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Etan will start, Mike Hall cut

After getting yesterday off, the Wizards returned to practice Monday afternoon. The news of the day is Coach Eddie Jordan's decision to officially select Etan Thomas as the starter at center for Wednesday's season opener at Cleveland. The team also released rookie forward Mike Hall, the GW product, in favor of keeping center James Lang. The team is now down to the NBA's 15-man roster limit.
Thomas beat out Brendan Haywood for the starting role according to Jordan but, Jordan did make it clear that the move is not set in stone.
"It was close," Jordan said. "It wasn't a landslide."
Jordan said that while Brendan expressed dissapointment over the decision, he did take the news well and is on board for the opener.
"I'm not ashamed to admit it but Brendan kicked Etan's butt up and down the floor today," Jordan said. "That's a good thing because that was what this whole thing was about. Competition. Making each other better. And, what we saw as the preseason wound down and finished up....all of our observations as coaches and our core players was that Etan showed a little more force, a little bit more aggressiveness and a little bit of a different look in terms of what we're looking for and that's protecting the paint. Brendan's a pro. I told him that I want him to continue to compete and he will. That spot will be continue to be competitive."

Brendan was gone before I could catch him but we were able to catch Etan before he headed out.
"I'm looking at it as a blessing," Thomas said. "I spoke with Coach Jordan during the summer and asked him if I could have the opportunity to compete for the starting position. I came to him respectfully, it's his team, but I just told him that I wanted that opportunity."

Thomas also countered the perception that he's been "content" with coming off the bench in the past.
"I think that's something that was kind of blown out of proportion," Thomas said. "I think there was one point in the season when coach was thinking about changing the lineup and I told him that I was fine with whatever he wanted. That kind of turned into: 'I don't want to start' and that's never really how I felt. I was just kind of taking the approach that what he says goes and I wasn't going to cry and complain about it. There have been different times when I wanted to play more or be utilized different, things like that. I just wanted to let him know that I was hungry and wanted to compete for a starting spot. That was it."

The decision to keep Lang over Hall came down to the team's belief that the 6-10, 285-pound Lang has a real nice upside. During the preseason Lang showed nice hands, good post moves and he does run the floor well for a man his size. Hall impressed the coaches also but lost an opportunity to help himself further when he hurt a knee in the third-to-last preseason game. Jordan did say that Hall is good enough to make an NBA roster and could be looked at down the road. "It was about the numbers," Jordan said. "He did everything we asked him to do and if things happen to our roster, we could look at bringing him back."

Even though I'm required to be a neutral observer, there is a part of me that feels for Hall. I covered him at GW two seasons ago and whenever you follow a kid like that, you can't help but pull for them when the cuts come down. The good news is that he'll be able to play somewhere. It's a big basketball world and there are a lot of teams armed with nice, six-figure contracts that are looking for talented players. Mike will make a nice living playing basketball.

On the opposite end of the spectrum it was cool seeing Roger Mason Jr. walk out after hearing that he made the team. He's been on his game from the first day of camp. He earned it.

Jordan said this about Lang: "He is sort of a short-term, long-term project. He shows us some things that we don't have and we want to continue to work with his conditioning, his strength and his defense and rebounding. The offensive package is right there."

I was able to check out the last 30 or so minutes of today's practice and liked the overall buzz around the team. It's obvious that the players are eager to get the season underway because the energy-level was as high as I've seen all season so far. Antawn Jamison even tried to throw down a 360 degree dunk on a fastbreak. He missed but came back down court giggling.
"Didn't think I had that in me did you?" he asked me after practice.
"No, I didn't," is how I responded. "I saw you dunk like four times all last season."

Everyone except for Darius Songaila practiced and will be ready to go Wednesday night.

A few noteworthy items: Gilbert is growing a beard. Eddie Jordan is growing his hair out, ala "Terrance Howard in Hustle and Flow."
Like everyone else in Washington, Mason is perplexed by his Redskins. Etan is hanging with his Eagles through thick and thin. Jarvis Hayes is pumped up about Mike Vick's recent play for his Falcons but strongly believes the Seahawks are making a big mistake by not starting his Georgia boy, David Greene, over Seneca Wallace. Wizards PR assistant Brian Sereno, a New England native, engaged myself in some heated trash talk about tonight's Patriots/Vikings game. Vikes by 4 baby.

By Ivan Carter  |  October 30, 2006; 2:05 PM ET
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Since this is political season, let's parse the language of the quotes today. This is what caught my eye:
"All of our observations as coaches AND OUR CORE PLAYERS [emphasis added] was that Etan showed a little more force, a little bit more aggressiveness and a little bit of a different look in terms of what we're looking for and that's protecting the paint."
Jordan is saying that Gilbert, Jamison, Butler, and maybe Daniels had a say in who was going to start at center. Ivan, you really need to follow up on that. And will that have an impact on Brendan's relationships with his teammates? It's one thing for the coaches to choose not to make you a starter, or for you to get soundly beaten in a competition for a starter's role. But it's another for your teammates to choose someone else over you in a close race.

Posted by: Henry | October 30, 2006 2:56 PM | Report abuse

excellent point by Henry regarding input from "core players". I always thought the afro should come back in a big way. Eddie Jordan would make a trend-setting fashion statement by pacing the sidelines with an early 70's era, Dr. J-type 'fro.

Posted by: Bullets Fan in L.A. | October 30, 2006 3:14 PM | Report abuse

makes sense to involve your core players in decision making... maybe they'd want a center who focuses on rebounding and not shooting fallaway jumpers. hopefully this motivates haywood.

Posted by: tp | October 30, 2006 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Brendan should have started unless Etan has suddenly decided to play move your feet defense. He is slow in the lane to react to movement, and, he is too short to use length to cover for his slowness. Jordan - no matter what he says - does not feel good about Brendan and there will be (and should be) a parting of the ways.

Posted by: Bridgewater, VA | October 30, 2006 3:19 PM | Report abuse

I don't like the match-up vs the Cavs Weds night, but I like Etan at center. A healthy Etan that gets good minutes will be good for the Wiz - think of it as a poor a mans Ben Wallace with an inflated salary, now it's time to earn it.

Posted by: Wizzy | October 30, 2006 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Prediction: Etan picks up 2 early fouls on Z and Brendan is in the game at the 9:00 mark.

I think this was the right decision. Not because Etan is better, but because it will motivate Brendan. I expect him to win back his starting job by December.

Posted by: JRo | October 30, 2006 3:34 PM | Report abuse

I'm really looking to see Gil make Queen James pay for that classless free throw line trash talking last year. I also overheard the Cavs saying Gil's dad is a lousy actor.

Go get 'em Zero!

Posted by: Nickels | October 30, 2006 5:13 PM | Report abuse

I think everyone is really underestimating the impact Brendan has on the game. It may not show up in his numbers (5-6 point, 6-7 rebs & around 1-2 blocks) but his presence in the middle makes the whole team better defensively. If you guys don't believe me, go to (i think that was the site). When Brendan is in the game, the other teams field goal percentage is lower versus him not being in there. I believe this is because when he is in there, he alters many shots. Etan is a nice change of pace, but I think Haywood is very VERY underrated.

Posted by: Meraj | October 30, 2006 6:39 PM | Report abuse

What's the over/under on when Brendan will get is starting job back?

I'm hard pressed to see Etan being healthy or providing consistent play for more than 20 games in a row.

Posted by: Dat2U (realgm) | October 30, 2006 6:42 PM | Report abuse

"I'm not ashamed to admit it but Brendan kicked Etan's butt up and down the floor today."

Jordan should take a hint at his own comments.

If it's as close as Jordan says then you start the 7 footer with the big wingspan who can run the floor over the soft poetry spouting 6'10" guy who's only benefit is to soak up fouls and constantly get hurt.

As the poster above mentioned Brendan will be starter by December.

It's not that he's all that but Haywood is never going to get a legit shot in Washington. Jordan just doesn't like him.

Watch how many layups Cleveland gets on Wednesday by going right around Etan.

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | October 30, 2006 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Etan plays much smaller then 6'10."

I forgot to add this, sorry

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | October 30, 2006 6:46 PM | Report abuse

"If you guys don't believe me..."

No need, I saw it on the floor while watching all of the games last year.

Etan isn't a starting center on any team in the league, not even the Knicks.

As you can tell, I'm not happy about the decision.

I'll stop now. :)

Posted by: Ray | October 30, 2006 6:51 PM | Report abuse

You know your team is not a legit. title contender, which i dont think the Wizards claim to be, when Etan Thomas is your starting center. Why the Wizards ever matched Milwaukees $8mil offer sheet, I will never understand. Unless Arenas gets hurts and the Wizards pull off a miracle in the draft lottery and get Greg Oden, they are in serious trouble if they ever plan on attaining an NBA title within the next 5 or so years.

Posted by: Jason | October 30, 2006 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Just got off the phone with Brendan's agent, Andy Miller. He's not happy. Said that Brendan did not get a fair shake and said he and Brendan believe that Eddie still has it out for Brendan. I'm running a couple of those quotes in tomorrow's paper. Brendan should just focus on going out and grabbing a bunch of rebounds and stating his case with his play. Don't know how many of you saw any preseason action but I didn't see either player create seperation. Bottom line: they will both play and I see a few changes at that spot throughout the season, James Lang and Calvin Booth included. And, have you noticed that Jarvis Hayes, who was a starter before going down last season, hasn't uttered a peep about DeShawn Stevenson being made a starter over him on day 1 of camp? Interesting comparison. Keep the comments coming.

Posted by: Ivan | October 30, 2006 7:00 PM | Report abuse

One of the things I find most annoying about Brendan Haywood is the chip on his shoulder. If he took a lesson from Gil and used it as motivation, we'd be a much better team. In general, I like Etan's style of play, but I think that Haywood is the better match-up against Cleveland.

Eddie's job depends on him winning basketball games. He's not going to make a decision that will hurt the team because he doesn't like BH. Sometimes the job of a coach is to serve as motivator. Brendan hasn't played up to his potential, and EJs once again trying to motivate him to play better ball.

The difference in the way Brendan and Jarvis handle this situation is the difference between being a man and an overgrown boy.

Posted by: LMM | October 30, 2006 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Hey Ray!

The fact that the other players preferred Etan over Brendan has to count for something. On the other hand, I hope Eddie is smart enough to sub Etan out quickly if Ilga is having his way with Etan.

Posted by: Wizzy | October 30, 2006 8:19 PM | Report abuse

Um, ..., the difference between Hayes and Haywood is that Hayes has been injured for most of the past two years and is thrilled just to be healthy again and happy to still have a career. Really, what kind of idiot would he have to be to complain about not starting this year? That's not a valid comparison at all.
Speaking of Hayes, I assume that the team is not going to extend him by tomorrow's deadline, correct?
As for Haywood, I will be interested to read Ivan's piece tomorrow and see what Haywood's agent says versus what Haywood actually says. From Ivan's post above, Haywood is saying he's not happy (should he be?) and he believes Eddie still has it out for him (which most of us posting on this blog seem to believe). I don't have any problem with Haywood calling and venting to his agent after today's decision. What would have been smarter is for Andy Miller to reply to Ivan's phone call with a "no comment" or "Brendan's going to work as hard as he can to get the job back." What I'm interested in learning is whether Miller mouthed off with or without Brendan's approval.

Posted by: Mike | October 30, 2006 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Prediction: Etan gets 10 and 10 against the Cavs which is something Brendan never did for us and Gil puts up 50 Wednesday night! It's on national tv and Gilbert has something to prove.

Posted by: CJ Baltimore | October 30, 2006 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Unbelievable! Brendan needs to fire Andy Miller if he will persist in encouraging him regarding this starting line-up change. EVERYONE in the NBA and interested parties in the WORLD know that the biggest problem with the Wizards is the center position. Why does everyone believe...NOT BECAUSE BH is so good! It is because he is so bad. Guaranteed, he will not be with the team beyond December (Sonics looking for a center) because he will be a locker room distraction. Are we kidding here? Does it really matter since both will be playing significant munites if they perform competently (not every great..just servicable.). Talk about a play heading in the wrong direction... We have been spoiled by mediocre play for so long that we accept BHaywoods act as we watch in disgust at his turnovers, 1 to 2 rebounds for 4 games in a row, and lack of emotional committment to his craft.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 30, 2006 10:04 PM | Report abuse

Again, both Ethan and Brendan are poopsticks. Brendan has a distinct advantage that he's longer and taller. They screwed us all with the Ethan deal. Watch, EThan will be riding pine 15 games in.

And Hayes has a different situation. He has been injured for like 10 years and hasn't contributed anything except a lot of free advertising for the American Orthopaedist Society. It is painful to watch him miss wide open 15 footers. Painful.

Posted by: The Governor | October 30, 2006 10:07 PM | Report abuse

Ivan, not withstanding fellow bloggers who have either missed the analogy or simply are interllectually dishonest, Hayes simply a more mature and incidently more talented individual. It is not an accident that he will accept his role and play his as... off this season.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 30, 2006 10:16 PM | Report abuse

What kind of value do you think we could get if we package Haywood and Daneils to a team like Seattle that is desperate for a center (I know, they already had Daniels, but from what I understand they would have liked to re sign him.) Anyhow, do you think a late first rounder or early second round pick is out of the question?

Posted by: Jason | October 30, 2006 10:45 PM | Report abuse

The Etan/BH situation is pretty uncomplicated, from my perspective. The Wiz need one thing from their center: defensive presence. Haywood has it; Thomas doesn't. To me, they rebound about equally well, although Thomas' per-minute average is higher, so my perception may be off.

But there is *no doubt* that the opposition goes to the hole much more, and with much more success, when Haywood's out. And with all the gambling the Wiz do to get steals, you need a stopper back there. For the way Washington plays defense, Haywood's the better fit. I also hope that Brendan's demotion gets him riled up.

Posted by: Keithinator | October 30, 2006 11:36 PM | Report abuse

what if any are the rights of the wizards concerning Juan Carlos Navarro who could be a role player on the Wiz

Posted by: dan | October 31, 2006 1:10 AM | Report abuse

I believe that a coaches job is to motivate his players to play at their highest level.If Etan played better than Haywood then he should start over him thats a no brainer.Also if Haywood uses this as motivation then it's a win,win,win situatuion.The team wins,because two motivated centers are better than one,the fans wins because they want their team to be more competitive down low in the paint where it counts,and the players win because competition in athletics is always going to make your game better especially in practice and I believe practice is where you are going to improve the most if you have someone pushing you everytime out,I root for the wizards so I am all for making them the best they can be."GO WIZARDS".

Posted by: peyton simmons | October 31, 2006 1:54 AM | Report abuse

After reading Ivan's post yesterday, I was expecting some explosive quotes from Andy Miller, but there aren't any -- just that Haywood would continue to work, but thought that there was a personal element to the decision. A guy gets sent to the bench, isn't happy about it, and thinks the coach doesn't like him. You could fill the sports section with stories like that. I know that we as fans sometimes like to dwell on drama involving our teams (we miss you, Lavar!), but it seems we are making more out of this than is warranted. That could change, and if Haywood starts sulking and it affects his play, that's a different story. But he was told he would be coming off the bench and kicked Thomas's butt in practice -- so far so good.

Posted by: Mike | October 31, 2006 7:01 AM | Report abuse

Hate to say it but it is worth noting what Haywood's agent is saying. They are stating that the decision to start Haywood is a personal decision by Jordan. Haywood should accept this decision as Etan did last year with class. I am very disappointed in his attitude and hope that it does not affect the rest of the team in a negagtive manner. I had a feeling he would respond in this manner though because in an earlier article he felt he should not have to compete for a role that he felt he had earned. Someone needs to tell Brendan to look at the tapes of last season in terms of his up and down perfromances and be honest with himself and his play and then say he deserves to start. He knows deep inside that he does not deserve that position without earning it. His level of play last year did not dictate that.

Posted by: Wizfan4life | October 31, 2006 8:29 AM | Report abuse

I really looks like Brendan and his agent are trying to engineer a trade to a team where Brendan can start and play for another contract.

That may be in Brendan's best interests, but that's putting the team second. This guy is a headache and that was just a low and unclassy move by him and his agent.

I guess its all about Brendan.

Ivan, at some point do you decide to not publish those calculated comments by the agent? Why not just publish Brendan's comments, why go to the agent? This is a soap opera at its finest, Brendan's agent personally attacking Eddie Jordan. Why didn't you call Etan's agent? Is it because you knew Andy Miller was going to be more than ready with a few quotes to push forward his client's agenda? By doing this, you let Brendan off the hook. Have Brendan come out and say that junk himself like a man.

Posted by: Wei | October 31, 2006 9:04 AM | Report abuse

""Again, both Ethan and Brendan are poopsticks...""

Lol, yeah I agree but if they are so close in terms of play then you should start Haywood. Clearly Jordan doesn't like him.

""The fact that the other players preferred Etan over Brendan has to count for something.""

Hey Wizzy :)

We'll see when the season starts if they were right or not. As one of the above posters said, the Wiz ain't gonna win anything without a legit center. They give up too many layups as it is.

Ivan, the Hayes thing is entirely different because he's coming off an injury and has something to prove. If both him and Stevenson have a good year and Hayes comes out over the summer and says "I want to start" then I think things will get interesting. That all depends if Stevenson gets a new contract after the season of course. :)

I'll watch every game with glee, but I think the Wiz really are still an offseason away from being serious contenders.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 31, 2006 9:19 AM | Report abuse

I often thought that to improve the team physically and defensively, Coach Jordan should considered starting Thomas at the power forward position. I think he's a perfect fit for the position and would make Haywood a better NBA center. There's enough outside scorers on the team now. What's needed is a post present and what I've seen Thomas can score down low. As someone said earlier "He's a Ben Wallace type"(and I'll add "with OFFENSE")! Give him the MINUTES and all of you will see he has as sport writers says "Great Upside!

Posted by: Pete D. (Louisiana) | October 31, 2006 11:04 AM | Report abuse

I'm Wooded out. Let's talk about something else. With Etan starting, the team is a little smaller and Jordan likes to go small. Is he going to run out a bigger lineup at times (Haywood, Thomas, Jamison, Butler, Daniels/Arenas)? Will he go really small (Arenas, Daniels, Mason Jr./Hayes, Jamison/Butler, Ruffin)? I assume he's going to go small quite often because the team has good smaller players on the bench (Hayes and Daniels) who deserve 25 or so minutes, plus Mason's going to see some action. Will Jordan divide the center minutes between Haywood and Thomas, or will they collectively average less than 48 minutes? (That would be a bad move in my view.)

Posted by: Red | October 31, 2006 11:20 AM | Report abuse

It was interesting to me that two seasons ago, Jordan complained about Haywood's scoring drop when Hughes was injured and did not recognize that Hughes was the one that fed the ball to Haywood the most. Maybe that was Jordan's way to motivate Haywood, but I do not think public statement is the right way to motivate a player.

That said, I also think Haywood and his agent should keep their mouths shut. They are risking losing fan's support by complaining. Some fans like Etan because he looks more energetic by waving the ball around after he got the rebound (and the bouncing hair helps too). But one rebound is one rebound; it does not make it two. So I can sympathize with Haywood. But whining never help, it puts off fans. Haywood and his agent need to learn this "image" game!

Posted by: sagaliba | October 31, 2006 11:53 AM | Report abuse

First of all if any of you saw the game against Detroit, Etan Thomas completely dominated Nazr Mohammed. That is when he won this competition. That performance I feel truely made it almost impossible for Eddie not to chose him. Andy Miller is a bad agent, and his tactics involving Chucky Atkins and Jared Jeffries show how self-serving and manipulative this guy is. Haywood did not play well last year, and if you watch any NBA analysts when they discuss the Wizards, the center spot is always pointed out as the team's weakness. Haywood's whole attitude about how he deserves to be the starter simply because he has been the starter, and basically dismissed Etan as competition for the job, it serves him right that he got beat out. Etan didn't make any demands, he respectfully asked for the opportunity, asked what he needed to do, and he went out and did it. That is why he is now the starter.

Posted by: Darnell | October 31, 2006 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Good post Darnell. This is a great blog with excellent comments from knowledgeable Wizards fans. Even when you guys disagree (Etan v Brendan), you do so with intelligence and respectfully submitted arguments.

I look forward to reading this blog and comments all season.

go Wiz.

Posted by: Andrew | October 31, 2006 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Both Haywood and Thomas played for Wizards 5 years, and I can say I pretty much watched every game (I may have missed a couple, but that's it). So my comment was based on 5 year observation and not just ONE GAME. So what if Etan dominated Nazr Mohammed (who did not have much help in that game)? Haywood once had 23 points, 16 rebounds night against Detroit as well (and that was not a preseason game). The question is, can Etan or Haywood keep that up all the time.

The answer is probably not for BOTH players. By Jordan's own admission, "Brendan kicked Etan's butt up and down the floor today." In addition, when analysts talked about center spot being the weakness, they did not just mean Haywood, they mean all players who man the center spot for the Wizards, which include Etan as well. (I have not heard any analyst urging Jordan to start Etan, have you?)

It is a given that Wizards have "big three," and the other two spots are weaker links of the team. We just have to accept that, but that has nothing to do with comparing Etan and Brendan.

Posted by: sagaliba | October 31, 2006 1:53 PM | Report abuse

They don't call her Brenda for nothing.

When Etan is healthy he brings it, and his team knows that.

One is all potential, the other is all heart.

Posted by: Jordan Knows Best | October 31, 2006 2:45 PM | Report abuse

It'd be nice if Brendan could take some of that inspiration and employ it in real games more often. Which is probably the point behind all of this. I'm sure Eddie realizes that Etan isn't a full-time C and that the job will almost certainly change hands during the season, probably more than once. He's probably just trying to get the most out of both of them.

Posted by: Andrew | October 31, 2006 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Oddly, replacing Haywood with Etan may hurt the Wizards on the offensive end -- perhaps even more than on defense. Last season, the Wizards shot a fairly low percentage. They had an excellent offense because they didn't turn the ball over, they got offensive rebounds, and they got to the line a lot.

This season, they're replacing an excellent offensive rebounder (Haywood) with a mediocre one (Etan), and a good offensive rebounder (Jeffries) with a poor one (Stevenson). Unless the Wizards are somehow able to shoot a better percentage, their offense may end up suffering because they won't get as many follow-up opportunities with Etan and Stevenson on the floor.

Posted by: TSW | November 1, 2006 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, the only comments I hear about the Wizards regularly are: they should keep their 4 core players, get some depth in the middle, get a strong power forward.

Sadly, Jordan & Haywood don't get along. Its visably obvious but sad on Jordan's part as a coach. His psychology is he was glad Brendan got mad that he chose Etan. might work but we are at the mercy of his psychology.

It would have been great for him to have spent some time with Red Auerbach on how to motivate your players(team)

We need some help with personnel selection as well..How come? Ben Wallace asks to come here..Jeffries wanted to stay...instead we get a herniated disc and 2 more bench warmers & projects as Jordan calls them.

I don't get excited - I wait and see...

I see it like the Forest Gump saying:
"The Wizards are like a box of chocolate - you just never know what you're gonna get."

One thing for sure - the Wiz issues are the same as the Redskins..they start at the top. Its seldom the players.

Ever read up on the Spurs coaching staff & managment? A whole different world. We have to think as an excellent business whose wants a championship.

Posted by: Peter James | November 1, 2006 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I must not be seeing what others are seeing. Every center in the league has his way with Brendan Haywood. His teammates have every right to demand that he be benched. Etan wouldn't be my choice, but it certainly can't get any uglier. In fact, I would be very suprised if Etan does worse. Haywood is about as mobile as Drew Bledsoe, he's a klutz, and he has nothing going for him offensively...NOTHING! The guy couldn't hold on to the ball if it was superglued to his hands. Steve Nash could handle the ball better handcuffed.

Posted by: Wiz Kidz Fan | November 4, 2006 7:34 PM | Report abuse

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