If you read my story in today's paper you know that Etan Thomas underwent surgery yesterday morning at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Mn and is in the process of recovering. Neither the doctors nor the team provided detail about the procedure last night because Thomas had yet to provide doctors or the team the neccessary clearance to discuss his medical situation.
We do know that the situation is most likely season ending but that other athletes have come back from similar procedures and continued their athletic careers (current Lakers F Ronny Turiaf and former SF 49ers OL Jesse Sapolu underwent aortic valve procedures). More information should be made available today.
The good news is that, barring some surgical complication we don't yet know about, Etan should be able to go on and live a full, healthy life regardless of what he chooses to do with basketball. He's a husband, a father and an all-around good guy so I wish him nothing but the best. It's been stated before, but if any pro athlete is equipped to move on and do other things if he so chooses, it's Etan Thomas.
A lot of folks have asked about any potential salary cap implications related to the possibility of Thomas being declared out for the season. As I wrote in my story today, Etan has three years and $20 million remaining on his deal. The CBA has a provision which states that should a player be declared out for the season, the team could acquire a free agent or create room to accept a salary in a trade. The exception can be used only to acquire one player, and the max salary for the replacement player is 50 percent of the injured player's salary, or the average NBA salary, whichever is less. A league-designated physician would have to approve before the exception would be used.
Thing is, even if the exception applies in this particular case, there aren't many big men available. I heard that one person with the team - not someone in the front office - reached out to P.J. Brown to inquire about his possible interest but Brown, who played with Chicago last season but is an unrestricted free agent right now, said he would only consider playing for a team like Dallas, San Antonio, Detroit etc. - in other words, a team he believes can win a title this season. Can't confirm that, just passing along what I heard.
When asked about his big man situation yesterday, Coach Eddie Jordan again sounded as if he's comfortable with what he has. He likes Brendan Haywood as his starter (more on that stunning development in a minute) and likes what he's seen out of Andray Blatche, Darius Songaila and Oleksiy Pecherov as well. All three played minutes at center Tuesday night and were effective. I talked to Brendan after Tuesday's game and he said he is ready to carry as many minutes as Jordan is willing to give him. As I mentioned in my story today, Brendan had his most productive season statistically in 2004-2005 when he played a career-high 27.4 minutes.
"I can play as many minutes as they need me to play," Haywood said following Tuesday's game. "I've been waiting a long time for an opportunity to play a lot of minutes and hopefully, I'll be ready if that's what I'm asked to do."
Darius said he would also be comfortable playing some center.
"There will be games where I'll play at the five but obviously it will depend on who we are playing against," Songaila said. "If it's Shaq or Yao, then that's a different story but you know, some teams go small and I can matchup against those kinds of teams."
Blatche described himself as "very comfortable" playing center and believes that his skills as a passer, dribble and rebounder can potentially make him a tough matchup for bigger centers. "They may be bigger than me in the paint but they also have to come out and guard me when I step away from the basket and that can help us spread the floor. I feel that one of my strengths is my passing and in our offense, that's important."
Anyway, Jordan was discussing his big men in the hallway at Verizon Center when Brendan happened to roll out of the lockeroom and strolled past while waving hello to the talking Jordan.
"We only have one real, true center and he's walking past right now and it's a good relationship there," Jordan said as the media crew busted out laughing.
Eddie and Brendan getting along? Maybe there is hope for world peace.
More Eddie on the big man situation: "We're not really looking at it as if we have a center and a backup center. We're looking at having all of our big guys doing the same thing. In terms of alignments, we have two bigs and three smalls that can play together."
(Blogger's note to clarify something because some folks freaked out when I quoted Eddie saying this the other night.) When he talks about "two bigs" and "three smalls" I don't think Eddie is talking about super small lineups like some we saw last season with Antawn Jamison at center. Remember, Dominic McGuire is a small forward so he's one of those "smalls" as is Caron Butler and in some lineups, the 6-foot-11 Blatche and the 7-foot-0 Pecherov will likely play some "small' forward as well.
In fact, I think you'll see the Wizards play more "big" lineups that many teams in the league. Assuming that Blatche continues to bring it as he has so far (and we'll see about that) and given the intriguing possibilities presented by the versatile Pecherov along with the established presence that is Songaila, that bench could be very "big" indeed. Also, the 6-foot-8 McGuire seems to play bigger than he actually is. The guy has a knack for rebounding and blocking shots but can also move his feet well enough to defend on the perimeter. It's early but there is no doubt that the coaches are excited about his potential. When I asked Caron about McGuire in Richmond, tough juice noted that the rookie plays with "no fear."
"He's too young to be afraid of anything," Caron said. "He's just out there throwing his body around, making things happen. That's something we need coming off that bench."
Eddie was asked whether he felt that Tony Massenburg was now his most "physical player": "No, I wouldn't say that. I think that Darius is very physical. He may not look physical like Tony. Darius is clean shaven and doesn't have the ripples like Tony but he's very physical... We have some physical guys."
Heading off to practice in a bit and I'll update later on.
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