#WizardsRank: Brendan Haywood, No. 7: Haywood-a, Coulda, Shoulda
Truth About It.net turns a whole five years old at the end of October, which is right about now.
Hard to believe/interesting. Nonetheless, over the life of the site from the 2007-08 season to 2011-12, we’ve seen/lived/suffered through 131 wins, 263 losses, four coaches, two owners, one GM/team president, one Phil Chenier mustache removal, and 56 total players (amazingly, 48 players over the last three seasons).
You may have heard of ESPN’s #NBArank project, now in year two. Now hear of #WizardsRank, where we rank each of those 56 players during Truth About It.net’s five-year run. TAI anonymously polled 27 members of the Wizards pixel establishment — from mainstream media to new media, TAI staffers included, to a few pixel consumers (readers of the site) — and got 17 responses.
Participants were given the full list of 56 in alphabetical order, and included for each player were total games, minutes, PER (player efficiency rating), and WS/48 (win-shares per 48 minutes) only from the last five seasons. Participants were asked to rate each player on the scale of 1-to-10 according to this criteria: on court performance; off court performance; intangibles; and own personal memory. Yes, this is totally subjective, but relatively collective.
#WizardsRank Nos. 56 to 8 have been posted and links can be found at the bottom of this post. —Kyle W.
6.18 out of 10
(135 games, 4,017 minutes, 17.3 PER, .136 WS/48)
In 2001, when Brendan Haywood played his first game as a member of the Washington Wizards (against the Cleveland Cavaliers no less), the starting five was Rip Hamilton, Jahidi White, Christian Laettner, Chris Whitney, and “His Airness,” Michael Jordan. Haywood came off the bench that night and played 30 minutes, scored two points and grabbed eight rebounds, while primarily facing off against the Cavs’ Chris Mihm. In 2010, when Haywood played in his last game for Washington against the Charlotte Bobcats, Jordan was still around (as a minority owner of the Bobcats and two months away from becoming majority owner), but his teammates were Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Mike Miller, and Randy Foye. This time Haywood was in the starting lineup, and he played 30 minutes again, but he upped his production by scoring 12 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking two shots. Solid, but never flashy.
During this #WizardsRank series for Truth About It, we’ve done our very best to limit our analysis to the years this site has been active (2007-present). But Haywood is the longest-tenured Washington Wizard on this list, and his career has had its ups and downs—a three-act play if you will. Let’s look behind the curtain shall we?
ACT I: Sea Legs (2001-2004)
Haywood was considered a project when the Wizards first acquired him via a 2001 trade with the Orlando Magic, barely a month after he was drafted. He was a bit pudgy, his offensive game was raw, but he was consistent, and he was a North Carolina Tar Heel. Michael Jordan, who was Wizards president of basketball operations at the time (before un-retiring a month later) said of Haywood: “Brendan brings height and shot-blocking ability to the Wizards. His defensive presence will also be felt when he is on the floor.”
Over his first three seasons in Washington, Haywood started 130 of the 222 games he played in with varying results. At his best he could score 10-to-15 points (off a few set players or offensive rebounds), grab 10-to-12 rebounds, and block a couple of shots. At his worst, his soft, spotty play earned him the nickname “Brenda,” and he was stuck on the bench behind Jahidi White, the underachieving Kwame Brown and the scrappy Etan Thomas (more on him later). Still, Coach Eddie Jordan had just enough confidence in Haywood to start him 32 straight games after the All-Star Break in 2004, which was important, considering Haywood’s big second act was right around the corner.
Act II: Stronger, Leaner, Meaner, and in the Playoffs (2004-2008)
During this period, Haywood lost weight, gained confidence, new teammates (Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, to go along with the already established Gilbert Arenas), and the results were good (for the most part) but not great. He averaged just 8.4 points and 6.6 rebounds a game, but on a team with the “Big Three,” his scoring was not needed, and, at that time, Haywood simply did not have the proper attitude to be a dominant rebounder. But what he did add was a defensive presence in the middle—the type of presence Michael Jordan had hope for when he acquired him. Haywood played physical position defense, he committed hard, intimidating fouls when necessary, and he’d summon a blocked shot or two out of his repertoire at crucial times. Most importantly, he anchored the Wizards’ D with communication. And in the playoffs, especially in 2005 and 2008, Haywood also provided a bit of scoring punch (10.6 and 12.0 points per game respectively), as the Wizards tried (and failed) to advance beyond the second round. He still wasn’t an elite center (although the editor of this very site you’re reading wrote that he was well on his way), but Haywood was serviceable enough. Unfortunately, he also got into a few spats during that span of time with teammate Etan Thomas (allegedly over statements made in the media) as well as Eddie Jordan (over playing time, or the lack thereof), but given the improvement Haywood showed from the first act of his career, who could blame him for being a bit feisty? Plus, Haywood was nice enough to besmirch a then title-less LeBron James in this clip:
Act III: Career Highs, Team Lows, 2008-2010
Just one year after one of his best seasons, Haywood tore ligaments in his wrist during training camp and missed all but six games during 2008-09. When he finally returned, Arenas still wasn’t healthy, Eddie Jordan had been replaced with Ed Tapscott, and Haywood found a new aspect to his game: scoring. During those mere six games, Haywood played with an offensive polish and an aggressiveness he had not consistently demonstrated in his previous eight years with the Wizards. That next season, he built on that momentum by nearly averaging a double-double (9.8 points and 10.6 rebounds) and looked, at age 30, to be finally understanding how to play center on both ends of the floor. But the team he came of age with was no more. Butler was shooting the ball more and ignoring called plays, Arenas was threatening to shoot his guns, and Jamison was flat-out frustrated with that his NBA title hopes were slipping away. When it became painfully obvious that the playoff years were not coming through the Verizon Center door, Haywood, Butler and DeShawn Stevenson were traded to the Dallas Mavericks. And just like that, the longest tenured Wizard (eight-plus season at that point) saw his career in Washington come to an end.
Epilogue: A Title and a Return Trip Home (2010-Present)
A season after being traded to the Mavericks, Haywood, sharing center duties with Tyson Chandler, as he shared them with Etan Thomas in 2006, finally beat LeBron James en route to an NBA title. However this summer, just two years into a six-year, $55 million contract, he was amnestied. Haywood was neither phased nor surprised, but it was clear that the Mavericks were expecting more Brendan, but instead they received a steady diet of Brenda. Shortly thereafter, he was claimed off waivers by the Charlotte Bobcats, which allowed him to return to his home state of North Carolina and his former boss/teammate Michael Jordan (now a full owner, who, as of yesterday, is in it for the “long haul”). Washington wasn’t his home, and he was always two playoff rounds short of sniffing an NBA title, but for 10 years, Brendan Haywood was one of the main characters of quite a story.
—Rashad Mobley (@Rashad20)
No. 56: Cedric Jackson; No. 55: Mike Bibby; No. 54: Paul Davis; No. 53: Edwin Ubiles; No. 52: Quinton Ross.
No. 51: Mike Wilks; No. 50: Mike Harris; No. 49: Javaris Crittenton; No. 48: Dee Brown; No. 47: Morris Almond.
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