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Nothing to giggle about

- The Washington Times - Friday, October 27, 2006

The subplot involving the Poet and Brendan Haywood is expected to receive a pouting check today, assuming Eddie Jordan entrusts the center position to the one who pens sonnets.

Haywood rarely holds up well if his derriere is planted against a seat cushion at tip-off.

The challenge before Haywood is to show he can absorb the blow to his psyche and move past the bouts of pouting and sulking, if not the bursts of giggling on the far end of the bench.

The latter could be helped by the departure of his partner in giggling, Jared Jeffries.

Their urge to giggle sometimes lacked a proper sense of timing, such as in the waning minutes of a lost cause.

The most committed players rarely find a setback to be amusing, which is why the NBA employs a cooling-off period following a game.

Haywood and Jordan have advanced the notion that their previously fractured relationship is on the mend, fueled no doubt by the coach's contract extension in the summer.

The uneasy nature of the relationship emanated from Haywood, of course, because coaches can be exceedingly simple creatures at times.

They show favoritism to players who produce, who care and who increase a team's quality of life.

It is not really complex, except to a player who cannot grasp why a coach would be upset with a 7-footer who barely ends up with more rebounds than the munchkin known as Earl Boykins in a game.

Or a 7-footer who collects one rebound in the first half.

Or a 7-footer who refuses to make eye contact with a coach after being removed from a game.

Or a 7-footer who works himself into a high-energy lather at the sight of Tyson Chandler, only to disappear in subsequent games.

Haywood has adopted an all-or-nothing bent in his five seasons with the Wizards.

He can lift your spirits one night and then break your heart the next.

Jordan and the Wizards are hoping Haywood is able to eliminate his mentally induced habit of disappearing for significant stretches of the season.

This would ease the back strain of mail carriers, obligated to dump fliers on the public that carry Haywood's mug shot, with the requisite question: Have you seen this man?

The Poet, unlike Haywood, always has had a feistiness about him, whether with a ball or pen in his hand.

His curse is being short in stature for a center, short on skills and short on good health the last two seasons.

His up-and-under move on offense, a favorite of his and the referees who police traveling violations, is no threat to join the ones perfected by Kevin McHale and Hakeem Olajuwon.

Yet the understated usefulness of the Poet, if healthy, was revealed in his contract season in 2004, when he averaged 8.9 points and 6.7 rebounds.

The Wizards don't expect to have an All-Star at center. But they do expect their center to show up with conviction each game.

As it turns out, the call to the Poet is the team's first test of the season instead of the Cavaliers.

The parsing of Haywood's reaction to the news will be accompanied by the reading of his body language.

The last time Haywood was challenged in so public a way, he took exception to the fact that Antawn Jamison received a courtesy call from Jordan and he did not.

It could be noted that one earned the courtesy because of an All-Star season and the other did not.

This is not the Egalitarian Basketball Association, after all.

But that is another time in the relationship between Jordan and Haywood.

Or so both parties have insisted this month.

Haywood should realize by now the season is long and fraught with ups and downs.

He will have plenty of chances to show the faultiness of Jordan's thinking.

Otherwise, as extra motivation, the Wizards could place a life-size cutout of Chandler next to Haywood's locker and take it to the all road games, except the one against the Hornets.