Saturday, February 10, 2007

Washington Wizards center Etan Thomas was suspended for two games after he and Brendan Haywood engaged in their second fight of the season during a scrimmage at Verizon Center yesterday.

Neither player spoke about the incident following practice. The fight was not witnessed by assembled media. But two league sources who did not witness it confirmed unequivocally that a physical altercation occurred.

A few short hours later, Thomas confirmed the news as well.

“This entire situation is ridiculous,” Thomas said. “He throws a cheap shot at me — not at the opponent during a game — but at me in practice and I reacted. Why on earth would he throw an elbow at his own teammate? Save that for Tyson Chandler or Eddy Curry. Kwame Brown would be more than happy to trade blows with him. I know the difference between an accident and a cheap shot.”

In Brown’s final season with the Wizards, assistant coach Phil Hubbard and former Wizard Peter John Ramos separated Haywood and Brown on the bench during a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Thomas said that yesterday Haywood hit him with an elbow that was a cheap shot. Thomas said he retaliated and that eventually the two had to be separated by teammates.

Calls to Haywood’s agent, Andy Miller, were not returned.

In the past the two have exchanged blows that Thomas said were purely accidental. During Doug Collins’ tenure as Wizards coach (the 2001 and 2002 seasons), Haywood hit Thomas in the mouth with an elbow and Haywood required a few stitches. Thomas also said that he once accidentally elbowed Haywood in the mouth, chipping one of Haywood’s teeth.

“That was an accident,” Thomas said. “This, however, was on purpose, and I’m not going to put up with it. I don’t know if he was mad that I am starting to play more and it’s taking away from his minutes, or he sees me working hard to get back to where I was earlier in the season and he’s nervous. Or maybe he thinks that he solidified his role and I should be relegated to the end of the bench every game while he enjoys playing 30 minutes.

“Well,” Thomas continued, “whatever the reason, the bottom line is, I’m not putting up with any garbage from Brendan Todd Haywood. Period. I don’t like having these altercations with him and really am upset with myself for allowing him to get a reaction out of me, but he needs to know that certain actions are unacceptable.”

Despite being on a team that is considered to have some of the best chemistry in the league, Haywood and Thomas never have resolved their issues, which date back to last season when The Washington Times reported that the two fought.

Most recently they fought in the locker room during the first week of the regular season, not long after Wizards coach Eddie Jordan decided to insert Thomas as the starting center.

Not long after Jordan’s decision, Haywood and Miller claimed the decision was made along personal lines, not based on player performance.

Thomas started the first 20 games of the season, averaging 7.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.8 blocks a game while shooting better than 60 percent from the field. Thomas injured himself in the fourth quarter of a 114-109 loss to Houston that dropped the Wizards to 9-11.

With Haywood as the starter, the Wizards have gone 19-9. In those games, Haywood has averaged 8.6 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.22 blocked shots a game. He has shot 62 percent from the field.

Haywood had his best game of the season in a win over Seattle earlier this week. He scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds — his first 20-point, 10-rebound game in more than two seasons — while logging 36 minutes.

He followed that up with five points and six rebounds in 21 minutes as San Antonio destroyed the Wizards by 27 points Wednesday in the team’s fourth consecutive game without injured forward Antawn Jamison.

“He had a great game against Seattle — what, 20 and 11,” Thomas said. “But he’s not going to play 37 minutes every night. You think I like playing almost 30 minutes against Orlando then eight against Detroit? Twenty five minutes against the Lakers and, like, seven [minutes] against Phoenix?

“Of course not, but that decision is not up to me. Coach said in the beginning of the season that sometimes I was going to play more and sometimes he was, but that the team needed both of us. It doesn’t have to be me vs. him, although that’s how the media always plays it to be, because at the end of the day, we are on the same side.”

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