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Wizards Await Discipline From NBA

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 27, 2004; Page D06

CHICAGO, Oct. 26 -- The Washington Wizards are expecting to hear Wednesday whether disciplinary action will be taken by the NBA after some of their players engaged in a full-court fracas with the Chicago Bulls on Monday night.

Wizards center Brendan Haywood and Bulls forward Antonio Davis will likely be suspended or fined and Wizards guard Larry Hughes and Bulls center Eddy Curry might be as well for their roles during an incident in the third quarter of the Wizards' 100-95 preseason game loss to the Bulls.

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The Wizards will not play again until Thursday against the Los Angeles Lakers in Oklahoma City, and Coach Eddie Jordan was unsure which players he would be allowed to use then -- or when the Wizards open the season against the Memphis Grizzlies next week.

"That's on the league. The league will do the right thing," Jordan said after a practice at Chicago's United Center. "The players may not agree, but the league has a handle on this thing and we'll abide by it."

On the day after the incident, Hughes blamed himself for being overly aggressive when he shoved Bulls point guard Kirk Hinrich, setting off a tidal wave of pushing, shoving, slapping and slamming.

Haywood showed remorse for being too "demonstrative" in his efforts to support his teammates. Jordan clarified what he means when he says he wants his team to get tougher this season.

"It was unfortunate, what happened," Jordan said. "I'm not a believer in real hard fouls. I don't believe fighting is the answer, but hopefully we can learn how to keep our composure yet continue to support each other and to protect each other."

The incident began with 3 minutes 22 seconds left in the third quarter when Hughes pushed Hinrich into a soaring Luol Deng, causing Deng to take an ugly fall. It escalated when Haywood pushed Hinrich after he approached Hughes. It worsened when Davis pushed Haywood, Haywood pushed back and Hughes pushed Davis.

It got out of control when Haywood punched Davis, Davis swung at Haywood, then flicked aside official Bill Kennedy to body-slam Haywood. It reached its lowest point when Curry punched Haywood in the groin while Davis was on top of Haywood.

Davis and Wizards reserve Michael Ruffin were ejected, and Haywood and Hughes received technical fouls. Bulls Coach Scott Skiles said official Bennett Salvatore informed him after the game they threw out the wrong player, which was a relief to Ruffin, who was merely trying to separate Davis and Haywood.

"It was probably tough for the officials to see exactly what was going on and I guess in their minds, I had a lot to do with it. I'm not sure what it was," Ruffin said.

The Wizards were ahead by 16 when Hughes started the chain reaction by fouling Deng. Hughes said he didn't intend to cause a collision. "I was actually trying to get [Hinrich] out of the way to get to the play," said Hughes, one of the Wizards' three captains. "I take blame for being aggressive, trying to get to the play, but he was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Haywood, Davis and Hughes said they would accept any punishment from the league. Curry said he is expecting a "hefty fine" but said Bulls General Manager John Paxson told him that he hoped Curry wouldn't get suspended for throwing a "wimpy punch."

The Wizards will already play the opener on Nov. 3 without point guard Gilbert Arenas and backup shooting guard Anthony Peeler. Arenas will serve a one-game suspension for a gun charge and Peeler was suspended two games without pay last season for decking Kevin Garnett with an elbow during Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals between the Sacramento Kings and Minnesota Timberwolves.

On the team bus to practice Tuesday, Peeler said he told Haywood that in heated situations, "You really do have to protect yourself because things happen so fast. Then, when you're done with it, you're like, 'What did I really do?' "

Haywood chose to focus on the positive, that the Wizards had each other's backs. "If you looked at it, I was protecting Larry, then Antonio pushed me and Larry was protecting me, then Mike was trying to protect me. It probably wasn't the right way to show it, but at least we were coming together and that's something I can't say about other years. In the past, it would've been everybody for themselves."

Jordan said: "Will it bring us together? I don't know. You never know how a team reacts from it."

© 2004 The Washington Post Company