- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2007

RICHMOND — A standard physical on Washington Wizards center Etan Thomas revealed a heart condition that prevented him from attending the team’s first day of training camp, and two league sources with knowledge of the situation said the condition could be career threatening.

Thomas, who was expected to battle rival Brendan Haywood for the starting job at center, instead remained in the District, where he will undergo further testing.

“It’s shocking and disappointing. Our thoughts are with him,” said Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, who added he talked with Thomas on the eve of training camp. “He’s concerned. We’re all real concerned.”

Jordan said it is too early to determine Thomas’ next step.

“Everything is in the early stages, so it will be some time before we know the extent of all the medical examinations,” he said. “But he’s not cleared to play, so there is some concern.”

Thomas will not, however, participate in training camp, which breaks Saturday after a scrimmage.

“He’s going to have some further examinations,” Jordan said. “I don’t think that can be done by Saturday.”

Thomas, who missed the team’s media day Monday, was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Told the news before they began the first of two workouts yesterday at Virginia Commonwealth, Wizards players were shocked.

“It was a tough thing,” said Haywood, with whom Thomas has scuffled at least three times in the last two seasons. “You hate to see someone at that age with a heart problem. It seems unreal. But at the same time, we wish him the best. Right now, he should just forget about basketball. Right now, it’s about his health and trying to live a regular and healthy life.”

Forward Caron Butler issued similar sentiments.

“I was caught off guard when I heard it,” said Butler, who is recovered from a broken finger suffered in April. “Our hearts and prayers are going out to him and his family, man. We need him back as soon as possible, but we need for him to take care of himself first and foremost.”

The potential loss of Thomas creates a big problem early for the Wizards, who are now thin at center.

Jordan said Haywood now will be the starter. For now, the Wizards are running 6-foot-11, 248-pound Andray Blatche, who is more adept at playing both forward positions, with the second unit. The third-team center is late-camp addition Tony Massenburg, a former Maryland player who turned 40 in July.

Last season, Thomas was named the team’s starting center, the position Haywood had held for most of three seasons.

He started a career-high 32 games and averaged 6.1 points and 5.8 rebounds. He started the first 20 games of the regular season before a sprained ankle forced him to miss 13 games in January and February.

Haywood took over for Thomas and started 49 games. He averaged 6.6 points and 6.2 rebounds on the season.

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