-- It started with a shove and a collision, escalated to more pushing and shoving and slapping and swiping. Then, it moved from a bar room brawl to something out of WWE, with punches thrown, bodies slammed, technicals assessed and players dismissed. The Washington Wizards were trying to send a message to the Chicago Bulls on Monday night that they were tougher and meaner and somehow a 16-point third-quarter lead in an exhibition game wasn't enough.
Coach Eddie Jordan has complained throughout training camp that he wants his team to get rougher. Point guard Gilbert Arenas went so far as to proclaim that the Wizards should institute a "no-layup rule" this season. But, in the end, the Wizards had to wonder what all of the tough talk meant, after they lost 100-95 in a game they should've won. And, they may lose some players they can't afford to lose when the regular season begins on Nov. 3.
With 3 minutes 22 seconds left in the third quarter the Wizards were up 74-58 against a lifeless Bulls team when Bulls forward Luol Deng made a behind-the-back dribble just inside the three-point line to get around Arenas. Deng had a clear path to the hoop when Larry Hughes came charging hard after Deng and shoved Bulls point guard Kirk Hinrich into Deng, causing Deng to land awkwardly on his backside.
Hinrich took exception to the push and walked toward Hughes. Bulls forward Antonio Davis then sought out Hughes, too, when Wizards center Brendan Haywood came from behind to shove Davis in the back. As Davis motioned toward Haywood, Hughes pushed Davis and shouted words his direction.
Then, Haywood swung at Davis, slapping him in the face. Haywood backpedaled for about 15 feet, losing his footing before Davis ran through an official to body-slam Haywood to the floor. Davis then climbed on top of Haywood and punched downward before players from both teams piled on top of each other. Officials Tony Brown, Bennett Salvatore and Bill Kennedy restored order.
Davis was ejected along with the Wizards' Michael Ruffin, who started in place of Antawn Jamison (bruised right knee). Haywood and Hughes received technical fouls.
Haywood almost certainly will be fined and suspended. A suspension probably would carry into the regular season. The Wizards will already start the season against Memphis without Arenas, who has to serve a one-game suspension for a gun charge.
Before an announced crowd of 12,689, the Bulls outscored the Wizards 42-21 after the melee, dropping the Wizards to 3-4 in the preseason. Hinrich led the Bulls with 32 points and five assists. Jarvis Hayes led the Wizards with 15 points.
Jamison Sits Out
Even the NBA's most durable player the past four years had to take a seat against the Bulls. Wizards forward Antawn Jamison, who has the longest streak for the most consecutive regular season games played at 328, missed his first game of the preseason with a bruised right knee.
"It's nothing serious. I just want to rest it," he said, "rather than let it turn into something before the start of the regular season."
Jamison said he will be back for the Wizards' preseason finale against the Los Angeles Lakers in Oklahoma City on Thursday. He hasn't missed a regular season game since the 1999-2000 season with the Golden State Warriors.
Jamison was injured in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 97-85 win against the Charlotte Bobcats, banging the inside of his leg while fighting for a loose ball.
Jamison and Haywood had been the only players to start the Wizards' first six preseason games, with fellow starters Arenas, Hughes and Jarvis Hayes nursing minor injuries at different times.