Middle-ing

Spence beat me to this, but it's still worth mentioning.

In the latest Wizards Insider blog entry, Ivan Carter drops this nugget on Brendan Haywood.

One issue that has popped up recently is the absolute disappearance of Brendan Haywood. In the last three games, he's missed all seven shots he's taken, grabbed eight boards and blocked not a single shot. He played 11 minutes, 32 seconds last night and wasn't happy about it.

Eddie Jordan said something about Brendan having a head cold after the game but that doesn't smell right. Prediction: don't be shocked if Eddie changes things up and starts either Etan Thomas or Calvin Booth if Brendan continues to struggle. I also wouldn't be shocked if he went "small" and started Darius Songaila at center or at least played him more there, particularly against any opponent with a smaller front line.

There's no doubt that Haywood looks lethargic, and he's not playing very good basketball.  Those raw numbers Carter mentions are deceiving because they have come in fewer minutes, but Haywood really hasn't looked good in a long time out there.  He picks up dumb fouls, fails to get key defensive rebounds, and doesn't really provide anything offensively.

Spence had this to say.

Nevertheless, I think it is too early to pull Haywood for Etan or Booth. Neither of those players have lit it up lately, although Etan did show a little something on the road trip.

My view remains unchanged: Brendan Haywood is basically a lazy player who can be a pretty good NBA center when motivated and his a big waste of space when he isn't motivated. He doesn't seem motivated right now. If a benching is what it takes to motivate Haywood, it should be done. Hopefully, though, EJ can get Haywood's attention without benching him. Perhaps limiting Haywood to less than 12 minutes last night was a signal. If it was, Haywood had better be receiving.


I don't think Haywood is lazy per se, but I do think he is prone to losses of concentration.  I also think that there are times where he gets too comfortable, and it takes a benching or a scolding to refocus him.

However, is now really the best time for this?  Haywood hasn't had a game where he's played in at least 25 minutes since the loss in Miami on March 11.  When Haywood plays more than 25 minutes this season, the Wizards are 20-11.  When he doesn't, they're 18-21.  This is more of a reflection on who's behind Haywood than Haywood himself, but it still bears mentioning.  

Etan Thomas is a tough, gritty player who has made the most of his limited talent.  He hustles well, he's a great poet, and he can sometimes provide a key energy boost.  But for all of that, Thomas is a mediocre offensive player and an awful defensive center.  He'll come up with more blocks and rebounds than Haywood, but he has no concept of team helpside defense.  He tends to overcommit to blocking a shot, leaving his man open for a dropoff dunk or an easy offensive rebound.  Haywood's not great with this either, but since he's taller, he doesn't have to move as far off his man to play helpside defense.

In these last eight games since the Miami loss, the Wizards are 4-4.  More importantly, here's what opposing centers have done against them.


The "PTS Hay" and "REB Hay" refer to the center's production while Haywood was on the court.  I used Boozer for the Jazz game because he was the one mostly playing inside.  The MIN column refers to the total number of minutes Haywood played.

Looking at this, you see only one instance where having Haywood in the game was a major detriment, and that's against Indiana.  This occured mostly because, while O'Neal was on the floor, so was Haywood.  O'Neal played very few minutes when Haywood didn't.  

There are three instances (Collison, Boozer and Aldridge) where there's a neutral effect.  With Collison, it's split right down the middle.  Aldridge was slightly more productive without Haywood there, and Boozer was a little better with Haywood on the court.  On the whole, though, there's little difference.

The three games where there's a dramatic difference are against Golden State, the Clippers, and yesterday's game against the Sixers.  With Haywood sitting out the entire fourth quarter yesterday, Dalembert really came to life.  Against the Clippers, Kaman was basically a non-factor in the first half, but with Haywood sitting throughout most of the second half, he was dominating.  Biedrins did most of his damage late in the third and early in the fourth, when Haywood wasn't out there.

And this is during a period where Haywood's not even playing well.  When Haywood isn't out there, the Wizards cannot guard good big men.  For all his faults, Haywood's still a much better option than Thomas, Calvin Booth, or smallball.  

Obviously, this is an incomplete assesment, because it isn't adjusted for minutes, and there's nothing beyond points and rebounds.  But I think it still illustrates that Eddie Jordan is making a bad decision in benching Haywood.  

I understand the idea that a benching should motivate him, and while it has proven effective in the past, I don't agree with it on the professional level.  There's a passage in Seven Seconds or Less where Robert Sarver, the Suns owner, is talking to the coaches, who are wondering about Shawn Marion's psyche.  Sarver scoffs at their psychological angles, and wonders why the coaches don't just get in his face.  Assistant coach Alvin Gentry reminds him that this isn't the business world, and you have to tread carefully, since these players have 5 year guaranteed contracts.  It was with that passage that I realize the motivational punishment tactic just doesn't work with professionals.  Whether he's sitting on the bench or playing the entire game, Haywood still is going to make the same salary this year.  

Eddie Jordan needs to find a better way to reach Haywood, because this has happened far too many times.  Haywood should probably stop blowing up about his playing time, but it's my firm belief that the coach needs to adjust to the player in this league, not the other way around.  

So no, benching Haywood is absolutely the wrong answer.  The Wizards are way worse without him there, and I don't really think the benching is going to have the desired motivational effect with a professional basketball player.  Therefore, it's just silly, pointless, and damaging to this team.

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