-- Center Brendan Haywood returned to the Wizards' starting lineup Tuesday but Michael Ruffin, Haywood's replacement while he was serving a three-game suspension, didn't go to the bench. Coach Eddie Jordan decided to keep the 6-foot-8 Ruffin in the lineup and use him at power forward, moving Jarvis Hayes to the bench.
"He earns a starting position," Jordan said of Ruffin. "It's not what Jarvis didn't do."
Hayes averaged 17.3 points in his first three games, but Jordan had decided to go with Ruffin at power forward and Antawn Jamison at small forward before the Wizards engaged in fisticuffs with the Chicago Bulls in a preseason game, earning Haywood his suspension. In three starts at center, Ruffin averaged seven rebounds, three blocks, 3.3 points and 2.3 assists.
"When you have scorers on the floor, it's good to have a guy like that," Jordan said. "The Lakers had it when I was playing with Kurt Rambis. Chicago had it with Dennis Rodman. He does things that help you win. Offensive rebounds, loose balls, steals. He does a lot of the dirty work that doesn't show up on the box score."
Jordan went with his third starting lineup in four games and said he expects more changes when forward Kwame Brown returns from his right foot injury. "Eventually, when Kwame works his way in, it's going to be Kwame and Jarvis as our forwards rotating in," said Jordan, who had 27 starting lineups last season. "When Kwame comes back and Etan [Thomas] comes back -- size matters -- you've got power, you've got a post-up presence, what we're really missing right now. You just can't be small. I don't want Antawn to be beat up by a power forward."
Hayes said he knew that Jordan might take him out of the starting lineup. "Coach is trying something," Hayes said. "I'll just contribute like I was starting, just do it off the bench now. I'll try to be that spark."
-- Michael Lee