Etan Thomas waxed poetic. He audaciously spoke out against the war. He stumped for Obama. He got huffy on the Huffington Post. For his social involvement, he’s a commendable guy. Vastly different from many of the NBA’s young money millionaires.
But when it comes to the goal of winning as a team, Etan’s social activity, which assumingly had a bearing on his locker room inactivity, need not apply.
The Wizards are much better off now that he’s gone.
The fleeting rivalry between Haywood and Thomas is not why the Wizards are better off. Neither is the fact that Etan’s expiring contract was a valuable asset in the trade. Nor was it the fact that Thomas rarely saw the court over the past two seasons because of injury. Rather, it’s the jettisoning of Etan’s aloof locker room behavior that promotes increased unity among the remaining players.
“He wasn’t really tight in our locker room structure. You know, he kind of distanced himself, and we even talked to him about it, like, ‘We feel like you don’t feel like you’re part of the team.’ So he distanced himself from the team. So you look out there, we’re gonna miss Songaila because he’s played and played well the last couple years, and we’re gonna miss him because he went out with guys to eat, he went out to the comedy shows and to the mall, he hung out, he was an integral part of our team. While Etan didn’t play, and he didn’t have that many close friends, so, we’re not gonna miss him.”
Many coaches aim to create a unified atmosphere on the court and off. They sell their players on a mentality of “going to war” with each other. In the foxhole, you’re more willing to work harder, fight more, for guys you can trust, guys you can call your comrades.
Etan’s self-imposed separation from his teammates created an unspoken degree of mistrust. Whether it was unintentional or not isn’t the point. What’s clear is that while some guys may have liked, gotten along with, and perhaps admired Etan, there were two factions behind closed doors: The Poet and the rest of the team.
To achieve the ultimate goal of a championship, everyone from the trainers, to the towel boys, to the front office, to the coaches, and especially the players need to be active participants in a ‘same page’ environment.
It’s not that Etan was a noticeable burden on team chemistry, but it will improve for the simple fact that he’s gone.
His distance could have been misinterpreted as quiet disdain towards those so different from him, or perhaps that interpretation is valid. Would anyone be surprised if Etan wrote a book chronicling the ills of his NBA contemporaries once his playing days are over?
So while we wish Etan the best of luck in the future, we also bid him good riddance.