So much for fun-loving, easy-going exhibitions -- the Washington Wizards are taking the preseason seriously. One game after one Wizards player was ejected and two others were later suspended for fighting, calm and collected Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan was tossed in the preseason finale against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Jordan was ejected late in the third quarter of the Wizards' 97-87 loss for disputing a non-call with official Rodney Mott.
"I got a little bit unhappy," Jordan said. "So, I faced the consequences. I thought a lot of things happening out there weren't going our way. What's done is done."
With 1 minute 2 seconds left in the period, Jarvis Hayes hit a layup while leaning in on Lakers forward Lamar Odom and Jordan screamed for a foul. Instead, Mott called Jordan for a technical, causing Jordan to storm onto the floor and shout some more at Mott. Without hesitation, Mott gave Jordan another technical, which amounts to an automatic ejection. Jordan then handed his play cards to top assistant Mike O'Koren and walked off the floor rubbing his goatee.
Jordan's ejection came just three days after center Brendan Haywood and shooting guard Larry Hughes received technicals for scrapping with the Chicago Bulls and Michael Ruffin was ejected, although he was merely trying to break up the fight. Haywood was given a three-game suspension and Hughes was suspended one game for their actions against the Bulls.
Before he left, Jordan caught a glimpse of the lineup he expects to put on the floor for the season opener in Memphis on Nov. 3. With Haywood stretched out on the baseline, Gilbert Arenas stretching behind him and Hughes sitting on the bench to start the second half, Jordan put out a lineup of Ruffin at center, Juan Dixon at point guard, Jared Jeffries at power forward, along with regular starters Jarvis Hayes and Antawn Jamison. The lineup played well together, outscoring the Lakers' first unit 15-10 for the 5:34 they were on the floor with each other.
The most glaring flaw for the Wizards entering the regular season, Jordan said, was the team's inability to close out games. Lost in the scuffle that occurred Monday was that the Wizards were up 21 in the third quarter and they led by 16 at the point of Hughes's hard foul. The Wizards led in the second half of each of their preseason losses, also blowing double-digit leads against the Philadelphia 76ers and Detroit Pistons.
"We have to learn to keep doing the things that got us where we are," Jordan said before the game. "We can't be satisfied."
E. Thomas Ailing
Reserve forward Etan Thomas still doesn't know when he will be able to return from his abdominal strain injury and he hinted that the injury may be more serious than originally diagnosed. "I can't even give you a ballpark figure," Thomas said after having an MRI exam in Washington on Tuesday. "We just have to see how everything progresses. With a strained abdomen, every muscle around it has to heal before you can get back."
Thomas injured himself on the next-to-last day of training camp and has been recovering ever since, recently progressing to stretching exercises. The Tulsa native had hoped to return in time to play in his home state. "I've never been able to come back and play here," he said. "I played in charity game in the summer at my old high school, but other than that. . . . "
It is doubtful that Thomas will be able to play in the season opener Wednesday, although Jordan is optimistic, considering his depleted opening day roster. . . .
Thomas needed about 35 tickets for Thursday nights game, but he was in competition with forward Michael Ruffin, who starred at Tulsa and has family in Oklahoma. Thomas beat Ruffin in getting most of the tickets from his teammates, forcing Ruffin to buy 32 of his 34 tickets. Ruffin joked afterward, "He just signed the big contract."
Ruffin started in place of Hayes, moving Jamison to small forward.