- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 12, 2006

On a night when the Washington Wizards should have been celebrating their 103-72 home rout of Atlanta, center Brendan Haywood stole the spotlight by criticizing coach Eddie Jordan’s decision to bench him.

“There isn’t really anything to say,” Haywood said after the team’s second-biggest margin of victory this season. “I didn’t find out until right before the game. Eddie didn’t say anything to me about it. I probably would have liked to have it done in a different way. Come talk to me, sit down and tell me why that’s happening.

“He still hasn’t said anything about it to me, and he probably won’t. That’s just his M.O.,” Haywood continued. “I don’t really know why I’m not starting. I’m not going to sit here and lie to you because I’m not really happy about it. But if he says that helps the team, so be it.”

Jordan started Calvin Booth at center and also removed All-Star Antawn Jamison from the starting lineup in favor of forward Michael Ruffin.

With the strange lineup, Washington won for the first time this season when Gilbert Arenas didn’t score at least 20. And rookies Andray Blatche and Donell Taylor had the best games of their young careers to give the Wizards a glimpse of what the future could hold.

And while Jamison made the prudent decision to accept the temporary demotion with grace and class, the decision did not sit well with Haywood, who ripped into his coach.

Jordan said Jamison hurt his knee and went down for about five minutes in practice on Tuesday. He said he called Jamison and suggested he was going to bring him off the bench.

Jordan did not call Haywood with the same news, but Jordan said he played Booth with the starters for stretches during practice. Booth finished with two points and two rebounds in 14 minutes last night.

“I guess he didn’t feel he needed to call me,” said Haywood, who finished with 10 points and six rebounds. “I talked to Antawn, and he said he knew sometime yesterday. But I guess I wasn’t important enough on this team for him to call me and let me know that since I’ve been starting for the last couple of years for him that I wasn’t going to start tonight.

“That’s the move he made, so be it, roll with it. I’m going to be here whenever the team needs me. But I’m not going to sit here and lie to y’all and give you the speech that I’m really happy about this. This is disappointing. I’m really disappointed with the way the team has played so far, I’m disappointed in myself and I’m disappointed in the way coach handled the situation.”

Jordan, who said during the preseason that Haywood could become an All-Star, would not elaborate whether the change was permanent. But rest assured, when Jamison is healthy enough, he will return to the starting lineup.

“It’s something I’ll talk to the team leaders about, and I’ll make a decision,” Jordan said.

Jamison was just happy with the win.

“I didn’t have a problem with it,” said Jamison, who finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. “Whatever I can do to put this team in position to win basketball games I’ll do. I don’t see myself as a guy coming off the bench. But like I said I just want to win. It’s a business, and sometimes you don’t understand things. But we won tonight with me coming off the bench and that’s all that matters.”

Jared Jeffries and Taylor led the Wizards with 15 points, career highs for both. Caron Butler, who worked his way into the starting lineup last month, finished with 14 points.

The Wizards outrebounded the Hawks 52-31, and they forced the Hawks into 24 turnovers, which they converted into 20 points. Washington led by as many as 35 points in the fourth quarter.

Royal Ivey led Atlanta with 11 points, and Zaza Pachulia finished with nine points and 10 rebounds.

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