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.
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