Laron Profit, a former standout at Maryland, understands his chances of rejoining the team where he spent his only two NBA seasons are about as slim as he is. Billy Thomas realizes that his shot at making the Washington Wizards is about as long as his range on the basketball court (his half-court shot at the end of the team's open scrimmage earlier this week not withstanding).
With the Wizards battling an assortment of injuries, however, Coach Eddie Jordan has had to hold on to Profit and Thomas longer than many expected. They responded against the Pistons on Wednesday, scoring 11 points apiece and playing aggressive defense during a 92-83 win.
Neither player knows how Jordan will use them Friday night at the Palace of Auburn Hills during the Wizards' second game against the Pistons. But they can't be concerned about minutes or their future with the team, either.
"It's something I can't control, so I can't worry about it. I can only control the amount of effort and energy I have for the game," said Profit, who averaged 3.0 points and 1.3 rebounds in two seasons with the Wizards before he was traded to Orlando in 2001 for center Brendan Haywood.
Profit hasn't made an opening day NBA roster since, playing briefly in Italy and helping the Guangdong Southern Tigers win the Chinese Basketball Association championship last season.
Profit, 27, said his international travels helped him "fall in love with the game" again. "Sometimes when you're in a relationship with a person, you start taking them for granted," Profit said. "I kind of went through that with basketball."
Thomas, 28, has been struggling to find a home in the league since he left Kansas in 1998. He has bounced around the NBDL, the USBL, Italy, Argentina and the Philippines -- "I'm a traveling man," Thomas, a 6-foot-4 guard said, smiling -- but he won't give up the dream.
"With the way the roster is set, with three two guards, it doesn't seem all that promising," Thomas said of his chances to stick in Washington. "At the same time, I'm auditioning for 29 other teams. That means, I play hard with effort and energy, showing teams I can stretch the defense."
Thomas shot 3 for 6 from the three-point arc against the Pistons, but was kicking himself afterward for shooting two "uncharacteristic" air balls with the shot clock winding down. Jordan didn't think Thomas hurt his chances at all. "He helped himself tremendously," Jordan said. "It's not like he was in a bad way, as far as making the team. I've always liked him."
Profit helped settle the Wizards when the Pistons made a fourth-quarter push, picking up a late steal to stem the tide. "It's a credit to him because he hasn't played a lot of minutes, " Jordan said.
E. Thomas Slams Collins
In a first-person article in the current issue of Slam Magazine, Etan Thomas takes a shot at former Wizards coach Doug Collins when comparing him with Jordan. "The difference between Doug Collins and Eddie Jordan is like the difference between Bush and Clinton," Thomas says in the article. "One only cares about an elite group of people and sees that group as the only ones deserving any rights, privileges, respect or dignity. The other sees the have-nots as being able to contribute to the overall goal."
Thomas said he can remember during the 2002-03 season when, after a loss against the Houston Rockets, Collins told the coaching staff that Thomas would be out of the league when his rookie contract expired. Collins was fired after that season while Thomas averaged career-highs of 8.9 points and 6.7 rebounds during is first year under Jordan. He signed a six-year extension worth about $38 million last summer. Thomas, who also dabbles in poetry and political activism, has missed the entire preseason with an abdominal strain. . . .
A day later, Jordan was still excited to see the box score against the Pistons. The Wizards had seven players score in double digits, and Haywood chipped in with nine points. "It doesn't always work out that way, but that's a coach's dream to share the ball like that," Jordan said.