- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2006

OAKLAND, Calif. — Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan benched starting center Brendan Haywood for last night’s game against the Golden State Warriors, a move Jordan said probably will be for the rest of the season.

Etan Thomas made his first start of the season in place of Haywood.

“It’s something that we’ve thought about, and I hate to make change just for change sake,” Jordan said before the team’s morning shootaround yesterday at the Arena in Oakland. “I think it’s going to be a change to improve our team, improve where we’re going.”

Jordan said he met with Haywood, and the 7-foot center accepted the change.

“He just said, ‘OK, Coach,’ and that was the extent of it,” Jordan said. “It was a very brief conversation, and he was agreeable. I’m sure he’s going to be professional. He’s always played well under these circumstances. He’s always responded the right way on the floor.”

Haywood is averaging 7.5 points and 6.0 rebounds in 24.2 minutes a game this season, down a bit from last season, when he averaged 9.4 points and 6.8 rebounds in 27.4 minutes a game. His blocks a game are down to 1.34 a game from 1.68 last season.

Jordan is starting Thomas because he believes the 6-foot-10 center will be more physical. Thomas is averaging 4.4 points and 3.7 rebounds in 15.0 minutes a game.

Jordan benched Haywood earlier in the season for two games in January, along with Antawn Jamison, a move that proved beneficial for the team. Haywood complained about the benching but had been starting since.

While Thomas often has said he prefers to come off the bench, Jordan said he thinks Thomas will do fine as a starter.

“There are times, when if you’re playing well, let’s just play well from the jump ball instead of playing well eight or nine minutes into the quarter,” Jordan said. “I think it’s a calling right now for him to step up and bring what we need — a little more force and power and the ability to score in the post.”

Thomas, who has not started a game this season, sounded eager about his new role.

“I’m willing to work to be successful in any role they ask of me,” he said. “I’m definitely looking forward to the opportunity. We have 14 games left to get good position in the playoffs. I’m going to go out and play hard regardless, whether I’m coming off the bench, playing just 10 minutes or if I’m starting.”

The Wizards are in the middle of a six-game road trip against Western Conference teams. They play at the Sacramento Kings (35-35) tonight before back-to-back games at Houston and San Antonio this weekend. Washington was 1-1 on the trip heading into last night’s game.

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