Bullets Fever

A blog and community website for the Washington Wizards and their fans.

Monday, October 30, 2006

It's Official: Thomas to Start Opening Night

Raise your hand if you saw this one coming.

After ending the season out of the Wizards' rotation for their playoff series with Cleveland, Etan Thomas has officially been named the starting center over incumbent Brendan Haywood for the season's opener.

To say this was a shock is definetly an understatement.

This presents an interesting situation for Haywood. Les Bullez says that it's about time to get Haywood out of there.
Maybe Haywood just isn’t that good and with 4 scorers on the floor, they need defense and rebounding and not a 7 footer who loves to take fadeaway jumpers.
Haywood has struggled because he doesn't really fit the Wizards' new up-tempo style. When he played alongside Michael Jordan, Haywood was perfect because all he had to do was focus on rebounding and defense in the half-court. As long as he took up space, it made Jordan's job easier. Now, however, he tends to bog down the Wizards' high-octane attack, especially offensively. He hasn't really developed a good post game and doesn't run the floor as well as he should.

At the same time, Haywood's defensive ability is significantly underrated. His length frustrates many centers, particularly Zydrunas Ilgauskas, he of the Wizards' Game 1 opponent. As a defensive rebounder, Haywood is pretty decent as long as he maintains concentration. The problem, once again, is that he just doesn't fit into the Wizards' style.

In Haywood's defense (I guess), reader and brother Josh offers this comment.
did you hear etan has been named starting center? I don't like it, he's better suited coming off the bench a junkyard
I'm guessing that if Josh were to elaborate, he'd point to Etan's durability issues since he signed the big contract in 2004. More specifically, I think he'd also say that Thomas is best suited as a change-of-pace guy a junkyard dog type who comes in during spurts and gives the Wizards energy and tenacity up front. The argument is that if you start Thomas, you lose some of the spark and raise the issue of durability. I feel like this is true, but I also think Thomas is more durable than it seems. He missed half of 2005, but has played in at least 67 games in every other year. Last season, he just simply wasn't good enough to get a regular rotation spot. From what I've been reading, it appears like he actually earned the job, showing that he's probably playing at his highest level in years. Essentially, Thomas' size is a much bigger issue than his lack of durability.

Ultimately, Eddie Jordan's decision culminates two years of washing away the Michael Jordan era and ushering in a whole new type of team. Haywood was the last relic of that team, and now that Thomas is starting, his role will be reduced. I still think the Wizards should hold onto Haywood for his size, but I'd give most of the minutes to Thomas. I'm a little worried about how Haywood will respond to being a reserve, but considering both guys should see the court plenty, I would be disappointed if he continues to hold a grudge. There's really no reason to trade him, as he's a 7 footer that has an affordable salary. I just hope his attitude will be better than in the past.

What's your take on the announcement? Is Thomas really a better option than Haywood?

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