- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 28, 2004

The NBA yesterday suspended Washington Wizards center Brendan Haywood for the first three games of the season and guard Larry Hughes for the opener as a result of their part in a fight with the Chicago Bulls during Monday’s game.

“We accept the ruling handed down by the league. However, we do feel it’s heavy-handed,” Wizards president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld said. “We will have to step up and come together as we will be short-handed for the first three games of the regular season.”

The Wizards will be extremely short-handed when they open the season Nov.3 at Memphis. Of the five players Wizards coach Eddie Jordan had hoped to have in the starting lineup, only forward Antawn Jamison will be available.

Jordan had only this to say about the situation: “We accept the league decision and we’ll move forward.”

Haywood, who also will miss games against Charlotte and the home-opener against Miami on Nov.6, is just one of four Wizards players who will miss the opener as a result of suspensions.

Hughes and Gilbert Arenas (gun charge) are the other starters who will miss the game. Reserve guard Anthony Peeler drew a two-game suspension while with the Sacramento Kings last season when he elbowed Kevin Garnett in the head during the playoffs. All but Haywood will be in the lineup when the Wizards face Miami at MCI Center.

The Wizards will have their full roster for the first time this season when they play the fourth game of the season at Miami on Nov.9. Suspended players lose a game’s salary.

However, the rash of injuries that have beset the team since the close of training camp could see the Wizards have as few as eight players to open the season.

Kwame Brown (foot surgery), the team’s starting power forward, has ruled himself out for the start of the season and is predicting he might be ready to play by mid-November. Reserve Steve Blake (ankle), the team’s closest semblance to a true point guard, won’t be available until at least late November.

The Wizards had hoped to have backup center Etan Thomas (strained abdominal) for the start of the season. However, a source within the organization yesterday said the injury might be more severe than originally diagnosed and that he likely would not be ready for the opener.

The incident involving Haywood and Hughes occurred with 3:22 left in the third quarter when a shoving match between Hughes, Haywood, Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich and Bulls forward Antonio Davis ensued following a hard foul committed by Hughes. The incident escalated as players from both teams became involved.

Davis and teammate Eddy Curry of the Bulls received two-game suspensions, and Hinrich was fined $10,000.

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