[Brendan Haywood has a lot of reasons to smile now, even if he is just getting 17 minutes off the bench, and sometimes struggling, for the Dallas Mavericks. Winning and a playoff future helps a lot.]
[Andray Blatche, on the other hand, is going through a lot of personal struggles, mostly on the court which has bleed into off-the-court moments, which are magnified by losing. Blatche has missed the last two games because of what's being noted as a hip injury and was unable to face Haywood on the court on Saturday night.]
Brendan Haywood walked into the Wizards locker room to see some familiar faces. Most of them weren’t Wizards players. He greeted a couple team personnel of various sorts and then looked across the room to where his locker used to be.
“It’s a little different being in the visitor’s locker room,” Haywood told me from the locker room of the Washington Mystics, where the road team is hosted in the Verizon Center, before he later made his way over to his former haunt. “But the team has changed so much that it’s not as big of a culture shock as you might think because there’s only three guys on that team that I even played with. So that makes it a little bit, I guess, ‘easier’.”
Back in the Wizards’ locker room…
“My son!,” Haywood belted with a smile on his face as he saw one of the three holdovers from his time in Washington. He and Andray Blatche didn’t hesitate to go toward each other, quickening their step to meet for daps and hugs in the middle of the locker room over the Wizards logo.
“Honestly, we need you back here,” Blatche said sheepishly, yet almost also fondly remembering the days when the Wizards were full of veterans who commanded vastly more attention that he did. Blatche can no longer float by in his basketball life. His current tough times are sticking out like JaVale McGee attending a meeting of the Lollipop Guild. Haywood’s locker is no longer in the vicinity of Blatche’s, and he’s not there to share the brunt of losing.
Haywood hesitated for a second at Blatche’s proposition, taking in the name plates of all the new players, noticing that the locker of newly acquired veteran Mo Evans had been placed next to Andray’s. Haywood seemed to appreciate the lost camaraderie, but only for a moment. Reality quickly came to light in the form of a joke.
“Naw, I think I’m going to go get that playoff check over here,” Haywood said as he pointed in the direction one would walk to get to Dallas’ locker room. Laughter erupted amongst several in the room, both of the laughing at you and laughing with you variety.
It was a slightly uncomfortable, but true moment representing the rebuilding uncertainty of the current Wizards team with a significant face of the past. But nothing unique to Washington, scenes like this happen every year as part of the business that is professional basketball. Names change, faces change, but teams move on.
This year’s Wizards, as you know, are pretty bad. They’re on pace to become one of the seven worst teams in franchise history, one of the six worst teams in non-Chicago history, and one of the five worst teams in my lifetime as a fan.
In my DCist column published on Friday, I broke down those other five bad teams and just how much hope, or lack thereof, they had in comparison to this year’s team. To travel down the memory lane of losing with guys like Tom Gugliotta, Chris Webber, Scott Skiles, Don MacLean, Rex Chapman, Jim Lynam, Michael Jordan, Richard Hamilton and well, Brendan Haywood, please give it a read.
[All photos: Kyle Weidie, Truth About It.net]