WASHINGTON -- No, they can't just get along.
It's the third time over the past two seasons that the two centers, who have split playing time at the pivot for the Wizards, have traded punches. They fought in the locker room on Nov. 2, and Haywood was suspended for throwing a punch at Thomas last season.
"Bottom line, I'm not putting up with any garbage from Brendan Todd Haywood, but at the same time, I do feel bad and upset with myself for allowing him to bait me."
-- Wizards center Etan Thomas
The team announced the suspension on Friday night, saying only that Thomas had been suspended for conduct detrimental to the team, and that it was a team matter that would be handled internally.
The two centers were jostling for position at one end of the court when Haywood elbowed Thomas, the Washington Post reported, citing a source with knowledge of the incident. When play continued at the other end of the floor, Thomas, who thought the elbow was intentional, shouted at Haywood and threw a punch. The two then traded blows until their teammates broke up the scuffle.
Haywood was not available for comment, the Post reported.
But Thomas, who recently returned to the team after missing 13 games with an ankle injury, confirmed to the Post and The Washington Times that the fight happened and offered his own version of events.
"I am trying to find my rhythm after missing a month with this ankle injury, trying to put together some decent games, feeling good to be a part of everything that the team is accomplishing, and this cat decides to hit me with a cheap shot during practice and I reacted. I could have turned the other cheek. I guess I didn't," Thomas told the Post.
"Why on earth would he throw an elbow at his own teammate? Save that for Tyson Chandler or Eddy Curry. Kwame Brown would be more than happy to trade blows with him," Thomas told the Times. "I know the difference between an accident and a cheap shot."
After Saturday's practice, coach Eddie Jordan was asked if the
latest scuffle is a distraction to the team.
"For the moment, yes. But after everything is said and done and
everything is taken care of, no," Jordan said. "We had a morning
meeting, watched film, moved on to practice and we had a very good
practice today. We addressed various things at the meeting."
Thomas said Haywood was not happy because he played only 21 minutes in the Wizards' 110-83 loss Wednesday to the San Antonio Spurs.
"San Antonio just beat us by what seemed like a hundred but I guess all that matters to him is he didn't get the minutes he thinks he deserves, so he's mad, which results in a displacement of anger," Thomas told the Post. "What does he think, that throwing a cheap shot at me is going to keep him on the floor? Bottom line, I'm not putting up with any garbage from Brendan Todd Haywood, but at the same time, I do feel bad and upset with myself for allowing him to bait me."
Despite the hard feelings and three fights in two years, Thomas said he hoped he and Haywood could put the incident behind them.
"Hopefully he's gotten the message and we can continue this season peacefully," Thomas told the Post. "We can be competitive without being enemies, it just doesn't have to be like this."