- The Washington Times - Friday, January 13, 2006

Eddie Jordan has covered the oft-sorry bottom of Brendan Haywood so many times in the last two-plus seasons that you would think the coach would have built up a considerable amount of goodwill with the incredible shrinking 7-footer.

Jordan never has publicly questioned the determination of the incredible shrinking 7-footer with the alligator arms. He never has wondered aloud how someone so tall could go long stretches of a game and not have at least one rebound.

Jordan has had to bite his tongue on the subject of Haywood so many times that he undoubtedly has required stitches to it on a number of occasions. Jordan’s tongue is the most-injured body part of the team, because he never embarrasses his players in public, even if a few could use it.

So when Jordan elected to bench Haywood against the Hawks, it seemed a fairly mild maneuver on the coach’s part, considering Haywood’s high number of no-shows and the defensive struggles of the Wizards in recent weeks.

Haywood did not see it that way, surprisingly enough. Or maybe it was not surprising. Haywood, after all, has a habit of saying the most self-serving things.

Haywood took the benching personally, as well he should have. But he took it personally for all the wrong reasons. He thought he should have merited the same courtesy telephone call from the coach as the one made to Antawn Jamison.

You do not know whether to laugh or cry on that one.

Jamison was coming off a 30-point, eight-rebound performance against the Jazz.

His hardly was the kind of performance that leads to a benching. In fact, it was the kind of performance that leads to an appearance in the All-Star Game, as was the case with Jamison last season.

But Jordan saw a lineup he liked in practice the day before the game with the Hawks and decided to try it. And why not, given the sense of uneasiness enveloping the coach and the Wizards?

Jordan, being the thoughtful person that he is, figured the least he could do was place a call to Jamison to explain his thought process.

Jamison, like Jordan, has built up his own good will since landing on Fun Street in June 2004. He is a high-character athlete who rarely has anything but a warm smile for those in his presence.

Jamison handled the short-term tinkering with grace, however much the competitor in him was itching to be on the floor at the start of the game.

The only explanation Haywood possibly needed from Jordan was one detailing how he had managed to remain in the starting lineup as long as he did.

This is not the Egalitarian Basketball Association, shocking as the news may be to Haywood. It is the NBA: No Babies Allowed.

Haywood flirts between being a functional and marginal player. Too often his most redeeming quality is his height, although sometimes he plays as if he were a 5-0 center whose hands are on loan from Edward Scissorhands.

The insertion of Calvin Booth and Michael Ruffin into the starting lineup helped produce a 31-point victory and sighs of relief. The lineup change is not expected to be permanent. It was what it was, a shake-up intended to snap the team out of its lethargy.

Jordan noted after the game that both Jamison and Haywood accepted the news with professionalism.

Moments later, Haywood revealed the coach was only half correct, as he expressed unhappiness with the decision and how it was handled.

Perhaps his most staggering comment was: “I don’t really know why I’m not starting.”

Huh? Come again.

Earth to Haywood: Can you tell us if there are any life forms other than you on your distant planet?

Give Haywood this: He will give you four points and four rebounds in 35 minutes, sometimes followed by a series of hopelessly misguided comments, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

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