Haywood, Thomas: 'We'll Be Okay'

Brendan Haywood, left, and Etan Thomas have fought three times in their careers.
Brendan Haywood, left, and Etan Thomas have fought three times in their careers. "We can be competitive without being enemies," Thomas said. (By Mitchell Layton -- Nbae Via Getty Images)
By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 11, 2007

Washington Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said yesterday that the fallout from Friday's scuffle between centers Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood was an unnecessary distraction as the team prepares for this afternoon's game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Verizon Center.

"For the moment, yes, but after it's all said and done and everything's been taken care of, no," Jordan said. "Something like this just can't help but disrupt your practice and for the moment, disrupt you. We had a meeting, we watched film and talked about things and we said we're going to have a good practice. And we had a very good practice."

Jordan met with his team before practice yesterday and addressed the fight, which took place during Friday's practice. Thomas was suspended two games for "conduct detrimental to the team" and cannot practice or be with the team until after the all-star break, which starts Thursday and concludes next Monday.

Jordan was agitated that the fight and Thomas's suspension have come at a time when the Wizards are struggling without forward Antawn Jamison, whose sprained left knee is expected to keep him out until early March.

In losing three of four games without Jamison, the Wizards have been picked apart defensively, have lacked cohesion offensively and have looked little like the team that went 22-9 during December and January.

Thomas said Friday's fight was sparked by a Haywood "cheap shot" elbow to the head, but he also expressed regret over his reaction. Following yesterday's practice, Haywood said he was prepared to move forward.

"I'm always going to be fine," Haywood said. "I'm a basketball player and I'm here to play basketball. At the end of the day, I will defend myself. . . . This isn't about basketball, it's an individual thing. That's why it doesn't even need to happen. It's two individuals and it should be about the Washington Wizards and our fans."

Thomas and Haywood have traded punches at least three times over the past two seasons and Haywood was benched for one game after throwing a punch at Thomas last season. The two fought again on Nov. 2 after Thomas took issue with comments made in the media by Haywood's agent.

Though it's no secret that Thomas and Haywood are not friends -- they always sit several seats apart on the bench and never exchange handshakes or make eye contact when replacing one another during games -- Thomas said the two can avoid future incidents.

"Now, there's going to be a lot written questioning if we can coexist together, this not being our first altercation, but I think we'll be okay," Thomas said Friday night.

He added, "We can be competitive without being enemies, it just doesn't have to be like this."

Haywood made similar comments yesterday when asked whether the two will engage in another fight in the future.

"I don't foresee it," Haywood said. "I'm not a fighting person. It's work. This is my job. My mom went to work every day with people she didn't get along with, but she did her job because that's what she was paid to do. I'm the same way. I'm paid to play basketball and that's what I'm going to do."

Losing Thomas for two games thins a rotation that has already been weakened by the absences of forwards Jamison, Michael Ruffin and until recently, Darius Songaila. Ruffin, who has missed 37 games with a right foot sprain, practiced Thursday and yesterday and stands a good chance of being activated today.

"He feels good, he looks good and now it's just a matter of how he feels overnight," Jordan said. "He seems to be ready to go. There's a good chance."

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