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Etan Speaks to the Media

(By Jonathan Newton - TWP).

Etan Thomas pre-empted his media availability this morning by speaking to Dave Zirin in SLAM Online and then going on the John Thompson Show last week, but he talked with the rest of the media for about 30 minutes before today's game. Many of his teammates in an extremely upbeat locker room then had very kind words to say about Etan and his return.

"Excited is the easiest way I can put it," Antonio Daniels said. "To see a guy go through something as serious as that ... and then come back in here with a smile on his face and ready to get back to work with the guys ... if that doesn't motivate you, nothing will."

Gilbert said he did a double-take the first time Etan showed up and then sat with him in the locker room, just talking for a half hour. He also said Etan's return inspired him to do an hour's worth of sit-ups today, and that he expects to see Etan back on the court before he makes his own return.

Etan said he'll wear a protective vest, and he said he's in shape but not in game shape, and he declined to give any sort of timetable for anything, but he did say he hopes to begin non-contact drills in the very near future. He also talked about his new baby, Imani, who was born on Dec. 20, and his new fraternity of NBA heart patients--which includes Ronny Turiaf, Tractor Traylor and Fred Hoiberg. And he talked about Martin Luther King Jr., and how the easy grade-school I-Have-A-Dream version of King doesn't do justice to the full range of the man's thoughts, and how he encourages kids to read, for example, King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail" and his anti-Vietnam-War thoughts. And lastly, he again discussed some of his frustrations with the media coverage of his condition, but I have to say he did so in a very reasonable and convincing manner. Plus he seemed danged happy. He's been sitting on the Wiz bench for much of the game, and got a real nice ovation from the crowd.

Here are some quotes from Etan:

On the diagnosis: "It was something I always knew, I always knew I had a heart murmur from the time I was young, maybe middle school. I always knew that eventually I would have to have something done with it, have it corrected, I just thought it was gonna be when I was 50 or 60, but, you know, what are you gonna do? But I'm blessed, I'm blessed to have it fixed now, blessed to have everything."

On playing with a heart murmur for years: "You can detect it pretty easily. Any cardiologist that has a stethoscope can pretty much listen to it and you can hear it, it's not one of the ones where you have to go through a lot of extensive testing before you can find out that you have it....Where it becomes dangerous is when you don't know, when they haven't detected it. You're going through and your heart is changing and you don't know, that's when it can become really dangerous. But it's something I've known since I was in middle school, taking maybe two tests a year, echo cardiograms and things of that nature, stress tests, and I've been following my numbers for a while. It's something that it was time for them to go in and correct it."

On the timing: "It kind of sucked that it was right before [the season], the timing of it. I had gone through the whole summer, worked out, was ready to go and then it was like, 'Ok, you have to have it now.' I was like, 'Oh, this is the worst possible time.' But it's not something that you really want to put off. I first asked them, 'Well, is there going to be a dramatic dip in my numbers if I say I'll wait until the end of the season?' I talked to a lot of different specialists and they said you could, but they all said that's not what they would do if that was them."

On coming back: "I understand when you hear open heart surgery that doesn't sound like an ankle surgery or anything like that, it sounds really serious. But you just have to really know all the facts, because if I couldn't come back safely, it wouldn't even be a thought. I love the game of basketball, but I love life too."

On what he's waiting for at this point: "Once [the broken sternum] heals it's as healed as it's going to be with any other kind of break. But you just have to be careful at the initial part to make sure it's healed totally before you start. That's the point I'm at now. Everything with my heart is fine, they're just running a few more tests to make sure my sternum's healed....Once they give me the clearance for that, ill be at practice the next day."

On his return: "It would be irresponsible for me to say a timeframe, because it's not up to me, it's up to the doctors. As soon as they say, 'Ok, you're cleared to practice,' I'll start practicing and I'll practice for whatever length of time. They'll be watching me, and then they'll probably evaluate me again, run me through some more tests and then let me play....I'll come back and just do what I do. I'll come out and play hard, I'll have a defensive presence, physical inside. Just do what I do and blend in with whatever everybody else is able to accomplish."

On Brendan Haywood: "All of that's kind of water under the bridge. I'm going to come back and I'm going to be competitive. Thats how I'm supposed to be. I'm not supposed to come back and not want to play. I'm supposed to be comeptitive. It's not a matter of me vs. him. That's not really the issue."

By Dan Steinberg  |  January 21, 2008; 2:36 PM ET
Categories:  Wizards  
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