- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2003

Ernie Grunfeld has dumped the unqualified hands of Jahidi White on Phoenix, either a sucker or able to teach hands, not sure which.

Grunfeld deserves a thumbs up, so long as the thumb is not attached to White, a burden to both himself and the salary cap.

That leaves the unqualified hands of Brendan Haywood, the last of them in Tony Cheng’s neighborhood, where fumbling with chopsticks or the ball is sometimes indistinguishable.

Haywood also is soft around the rim, the double whammy of the NBA.

The new Jordan, Eddie, has decided to squeeze the Charmin known as Haywood, who is back on the bench as Christian Laettner’s understudy.

Laettner has reported to work this season with a headband, beard and flowing locks, looking like an honorary surfer dude.

Laettner, around sand or not, has a gritty style about him, plus a natural ability not to make “contact” with a real estate agent if he is staying at a beach.

This is no small quality on Fun Street after Jerry Stackhouse apparently tried to draw a charge from a real estate woman at the beach in the summer.

Laettner, ever steady, contributed 13 points and 13 rebounds in his first start of the season, as part of an ensemble cast that overwhelmed the disoriented Mavericks, a Frankenstein-like creation that is missing only two bolts to the neck of Shawn Bradley.

Laettner plays at two speeds, slow and slower, but plays with an impeccable sense of purpose. He knows where to be on the floor.

Laettner has the frame of a small forward, two shoes made out of cement, but the acumen to routinely record a double-double. He was one of the few players who managed to stay out of the turmoil that eventually overtook the team last season. In fact, in the last 20 games of the season, he might have been the team’s most consistent player.

If you could merge the savvy of Laettner and the athleticism of Kwame Brown, you just might have the best power forward in the Eastern Conference. It is up to Brown to take mental notes.

Haywood was limited to five minutes against the Mavericks, which was enough time to incur two fouls.

A pair of bad hands is an awful thing to waste on a 7-footer or a player built like a tight end, one of the oft-repeated laments of Washington.

At least one ulcer-inducing pair of hands is gone, and no future considerations are necessary.

White departs with a weightlifter’s body and Edward’s scissor hands.

Washington received an extended dose of the hands of White, starting with his four seasons at Georgetown. It was his fate to break the chain of impressive big men on the Hilltop, from Patrick Ewing to Dikembe Mutombo to Alonzo Mourning.

No, it never was hands down with White.

He put the excitement back into the high-five, being apt to miss a teammate’s hand as easily as a pass.

The hands of White inevitably led to innocent hands slamming against whatever inanimate object was available.

Yet White also could be a handful once the ball was in his possession. His body was his gift, more so if he had chosen the occupation of rushing the quarterback.

Grunfeld might have put a call to the little fellow who is in charge of the desperation of the Redskins, the parody that has spilled onto the desk of a New York Post gossip columnist, a bejeweled Cindy Adams taken with the subject of the outgoing football coach and the little fellow’s consternation.

The Wizards are hardly easy targets at the moment, given their fresh defiance and capacity to meet their season’s slogan of “Pure Energy.”

They have a 2-2 record, a road victory to go with one over a team that won 60 games last season, and they have a player in Gilbert Arenas, who is both the truth and the light of a franchise that has been in the dark since Wes Unseld retired as a player.

By the way, Unseld’s parting gift as an executive, Jarvis Hayes, looks worthy. Even Steve Blake, the afterthought in the draft who has some Eminem in him, has filled his limited function.

This is a hopeful beginning.

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