games of the 2004-05 season after fracturing his patella tendon that February. He decided against surgery during the offseason, and said he felt good when he returned last year.
Hayes played in the first 21 games last season, including 13 starts. But in the first quarter of the Wizards' Dec. 16 game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Hayes suffered the same injury that had sidelined him the year before.
The second time, Hayes chose to undergo surgery. Once again, he faced a long and uncertain recovery.
"When a guy suffers two injuries like that, you're constantly thinking about it," guard Antonio Daniels said. "It's constantly in the back of your mind about what you don't want to happen."