Haywood Is Heightening His Attack on Hardwood

Wizards center Brendan Haywood has emerged as one of the team's most reliable threats this season, playing with a flair he shows here after a dunk in a 100-90 win over Portland on Saturday night.
Wizards center Brendan Haywood has emerged as one of the team's most reliable threats this season, playing with a flair he shows here after a dunk in a 100-90 win over Portland on Saturday night. (Haraz N. Ghanbari - AP)
By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 19, 2007

The ferocity came when Washington center Brendan Haywood rebounded a Caron Butler miss and rammed home a two-handed dunk, picking up a technical foul for barking taunts at Portland's Jarrett Jack. The finesse came when Haywood caught a pass from Antawn Jamison on the baseline, elevated and dipped under the rim for a reverse layup made more impressive because Martell Webster grabbed his right arm.

And the fluidity came at the foul line, where Haywood made all nine of his free throw attempts. What? Brendan Haywood was 9 for 9 from the foul line?

"Don't hate, don't hate," Haywood said with a laugh after scoring 17 points with 10 rebounds as the Wizards won their fourth game in a row, 109-90, over the Trail Blazers on Saturday night.

The evidence that Haywood's remarkable play to start this season might be more standard than fluke was all over the court, but the best example of Haywood's emergence may have been at the end of the Trail Blazers' bench. There Greg Oden, at the urging of Portland assistant coach Maurice Lucas, was studying Haywood's game to see how he attacks the rim for offensive rebounds.

"That's something I'm going to watch -- guys that we play [who are] doing good," said Oden, the No. 1 pick of last summer's NBA draft who has to sit out this season after having microfracture surgery in September.

Haywood had four offensive rebounds against Portland and ranks third in the NBA at 4.8 per game. Through the first nine games, Haywood is averaging career highs of 10.2 points and 10.3 rebounds and is one of just 15 players in the league averaging double figures in rebounds and points this season.

He has six double-doubles and needs one more to match his season total from last season (seven). "Has he surprised me? Maybe he has. But we never lost faith in him," Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said. "He's feeling good about himself. He's really enjoying himself. He's enjoying the production. The success breeds the success in a sense."

Haywood said he didn't do anything special this offseason, except that he spent more time in Charlotte instead of Washington. He kept the same workout routine and spent his down time watching all five seasons of "24" on DVD.

"I'd go to the gym, work out, watch Jack Bauer and then I'd go back to the gym the next day," Haywood said, shrugging his shoulder.

With Etan Thomas out indefinitely following heart surgery, Haywood is the lone true center on the Wizards' roster and he appears more comfortable on the floor. He is the only Wizard shooting better than 50 percent from the floor (52.3), leads the team in blocked shots (1.9) and most important, he is averaging 29.6 minutes per game.

In his first six seasons in the league, Haywood averaged more than 25 minutes per game one time -- in 2004-05, when Haywood recorded then career highs of 9.4 points and 6.8 rebounds. "I've always said if I get the minutes, I can produce and now I'm getting that chance," Haywood said. "For me to know that I'm the center this year is huge for me. I don't have to worry about slow starts or anything else, picking up two quick fouls and not playing the rest of the half. I don't have to worry the mental aspect of the game. I can just go out there and be the type of player I envision myself being."

Haywood has held his own against Boston's Kevin Garnett, Orlando's Dwight Howard, Indiana's Jermaine O'Neal, Minnesota's Al Jefferson and he forced Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge into some difficult shots on Saturday. "I felt when Etan went out, I knew I had to raise my game up because there was a lot of people already doubting me anyway," he said. "If I didn't step up to the plate, they would've been like 'He's just running his mouth for nothing.' I feel like I had a lot of people to prove wrong and I still have people to prove wrong. That's one of my main motivations for this year."

Haywood's problem throughout his career, however, has been maintaining consistency.

"I think I can sustain it," Haywood said. "It would crazy for me to say, 'Nah, this is it.' It just comes down to energy, being prepared and going out and giving your best effort."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company