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Battlin' big men at it again

First, let me say I'm sorry for not getting a blog up on the Etan Thomas/Brendan Haywood scrap earlier. I found out about it late yesterday afternoon and was hustling until 11 p.m. or so trying to get all the info I could. Then, I was up early today so I could get back to Verizon and cover the fallout.

If you read my story today, you have a good idea of what went down. Nobody, on the record or off, has disputed the account. Etan, who was suspended two games for "conduct detrimental to the team" spoke yesterday and Brendan addressed it today in an interview I had with him.

I'll post Brendan's comments later (they are pretty tame because two Wiz PR guys were hovering like overprotective parents while I was talking to him. I felt like a white house reporter trying to land a one on one with Scooter Libby) but don't want them up now because I was the only reporter who talked to him. It'll be up on the web page later.

A few thoughts:
-Etan's response was equal parts anger with Haywood over what Etan thought was a "cheap shot" elbow and regret that he reacted by throwing a punch. Etan sounded genuine when he told me that he wants to bury the hatchet with Brendan and just concentrate on playing ball. Brendan expressed similar thoughts today.

-I don't see the continuing beef between these two, who have pretty much ignored one another for two seasons, hurting the team as a whole. I had one person with the team who shall remain nameless tell me this: "It's not like the lockeroom is going to be divided between Brendan and Etan. They have their thing but the guys are more concerned with playing good basketball and winning games. It will eventually blow over." I tend to agree. Other than those two, this team has great chemistry and that's a major reason why the record is as good as it is. The team can probably get by without Etan against Portland and Philly and then he'll be back after the All Star break.

-Eddie Jordan was clearly not pleased that he had to deal with such a distraction at a time when his team is struggling without Antawn Jamison. His comments were low-key but the look in his eys and the way he talked told me that he's about sick of it.

-Still, I don't see Ernie moving either player. Here's why: Brendan is playing some of the best ball of his career, he's 26 and he carries a very agreeable contract. It would be impossible to get equal value. Moving Etan would be difficult because his contract calls fo $6.3 mill next season, $6.8 mill in 2008/2009 and $ 7.3 mill in 2009/2010. I don't see any teams taking on that kind of contract for a guy who has missed a ton of games with various injuries the last three seasons, is averaging 6.0 points and 5.6 rebounds and has been in several scraps with a teammate (I'm not choosing sides here and personally believe that both players are responsible but you have to think that other GMs will consider these incidents when talking trade with Ernie).

- Besides, if your stated goal is to "Go All In" and do something in the East playoffs, you will need Etan's big body to get past Miami, Detroit, Indiana, Chicago or Cleveland.

Other notes: Eddie said Michael Ruffin could suit up for the first time since late November tomorrow against Portland. I couldn't get Gilbert's thoughts on dropping 50 on the Blazers because he "wasn't available." Translation: someone, Abe, Ernie, Eddie, Susan O'Malley etc. told the PR staff to keep Gilbert away from us so he wouldn't say anything crazy. That's my take anyway. Eddie was clearly agitated by the way Gilbert got swept up in the Kobe Bryant thing last week and I don't think he wanted Gilbert rattling any more cages with his revenge talk even if it is generally harmless. It's Gilbertology you know?

- For the record, I told PR head man/boss/hideous sweater vest wearer Zack Bolno, who is as good a PR pro as you'll find in the business, that his new nickname is now "Baghdad Bob" for keeping Gilbert away from us. Feed the beast Zack. My readers need it.

By Ivan Carter  |  February 10, 2007; 6:06 PM ET
 
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Comments

Shoot, I think it's a positive thing that these two are squabbling. Haywood always plays best when he has a chip on his shoulder and a good hate going on.

In some part I think the threat of Etan as a possible starter has been a spur in 'Wood's side this season. If not for Etan we're back to sulking and pointless protests like "Free Chucky Atkins".

Sure I'd like the opponent to be the focus of the agression, not the coach or lack of minutes or other players-- but what the heck-- whatever keeps the fires stoked.

-doc.

Posted by: doclinkin (realgm.com) | February 10, 2007 6:53 PM | Report abuse

Ivan, at some point could you do a piece on Susan O'Malley and how much influence she has on basketball operations? You're post suggests she could have been someone that didn't want Arenas making outrageous statements before the Portland game. Even if she wasn't the person, I find it interesting that the marketing/business side boss could potentially have that kind of control over a player. Doesn't that clearly fall under the Eddie/Ernie/Abe chain of command?

I think it'd make a great story cause to me, she's like Dick Cheney behind the scences (but that's could just be my imagination running wild) and I also think her name was mentioned as having some unclear role with the whole firing of Michael Jordan and all that drama.

Posted by: Wei | February 10, 2007 7:16 PM | Report abuse

Oh, if only Dick Cheney had just concerned himself with creating slogans like "Go all in," and "Our house, our rules."

Thanks for the update, Ivan. That last paragraph cracked me up.

Posted by: Henry | February 10, 2007 7:30 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the update, Ivan.

I, for one, am worried about the game tomorrow against the Trail Blazers. Portland has been playing well lately and we.....HAVE NOT. And according to Ray we NEVER win afternoon games.

Ivan, does Wes Unseld, Jr. ever smile? He is a great looking guy but always looks so serious.

Posted by: Lisa | February 10, 2007 7:53 PM | Report abuse

We can put a man on the moon, but there's nowhere I can go to watch Zero drop 50 on Portland tomorrow morning? What a shame.

Posted by: Bullets Fan in L.A. | February 10, 2007 10:25 PM | Report abuse

"Still, I don't see Ernie moving either player."

You shouldn't bet on that Ivan.

Like I said in the last blog, people are willing to take a chance on a big man. Sad thing is the man that could go could be Haywood since Jordan loves Etan so much. I'm still not sold on what Jordan is selling in regards to that. But either way it wouldn't happen before the summer if something were to happen.

Don't make that bet Ivan. :)

"And according to Ray we NEVER win afternoon games."

Lol! I have a feeling they are going to win tomorrow. Portland has to come here and they stink on the road.

Hayes will start and stink the joint up as usual. Caron will have a monster game.

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | February 10, 2007 11:02 PM | Report abuse

That's just a bad PR calculation. It sells tickets and it's just fun to let Gilbert talk. I'll take your word for it that Zack is good at what he does, but sounds like a bad move to muzzle the golden goose, the one-armed goose, the golden-armed goose, the golden blimp, the Hibachi, etc.

Posted by: Nancy | February 10, 2007 11:56 PM | Report abuse

I like silencing Gilbert a little. I love the guy don't get me wrong, but I think he gets caught up in his own statements and forgets to play team ball sometimes. Besides he has not really been the "Hibatchi" lately. I will be really surprised if he scores 50 tomorrow. He just has not been as hot since the ball switch and/or his big coming out party with the exception of the Orlando game.

Damn, I wish Etan was playing tomorrow. He had the game of his life last time he got fired up over a fight with H'wood. That aside their squabble is silly. Etan sure is an angry poet off the court ain't he??? I wish he showed that same passion on the court consistently. In my opinion, he is a coaster. He makes too much jack and plays too few minutes not to lay it on the line every time he is on the court. If you saw the Orlando game earlier in the season and compare that to how he normally plays, you would know what I am talking about.

H'wood or Etan - if were to come to that - Etan goes, no doubt!

Posted by: Rob P | February 11, 2007 12:25 AM | Report abuse

I agree that Etan is untradeable, because he stinks, has a ridiculously huge contract, is a thug, is a pansy, and fights his teammates. So why not just cut him? Think about it. He began the season as a starter, and the Wizards had their worst start in years. He got injured, and instantly the team turned it around, and was the best team in the NBA for 3 weeks, and then took over the Eastern Conference lead. Then Etan came back, and the team has been mediocre. Cut Etan to a) demonstrate that thug-life will not be tolerated, and b) because the team is clearly better with him off the court.

Posted by: Mike | February 11, 2007 3:23 AM | Report abuse

Oh come on Mike. Stop with this "Etan is a thug and a pansy crap." Like someone said on the last blog post, you can understand why Etan reacted that way after the eye socket injury he had.
And you know what, Etan knew what he did was wrong and faced up to like the grown he is in the article on Saturday. While I may not agree with Etan's political statements he is a good man and an excellent contributor to this community. And he is still a useful bench player and Haywood should save his damn elbows for the other team.
I agree with doc, the friction between the two is good and it is probably expected for it to boil over, but pushing and shoving is fine, throwing an elbow isn't and neither is responding with a punch. They both know better, but so far Etan has been the bigger man here and that is no surprise to me.

Posted by: George Templeton | February 11, 2007 3:32 AM | Report abuse

I mean to say grown man instead of grown in my last post.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 11, 2007 3:33 AM | Report abuse

Dear Ernie: Please trade the Poet. He signed a big contract 2.5 years ago, and hasn't been the same player since. He took the money and ran, or sat (on the bench). Resigning him was the only questionable decision you have made - no one's perfect, and you are the best. Yes, he fleeced the team by playing hard in his contract year and then tanking it after he got his money. But please get rid of this cancer for anyone - even Jerome James would be fine. Thank you, Abe Pollin

Posted by: Abe | February 11, 2007 7:36 AM | Report abuse

"...but so far Etan has been the bigger man here and that is no surprise to me."

Gonna disagree with you on a couple things George. :)

If Etan was the bigger man he wouldn't have been suspended. Clearly he's at fault or else Haywood would have been suspended instead. You even had EG at that practice so it's not like nobody saw what really happend. The only thing I see is Etan talking to the media more.

Secondly, if Etan is that cautious about playing because of his eye then he definately shouldn't be playing pro ball. Those guys throw elbows all of the time, not just in practice. Then he went and punched Haywood? Com'on.

I don't believe either of them personally and that's why one or the other WILL NOT be here next year. My fear is that person will be Haywood.

It will happen again, count on it. And then one will be traded. It's not like this just happend out of the blue.

And since the Wiz are trying to distract us from the real problem, Jarvis Hayes, I feel inclined to say here that I still think Booth should be starting in Jamison's absense and that Jarvis still sucks. ;)

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | February 11, 2007 8:56 AM | Report abuse

"I agree with doc, the friction between the two is good and it is probably expected for it to boil over, but pushing and shoving is fine, throwing an elbow isn't and neither is responding with a punch. They both know better, but so far Etan has been the bigger man here and that is no surprise to me."

Eye socket, eye schmock it. Why are some of you buying Etan's "cheap shot elbow" story? The coaches and FO people were present when this fight occurred and in spite of the fact that Brendan threw punches too ONLY Etan was suspended. That speaks volumes about how they interpreted what occurred. It seems to me that if Brendan provoked Etan with a "cheap shot" he would have suffered some consequence as well. With his press statements yesterday and today Etan didn't have the good grace or sense to let bygones be bygones. His comments, especially those reported yesterday, weren't conciliatory; they were provocative. "Brendan Todd Haywood"? How many men resort to saying another guy's whole name to make a point? Dude showed that he's the one with the chip on his shoulder. Like he said he wanted to send a message.

Posted by: LH | February 11, 2007 8:58 AM | Report abuse

I think Walt "Clyde" Frazier said it best on the broadcast of the Knicks game the night of their fight with Denver.
These guys need to remember that they are professionals and that they're not out to prove their manhood at the park. Starting a fight can only hurt your team, sombody can get hurt, and you can only hurt your team with suspensions!
Our big guys need to learn how to play through and battle back at physical play. I get tired of watching a guy like Duncan throw a few well timed elbows in a game and then have the lane open up like the Red Sea parting for the rest of the game! Brendan has done a much better job overall this year, but we still wilt to a team that plays really tough inside too often. Etan is way too spotty for a guy making his kind of money. There are times he can look like a beast and then there are times that I wonder if a 6'10" guy can be any softer.
I'm sure that they were shown the film of SA and Eddie and the staff were giving it to them about soft play inside. Brendan needs to use the elbows in the game a little more often, Charles Oakley always said that they give you 6 fouls and it's not like you can save em for the next game. And Etan just needs to come with tough play all the time. How many times did we put Duncan on his butt. I'm not talking about dirty play, just hard tough boxing out, rebounding and running through those moving screens. Little guys will quit setting them if a big runs through them instead of standing there and letting a guy hold them up by just grabbing a handful of shorts. Make the ref make a call one way or another!
Lisa was wondering why Wes Jr. never smiles, he does the film review for this team. I'm sure growing up watching his dad at 6'7"(he's really not that big)battle some of the greatest big men in the history of the game. When he watches how soft we are more often then not he can't find much to smile about! Maybe Eddie needs to show these guys film of Wes Sr. battling Wilt, Nate, or Russell under the hoop.
It's time for our bigs to really toughen up and quit trying to ACT tough!

Posted by: GM | February 11, 2007 9:19 AM | Report abuse

ENOUGH ALREADY!!!!! This is a bad situation getting worse. I am about sick of these guys. First, we lose our captain and our glue. The team is struggling and the two knuckle heads and so-called professional athletes who are making mega bucks act like children. I could see this coming a mile away. I am sure there are problems in other NBA locker rooms but 3 fights in 2 years between 2 teamates? How can we as fans who do not make nowhere near the money as these guys condone this nonsense. Role models? Not for my kids. Excuse me for venting but they both make me sick. Where is the leadership for this team. This has been going on for too long. Trade or cut one or both. There is a cancer that is growing.

Posted by: luckydad@mail.com | February 11, 2007 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Okay okay okay. It sounds to me like a lot of us are just overinterpreting all this business. One, these guys are not that far from actually BEING children. Haywood is 27 years old, Thomas is just slightly older at 28. They've lived their lives since actual adolesence in basketball: how much growing up do you think they've managed to do? Obviously not all THAT much.

Two, Etan's initial comments, where he referred to Haywood as "Brendan Todd Haywood" and all that, as I understand those comments were made the same day of the fight, while his temper was probably still hot and he obviously wasn't thinking too much about being reasonable for PR purposes. Brendan's comments weren't till the next day and as Ivan said in this blog entry, there were PR people all around him making sure he didn't say anything inflammatory. I wouldn't base too much evaluation of their relative maturities by the quotes we've seen on this incident.

And three, my reading of the meaning of the suspension for Thomas but not Haywood is this: Haywood's elbow may or may not have been a cheap shot, apparently the coaches/management didn't think it was enough of a cheap shot to justify punches. And Thomas threw, by all accounts, the first punch. That would be the obvious reason, to my mind, for Thomas being the one suspended: he threw the first punch, which is clearly unacceptable, or at least a substantial overreaction to what Haywood supposedly did. Reading that as Thomas really being ENTIRELY at fault, well, I wasn't there so I'm not so sure about that. More at fault, that I would believe. But he did sound remorseful afterwards for overreacting, and I don't think he would have come out swinging without feeling attacked (even if he was mistaken).

That's my three cents, anyway. :-) Hopefully they really can both just put it behind them and try to exist as competitors but not enemies, as their joint party-line now seems to go.

Posted by: Josh | February 11, 2007 10:31 AM | Report abuse

i guess we should be glad brendan todd haywood didn't elbow awvee storey

;-)

Posted by: hmmmmm | February 11, 2007 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Let me respond on Etan's behalf again (I am sure he would rather have someone else do it). First, it was a Milwaukee offer sheet that Grunfeld chose to match and the idea that Etan has tanked (as opposed to the injuries he has suffered limiting him) is utterly ridiculous.
Just as misguided is one poster's wish for Jerome James. Jerome James! That guy is a fat hog who played hard in one NBA playoffs and that is it! Even those who dislike Etan have to admit that he has at least played hard over a full season.
And as to who is more or less culpable at the fight. Like the rest of you, I wasn't there, but in the NBA you only rarely get suspended for an elbow while you are almost always suspended for a punch and that is why, in my view, the Wizards handled this in the manner that they did.
I do agree with Ray that one of them will go and I wouldn't be surprised if it was Etan, I am just worried about who the Wizards will have to take back in return. A nice comfortable victory over Portland will help get this incident behind everybody and that is what I am hoping for.

Posted by: George Templeton | February 11, 2007 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Brendan's entire demeanor is that of a big kid. Nothing wrong with that, he's only 26, has lived a charmed life. Etan is more complex, but why does that make him more mature? This entire team is still very young, and incidents like these only highlight AJ's maturity and his value to the team - on and off the court.

"a thug and a pansy"

My guess is Mike isn't a day over 16.

Posted by: reispace | February 11, 2007 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Mike and Abe,

You both are making fools of yourself w/ your arguments on Etan esp. in reference to Jerome James. This just shows your lack of any basketball knowledge. Make some good valid points instead of being so ignorant of the facts: Etan isn't a great big man but like Washington, every other team is looking for just a "serviceable" big man to play in the post. There just aren't enough to go around, so you hold on to the best you've got.

Posted by: Not Mike and Abe | February 11, 2007 11:46 AM | Report abuse

"First, it was a Milwaukee offer sheet that Grunfeld chose to match and the idea that Etan has tanked (as opposed to the injuries he has suffered limiting him) is utterly ridiculous."

I dunno George, there's a reason that no one is trying to trade for him. Could be injuries, could be that he's overpayed, could be that he's soft. They tried to move him last year if you remember correctly.

I don't think anyone will disagree that matching that offer was not a good thing.

But my reasoning that it will be Haywood traded is because his agent lobbied for it before and also because Jordan likes Etan better for some crazy reason. I guess I'll never undertsnad Jordan's mentality.

I think we'll eventually see one go because someone will get tired of being here and demand a trade. I'm sure the locker isn't "divided" but it's hard going to work every day and seeing that thorn in your side and not have it bother you.

I was going through something similar in the real world and I just switched offices because of it. I thought in the long run it was best for me. And no I'm not "soft." ;)

Eventually I think something will have to be resolved and one will have to moved.

I'm sure both guys are "good" guys but that doesn't always mean that having the both of them around are the best for the team or each other.

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | February 11, 2007 12:16 PM | Report abuse

The contract Milwaukee offered was designed to be overpriced so to discourage Wizards from matching it (just like Hughes' and Jefferies' offers). So there is no doubt that it is an overpriced contract. But even Milwaukee probably did not anticipate that Etan would injure so often and missed so many games. The two factors together make Etan tough to trade as Ivan pointed out.

However, it would be a mistake to trade Haywood instead. Wizards have made this kind of mistake before. Remember they traded Webber instead of Juan Howard because Howard had a bad (overpriced) contract and was tough to trade? It is just bad business practice to keep something with a higher price-to-value ratio and get rid off the lower one.

Of course, I am not saying Haywood cannot be moved. If we find someone better to replace him, than go right ahead. But I don't see Etan as someone better; at most, he is an "equal." However, Etan throughout his career is injury-prone, and cannot be counted on in times of need.

Posted by: sagaliba | February 11, 2007 12:53 PM | Report abuse

I am not saying we should keep Etan over Brendan (Brendan has been more productive no doubt about it), I just think that if they do trade Etan we will have to take back a bad contract (and possibly a bad player with it).

Posted by: George Templeton | February 11, 2007 1:49 PM | Report abuse

The bottom line: ever since the Poet signed the big fat contract, he has been a stiff, both when he's injured, and usually when he's not. He took the money and ran, period. I'm not a huge Brendan fan either, but he has put up decent numbers and effort this year, and for the Poet to call him "Todd" shows that Etan has become a locker room CANCER. We should get rid of him and use Booth, Songaila, Ruffin and Lang instead (assuming we can't get an equally ineffective big man in return). As for the comment about Jerome James, that was obviously a joke - exactly what Etan has become.

Posted by: Abe | February 11, 2007 2:44 PM | Report abuse

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