- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Communication — seemingly from top to bottom — has been a priority in recent days for the Washington Wizards.

Following the team’s Tuesday morning shootaround, owner Abe Pollin showed up to offer some encouragement to the Wizards, who at the time were on their third four-game losing streak and losers in 14 of their last 17 games.

Coach Eddie Jordan was caught off balance by Pollin’s words, just as he had been earlier when reserve center Brendan Haywood requested a meeting. This season Haywood has gone from starting center to a reserve to at times not playing at all. That’s why he asked Jordan for an audience.

“I think we learned a lot about each other,” said Haywood, whom Jordan called the ‘key’ to the team’s 91-87 victory against Utah. “It was good for both parties. There was some stuff that we both got off our chest that we needed to get rid of. He said some stuff to me, and I said some stuff to him. Now I think everybody’s good now.”

Jordan didn’t know what to think when Haywood approached him. He knew Haywood has not been happy since Jordan benched him earlier in the season.

“He’d been up and down a little bit,” Jordan said. “He pulled me up and let me know that he wanted to talk to me. He made a commitment to practice harder, to take a serious approach to everything we do.”

Haywood lived up to that commitment against the Jazz. Up by 14 points in the second quarter, the Wizards found themselves trailing by six with 2:41 left in the third. Benched in the first half, Haywood quickly scored six points and blocked a shot when he was re-inserted.

His burst helped the Wizards, who made seven of 23 shots in the period, tie the game 63-63 and helped set up Larry Hughes’ victory-clinching 20-point fourth-quarter eruption.

“He gave us a lift there,” said Hughes, who scored a season-high 38 points.

Haywood made the most of his 13 minutes, finishing with eight points and four rebounds.

Haywood’s benching was a topic of discussion in his 30-minute meeting with Jordan. They talked and watched game tape.

“I wanted to know basically why I wasn’t playing,” Haywood said. “I wanted to sit down and watch some film with him and get his thoughts on why I wasn’t in the game. Like I said earlier this year, I’m going to support my teammates to the end. But I want to play. I’m a competitor. So I just sat down with him and discussed what I was doing wrong and how I could get better.”

Jordan wants his players to maintain a seriousness about them, something he knows is not Haywood’s personality. But just because he likes to laugh and joke, Haywood said, does not mean he isn’t serious about his job.

“I think he kind of had my personality a little messed up,” Haywood said. “Because I’m light-hearted, I’m not sure he knew how seriously I take the game of basketball. I let him know that I might laugh and joke during and after games, but during that game I’m committed to winning. I had to reaffirm to him that no matter what he sees, I’m committed to this team and the game of basketball.”


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