Thomas Available for Game 1

By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 21, 2006

Center Etan Thomas, who missed the final three games of the regular season with a lower back sprain, worked out yesterday and will be available tomorrow for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series, according to Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan.

Thomas, who is averaging 4.7 points and 3.9 rebounds, replaced Brendan Haywood in the starting lineup on March 27 and averaged 7.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in nine games as a starter

Jordan said Haywood will start Game 1 regardless of Thomas's availability. Still, Thomas should bolster a bench that was outscored in seven of the final eight games. Regardless of which post players are in the game against Cleveland, Jordan wants to see a physical approach.

"It's something we have been preaching all year, and there are certain lineups that we have used late in the game that will give that effort," Jordan said. "It is all about beating the offense to a spot, and if you can't be there to make a solid play to stop that shot, then you have to be there to give a hard foul. Sometimes it's Michael Ruffin or [Jared] Jeffries giving hard fouls. They need to know that we are there to contest shots."

Ready for the Cameras

With LeBron James making his postseason debut against Gilbert Arenas, the series will have no shortage of national attention. Tomorrow's opener will be televised nationally by ABC, Games 2 and 4 will be on TNT and Game 3 will be on ESPN.

"It's all magnified," said Arenas. "The TV and cameras are on you. The critics are watching you. This is where you step your game up."

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