Wizards' Haywood Resumes Shooting With Injured Right Wrist

Brendan Haywood, center, who has missed all 56 games, says he expected to be trying to return for the playoffs.
Brendan Haywood, center, who has missed all 56 games, says he expected to be trying to return for the playoffs. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
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By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The flick of the wrist after shooting a free throw wouldn't usually result in a double-take. But when that wrist underwent surgery last October and has cost Washington Wizards center Brendan Haywood the entire season to this point, that motion from the foul line was an encouraging sign for a snakebitten season.

After practice yesterday, Haywood shot free throws with teammates Darius Songaila and Oleksiy Pecherov. Then, Haywood built up a lather of sweat working for about 30 minutes on his post moves down low with volunteer assistant Tony Massenburg. He absorbed Massenburg's elbows, spun around him to hit turnaround jumpers and attacked the rim with right-handed dunks.

"I feel okay," said Haywood, wearing a protective black band over the wrist. "This was the first day I really got a lot in. It's part of the process, just getting better and just waiting until my time."

Haywood and point guard Gilbert Arenas, who has also been sidelined all season with a left knee injury, participated in non-contact drills at practice yesterday, which interim coach Ed Tapscott said provided an energy boost to a team coming off a 31-point loss against San Antonio on Saturday. Both Haywood and Arenas have yet to be cleared for full-contact practice and no timetable has been set for either player to return this season. When asked if he will play this season, Haywood paused and said, "I haven't thought that far ahead."

The Wizards have no plans of rushing back Arenas or Haywood with the team 13-43 and last in the Eastern Conference. "If they want to get a couple of games and get the cobwebs out this year, that's something that will make me feel a little bit better and the fans as well," forward Antawn Jamison said of Haywood and Arenas. "But if it doesn't happen, you understand. We all know what the most important thing is and that's making sure everybody is healthy going into next season. That's the biggest thing for me."

The 7-foot Haywood, who tore a tendon in his right wrist blocking a shot in training camp, had been limited to working with his left hand. He had a pin removed from his wrist last month and has gradually progressed to shooting with his right hand the past two weeks. Haywood said he has been taking advice from former New York Knicks guard Allan Houston, who had the same injury during his career. Houston told Haywood that he wouldn't be able to play until a month or so after he started shooting. "It's right around where I thought it would be," Haywood said of his wrist.

Haywood said he plans to meet with his doctor in New York in a few weeks to see when he will be cleared to go full speed. "You don't want to risk coming back too early and risk doing some damage. It's still some swelling, still doesn't bend as much as I need to both ways. That's the big thing with playing NBA defense, I don't have the full range of motion . . . and that could be a problem playing a Shaq, Yao Ming or Dwight Howard."

Tapscott said Haywood has maintained his playing weight of 265 pounds "magnificently," but also has to develop his basketball conditioning. Haywood said it hasn't been tough to stay in shape because he had a wrist injury. "Your legs still work," Haywood said. "It wasn't like I was sitting around idle and watching old re-runs of 'The Cosby Show' and eating Jell-O all day. I was actually doing some work."

Jamison said Haywood's presence on both ends of the floor is "something that we've missed a lot" this season. But Haywood scoffed when asked if he thinks people have a greater appreciation of him now that the Wizards are having one of the worst seasons in franchise history. "No one's thinking stuff like that. You always want your guys to go out and win. I'm not saying 'Oh, wow, I'm worth more if the team's losing,' " Haywood said. "That's a bad mentality to have. I was expecting this team to be a playoff team and around this time I'm trying to fight back to make a playoff run, and obviously that's not the case now. I've gotten used to the playoffs, so this year's obviously going to be a little different. . . . It's been tough because I don't think anybody imagined we could be this bad."

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