Yesterday was a really bad day for Wizards centers. Not only did Yao Ming torch them to the tune of 38 points and 11 rebounds, but both Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood had to leave the game because of injuries. Haywood bruised his left thigh in the second quarter, and Thomas left the game with a sprained ankle in the fourth quarter.
Needless to say, this is not good news. Thomas has a history of injuries, and it's seemed like his injuries always happen at a time when it finally appears his career is turning a corner. He struggled yesterday against Yao, but he's been a pleasant surprise in the middle after winning the starting job from Haywood. He's given the Wizards some semblance of an interior defensive force, even if he still is undersized. He's averaging only 7 points and 6.5 rebounds a game, but the very fact that he's in there makes teams think twice about driving on him.
Haywood, on the other hand, has had his moments off the bench. After his fistfight with Thomas, I questioned whether he should be traded, but he's had his moments off the bench. I wouldn't want him going anywhere near the starting lineup, but as long as he's okay, that's probably what will happen. I've found that the Wizards are running fewer plays for him, and hence he's not making me scream as much. As long as he focuses only on rebounding, he's not bad as a backup.
The bigger problem is that the two really operated as a tag team. Neither Haywood nor Thomas should be relied on as a 30 minute starter, but together, they were serviceable. It wasn't like Thomas or Haywood had made huge improvements, but having the other there masked each of their problems. Now that one or both is injured, the Wizards are even shallower up front. Calvin Booth, amazing three pointers notwithstanding, stinks. There's a reason he's basically occupied that spot on the bench for the better part of the last couple years. James Lang has potential, but he's very raw.
However, the worst part of this news is that, once he's healthy, the temptation to play Michael Ruffin is even greater. Readers of the old blog probably know that I can't stand Michael Ruffin. He's a poor rebounder, can't play a lick of defense, has the worst plus/minus rations on the team, and is averaging 0.3 points per game! With Antawn Jamison already a defensive liability, how can Eddie Jordan think Michael Ruffin is a good option? I'd much rather see Booth play than Ruffin. At least Booth can block shots.
With games coming up against Denver and Miami, Thomas and Haywood couldn't have picked a worse time to get hurt. Hopefully, the news on them will end up being okay.