By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 7, 2006
ORLANDO, Nov. 6 -- Washington Wizards centers Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood were involved in a physical altercation last Thursday in which the two traded punches at Verizon Center, according to two team sources.
One source, who requested anonymity because the team was trying to keep the incident private, said Thomas was angry over comments made by Haywood's agent, Andy Miller, on Oct. 30.
Miller was critical of Coach Eddie Jordan's decision to select Thomas as the starting center over Haywood, believing Jordan chose Thomas out of personal animosity toward Haywood rather than performance. "My concern is that this is based on personal issues rather than professional ones," Miller said the day of the decision.
Thomas felt that Miller's comments were a slight toward him, he approached Haywood and threw the first punch once the argument escalated, a source said. According to the source, Haywood responded to the punch by body-slamming Thomas to the ground, tearing out at least two of Thomas's dreadlocks in the process. The two players were separated by teammates and the altercation ended.
Thomas and Haywood declined to comment Monday night after losing to the Magic. Neither player was suspended and it was unclear whether any fines were assessed. Both players were in uniform for Monday night's game at Orlando.
Haywood was suspended for one game after he and Thomas got into a fight during practice last season.
Thomas was named the starter prior to last Wednesday's regular season opener at Cleveland following a heated competition between the two players that began in training camp and continued throughout the eight-game preseason, during which they rotated starts.
Haywood had been the primary starter during his five seasons with the Wizards and was not pleased by the demotion though he publicly said he was prepared to "be a professional and play as hard as I always do."
It's clear, however, that Haywood thinks of himself as a starter and is not happy coming off the bench. Miller stopped short of demanding a trade for his client but he did say "the current situation is not good for Brendan or for the team."
Thomas impressed Jordan during the first two regular season games and was a powerful presence again Monday, finishing with 14 points, 15 rebounds and a career high 6 blocks. Jordan indicated after practice Sunday that he will stick with Thomas as the starter.
"He's a force, he is active down there and he earned his spot for just those reasons," Jordan said. "He shows a lot of passion, he tries his best to defend the rim and I like him in a starting position."