- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 22, 2006

It is time for the 7-foot diva known as Brendan Haywood to leave behind his petulance and be the defensive anchor the Wizards so desperately need in their playoff series with the Cavaliers.

It is time for Haywood to leave behind his differences with coach Eddie Jordan and be the raging force that he was against Tyson Chandler and the Bulls last week.

It is long past time for Haywood to grow up and accept responsibility for where his career is after five seasons in the NBA.

Haywood should know by now that Jordan and his assistants are not in the coaching business to keep players from reaching their potential. They are in the business to win games and they are not too particular about which players enable them to do that.

That is why there is always a place for Ron Artest and his kind in the NBA. Coaches will tolerate an awful lot from a player if he is the difference between winning and losing.

Haywood seems to imagine that Jordan and his assistants sit behind closed doors and plot how they can undermine his good intentions. He seems to imagine that Jordan does not want him to succeed, which is absurd.

Haywood has lasted as long as he has in Tony Cheng’s neighborhood because of his occasional periods of defensive prowess. He has lasted as long as he has because of the games in which he plays with passion.

Whenever Haywood is in the mood to be somebody, observers inevitably ask, “Why can’t he play like that more often?”

That was the question last week in Chicago, where he was dunking, blocking shots and going after Chandler with a conviction that he often is unable to muster against other opponents.

Haywood can be one of the X factors in the playoff series with Cavaliers. He sometimes has a way of getting inside the head of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, for whatever reasons. Haywood so frustrated Ilgauskas in one of the meetings between the teams this season that Ilgauskas ended up getting ejected, which was a good thing.

The 7-foot-3 Lithuanian is a tough defensive cover because of his ability to step outside and hit the jumper. Ilgauskas especially likes the baseline shot from 15-18 feet.

And Ilgauskas does not like to be bumped whenever he tries to maneuver with his back to the basket. And he does not appreciate Haywood’s tendency to resort to the Vlade Divac-inspired flop following the slightest contact.

This can be Haywood’s moment to end all the bad feelings and bad body language between himself and the coaching staff. The next time he is lifted from the game, he ought to look Jordan in the eye while making his way to the bench, as if to say, “We are in this together, and I am part of the solution.”

That certainly would be preferable to a gait and facade that reads, “See, everyone, the coaches are picking on me again.”

Jordan and his assistants would love nothing more than to be able to dole out minutes to Haywood in an orderly fashion. They would love to be able to look at a box score at halftime and not see Haywood with only one rebound in 12-15 minutes.

Haywood’s activity level remains the rub, as it always has been, going back to Doug Collins. His activity level is up and down, rarely constant. Some games he is motivated. Other games he exhibits all the life of a dead man.

Haywood should endeavor to check his nonsense at the arena door. No one is asking him to put up big numbers. All that is required of him is a consistent level of exertion and fortitude.

If he ever decides to eliminate the sulk from his repertoire, the coaches and the city will embrace him in the manner of Michael Ruffin.

It is that simple. It is that easy.

There would be no better time for Haywood to repair the situation than in the playoff series with the Cavaliers.



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