WASHINGTON - When you boil it down, there are essentially two kinds of NBA rookies - those who take the full season or more to get the fit of the league, and those who wear the professional game like an old jacket.
Two weeks into this season, it's becoming clear Washington Wizards rookie forward Jarvis Hayes and his game are tailor-made for the NBA, though he won't cop to it.
"I wouldn't say that they [opponents] have picked up on me," Hayes said. "They're aware of me. But I'm still a rookie, and rookies don't get much respect in this league until you prove something. It's all about the proving."
Hayes may not have as much to prove as other more celebrated members of the rookie class, say, Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James. And he certainly doesn't have the visibility of either James or Anthony, the first and third overall picks in the June draft.
But Hayes, the 10th overall choice, has been just as important to his club as any first-year player has been so far.
"It could get better, but I think I've been fine overall," Hayes said. "But I could use a little bit of fine-tuning here or there, which will come with the experience. I think I'm doing fine."
Take a look at the top rookie scorers so far this season, and the names at the head of the list are familiar. Anthony (18.0 points a game) and James (17.0) are right there, but just behind them is Hayes at 15.3.
There are two distinct differences between Hayes and Bosh, though. Bosh is a back-to-the-basket scorer who rarely shoots from beyond 7 feet, while Hayes is primarily a perimeter shooter. And Hayes has made more shots than Bosh has attempted.
Hayes, who left Georgia after his junior year, is getting the shots because he has been pressed into a heavier role. New coach Eddie Jordan's original plan was for Hayes, who led the Southeastern Conference in scoring his sophomore season and was second last season, to come off the bench to spell either Jerry Stackhouse or Larry Hughes at small forward or shooting guard.
However, when Stackhouse hurt his knee just before the season, Jordan went with Hayes, the only rookie in the Washington starting lineup. He's third on the team in scoring.
"It's been good [to start]," Hayes said. "It's unfortunate for us to be without a great player like Stack. He's a great player and a great leader for our team. But it's an opportunity for me to get my feet wet in the league and get firsthand experience."
Hayes has been unflappable, scoring in double figures in every game. Jordan has yelled at Hayes - he is a rookie, after all - but his errors have not been critical, and he seldom repeats a mistake.
"He's got a long way to go," Jordan said. "We like the fact that he can put himself in a scoring position. He has a knack to do that. He has to get the experience to maximize those opportunities. For now, it's a growth period, and I don't want to predict anything, and I don't want to jump the gun on him, but we like him a lot."
What the Wizards (3-4) have loved all along about Hayes is his ability to shoot. Already, he is Washington's most dependable outside shooter and shows the ability to not let a bad shot or bad possession linger in his mind.
"In terms of putting himself in a scoring position, he can do that off the post, off the logo, in isolation, coming off a screen," Jordan said. "He has good setup, whether he catches and shoots or he backs you up with a dribble. He has different ways of getting himself into a good position to score. Good scorers don't need a lot of dribbles. They just break you down with a good go-to move. He's got a few. Jarvis is just a good shooter. I think he will be a special player."
That fact and his composure leave the clear impression that Hayes is no ordinary rookie.
"It's just me being patient and letting the offense come to me and not forcing too many shots," Hayes said. "I still force too many shots for my liking, but that's just being a rookie and making rookie mistakes. It's timing and it's coming and it will get better and better."
Washington's Jarvis Hayes is third among rookies in scoring. How the top 10 picks in the 2003 draft have fared (through Wednesday's games):
Player, team Pick Avg.
Carmelo Anthony, Den. 3rd 18.0
LeBron James, Cle. 1st 17.0
Jarvis Hayes, Wash. 10th 15.3
Dwyane Wade, Mia. 5th 11.8
T.J. Ford, Mil. 8th 8.1
Kirk Hinrich, Chi. 7th 7.3
Chris Bosh, Tor. 4th 7.1
Chris Kaman, LAC 6th 2.3
Mike Sweetney, N.Y. 9th 0.5
Darko Milicic, Det. 2nd 0.0