On Wrist, Haywood Takes the Long View

Linton Johnson III, left, and Dee Brown smother Detroit's Rodney Stuckey.
Linton Johnson III, left, and Dee Brown smother Detroit's Rodney Stuckey. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)
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By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 11, 2008

Brendan Haywood's right wrist was covered with a black protective brace, but his face wasn't covered with gloom two days after realizing that he will have surgery -- either next Wednesday or Thursday -- that will force to him to miss at least the next four months.

Haywood cracked jokes with teammates Gilbert Arenas, Andray Blatche and Nick Young in the locker room before the Washington Wizards faced the Detroit Pistons in their lone home preseason game at Verizon Center on Friday. He stayed in the locker room for the Wizards' woeful 73-62 loss, but it wasn't because he couldn't bear to watch. He just didn't bring a sport jacket to sit on the bench.

"It wasn't devastating," Haywood said, regarding the news of his pending surgery. "Devastating is somebody dying in your family. It was disappointing. When you look at all the stuff going on in the world, it's not the end of the world. I'm still doing what I love to do. It's a minor setback."

Minor is relative.

Antawn Jamison wore a black protective brace on his right knee, and seemed equally upbeat after taking an ugly spill in Dallas that kept him out of the game as well. Jamison had good reason. Earlier in the day, he received much better news regarding his sprained right knee: that he had no structural damage.

Jamison pledged to be back on the floor not only for the Wizards' season opener against New Jersey, but also the final two preseason games against San Antonio and Cleveland. As he leaned against a wall, resting on his right leg, Jamison joked about possibly playing next week when the Wizards play two preseason games against the New Orleans Hornets in Berlin and Barcelona.

"You know me, I'm hard-headed," Jamison said, grinning, "so I might try to play one of them."

Haywood won't join his teammates on their European adventure, and he wasn't ready to offer a timetable for his possible return. "My body tells me when to play," Haywood said. "If I'm healthy and there is time left in the season, I'll play."

Haywood injured his wrist during training camp in Richmond, where he blocked a shot by rookie JaVale McGee in practice and felt a throbbing pain. "It was downhill from there," Haywood said.

Haywood said he had to have surgery after three hand specialists told him that his alternative was developing arthritis or other future ailments. "You think one doctor could be wrong, but if you go to three hand specialists, everybody can't be wrong. It's a little disappointment that I couldn't help the team, and I couldn't build on what I did last year," said Haywood, who averaged career highs in points (10.6), rebounds (7.2) and blocks (1.7) last season. "It's one of those things, where I'm not going to play basketball forever. At some point, I have to look beyond basketball and I think this is the best thing for Brendan Haywood."

The Wizards looked slightly different than the team that was last seen losing to Cleveland in Game 6 of the first round of the playoffs, or even the one that left for Richmond two weeks ago. But the game also helped fans get reacquainted with Etan Thomas, who missed all of last season with a heart ailment. Thomas has started in place of Haywood through the first three preseason games, and he had a solid outing with eight points and three blocked shots in a preseason-high 22 minutes against the Pistons.

Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan said he plans on bringing Thomas along slowly, with the team relying on the committee of Thomas, Blatche, Darius Songaila and McGee without Haywood. But Thomas said he's ready to take on a greater role.

"I feel great," Thomas said before the game. "I just need to keep working hard every opportunity I get. I'm still learning the new defensive schemes that we've put in, so I'm just going to keep learning and keep working hard."

Thomas was asked if he found it odd that he has changed positions with Haywood, who had a career year with Thomas sidelined.

"It's something we're going to have to deal with. It's unfortunate the amount of time Brendan is going to have to miss," Thomas said. "I'm looking forward to it. It's been a long road back for me, so it's definitely a blessing to even be able to come out here and play at all. I just need to try not to get too excited when I'm out there."

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