Haywood Returns to Form

At 7'0" and 263 lbs., Brendan Haywood is a hard guy to miss out on the basketball floor. So when the nine year veteran center out of North Carolina, missed almost the entire 2008-09 season due to a wrist injury, to say the least, there was a big hole in the Wizards front court.

Without their starting center, the Wizards were forced into playing undersized veterans or talented but inexperienced big men on a nightly basis. Now, with Haywood healthy, the Wizards finally have the combination of size and experience that they were missing last season.

As the last line of defense, the center has one of the largest responsibilities on the defensive end. Playing near the basket, Haywood can see the play develop in front of him and excels at letting his teammates know where to go and how to defend the play. With Haywood protecting the basket his teammates have the ability to play tighter defense and take more chances to create steals.

“Brendan. He does all the talking,” said DeShawn Stevenson. “I feel comfortable pressuring the ball when I know we have a center who's back there and has position.”

The defense has been shored up by the return of the defensive stalwart. With a long wing span and a keen knowledge of the game, Haywood is the leader of a Wizards defense that currently ranks in the top 10 in the NBA in opponents field goal percentage. Haywood has played a large part as he is 3rd overall in blocks per game and consistently changes shots around the basket.

“He is there for us all the time. Every time you get beat you can feel his presence,” Caron Butler said of Haywood. “It’s great to have a big body out there.”

While Haywood has always been known as a great interior defender, he has also seen his rebounds rise to career-high levels through the first eight games of the season including a career-high 19 rebounds against the Pacers. He is 5th in the league in rebounds averaging 10.8 rebounds per game.

Although his rebounding and block shot statistics are among the best in the league, the only statistic that matters to Haywood are wins.

“My biggest thing is winning. If we come out here and win, first of all everybody looks good, second of all, I feel like I'm going to have a big part in it,” Haywood said. When you're coming out playing for yourself and being an individual, nobody wants a guy who's got stats, but not on a winning team. You want a guy who knows how to play basketball and is dedicated to the team process.

With Haywood back as a force in the paint, the Wizards expect to rebound toward one of the top-tier teams in the Eastern Conference.