Wizards tab Thomas as starting center

Updated: October 30, 2006, 9:08 PM ET
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Etan Thomas picked up the phone this summer and called Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan. The gist of the conversation: Thomas wanted to know if he could have a shot at the starting center job.

Well, now it's his.

 Etan Thomas

Thomas beat out Brendan Haywood in their preseason competition, and Jordan announced his decision Monday, two days before the Wizards play their regular-season opener at the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"What we saw as the preseason concluded, and after all of our evaluations, was that Etan showed a little bit more force and a little bit more aggressiveness," Jordan said. "We are looking to protect the rim and the paint."

Thomas and Haywood alternated starts during exhibition games.

Last season, Haywood was the starter for the most part, averaging 7.3 points and 5.9 rebounds in 23.8 minutes. Thomas averaged 4.7 points and 3.9 rebounds in 15.8 minutes; he made nine starts.

During the offseason, Thomas called Jordan to find out whether he could move out of his spot as a substitute.

"I wanted to have a bigger role, and I asked him specifically things that I needed to work on so I could come back and have the opportunity to compete for a starting spot," Thomas said.

For his career, the 6-foot-10, 260-pound Thomas has averaged 6.2 points and 5.0 rebounds in five seasons, all with the Wizards. He was drafted out of Syracuse in the first round in 2000 by Dallas, which traded him to Washington.

The Wizards' starting five this season also includes All-Star Gilbert Arenas and DeShawn Stevenson at guard, and Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler at forward. Arenas, Jamison and Butler formed the league's highest-scoring trio of teammates last season, and Jordan has made a point of focusing on defense heading into 2006-07.

"I am ready to contribute the best that I can," Thomas said. "Coach told me we are going to have four scorers on the floor at the same time, so I have to really concentrate on rebounding, blocking shots, and helping our defense -- and scoring when I get a chance."

Washington also trimmed its roster to the 15-player limit Monday by waiving rookie forward Mike Hall, an undrafted free agent from George Washington University. He averaged 3.8 points and 3.4 rebounds in five preseason games.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press