Give Brendan Haywood the Respect He Deserves

Ceena ModarresContributor IJune 19, 2009

WASHINGTON - APRIL 27: Brendan Haywood #33 of the Washington Wizards slams the ball over Joe Smith #32 of the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2008 NBA Playoffs at the Verizon Center on April 27, 2008 in Washington, DC. The Cleveland Cavaliers won 100-97. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

As far as I'm concerned, Haywood is a perfect fit at center for a perimiter oriented Wizards team, yet I've come to discover that this opinion is not shared by all.

A writer on the Bleacher Report community wrote a piece in which he stated that the Wizards are so weak at center they should bring in super-scrub Darko Milicic to fill the void.  I also read through a proposed trade from ESPN's Chad Ford which involved the Wizards landing Zydrunas Ilgauskas so they'll finally have the seven footer they just can't seem to find.

Even NBA 2K9 ranks Etan Thomas higher than Brendan Haywood.

Did everybody simply forget about Haywood's terrific 07'-08' season?  Doesn't anybody realize that he consistently provided 10.6 points and 7.2 rebounds a night?

On top of that, I don't think anybody has any idea how much he does for the Wizards away from the stat sheet.

Haywood is the anchor of the Washington defense, he is always telling players were to position themselves so they can successfully stop the opposition.  The former Tar Heel manned the paint like no other Wizard has this decade.

Yes, it is true that, at one point and time, Haywood was known by Wizards fans as Brenda because he was soft on both ends of the floor but he has come a very long way since then.

As a man to man defender, Haywood is stellar. 

His tough-nosed and gritty mentality combined with his knowledge of defensive fundamentals have created havoc for opposing centers. 

In the 2006 playoffs, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who was a vital point of Cleveland's offense at the time, was shut down by Brendan Haywood. 

Let's take a look at Ilgauskas's offensive performances throughout the series:

Game 1: 4-7 FG - 10 points

Game 2: 3-13 FG - 9 points

Game 3: 4-12 FG - 15 points

Game 4: 5-7 FG - 13 points

Game 5: 3-6 FG - 6 points

Game 6: 2-4 FG - 6 points

To put these numbers in perspective, Ilgauskas averaged 15.6 PPG shooting 50.6% from the field. 

Another defensive feat of Haywood's which quickly comes to mind is holding Dwight Howard to three points on 1-6 shooting in March 2008.

I've praised his uncanny defensive abilities but, make no mistake, he is far from an offensive liability.  Before the 07'-08' season, Haywood developed a consistent hook shot and a 5 foot jumper which served the Wizards well when teams would put pressure and Butler and Jamison.

After all his contributions the year before, it was a surprise to no one involved in the Wizards organization when they allowed four more points a night and ended up winning only 19 games when Haywood sat out the majority of the '08-'09 season with a right wrist injury.

I understand that missing an entire year for any reason is a major red flag but Haywood was extremely devoted to his rehab and since then has made a full recovery from his wrist injury.  He even played solid minutes in six games at the end of this past season.

Going forward, the wrist injury won't be a problem for Haywood.

There's no doubt in my mind that Brendan Haywood would be more than a serviceable starter on nearly any team in the NBA.  His defensive prowess, solid rebounding, and offensive abilities would be welcome anywhere in the NBA. 

I'm not trying to argue that Haywood belongs in the same sentence as a Dwight Howard or Yao Ming.  All I ask is for some respect to be given to a solid NBA starter who's being treated as a scrub.

The next time you want to write about a great trade idea which involves the Wizards getting their savior in the middle, Dan Gadzuric, please realize that the center position in Washington is set. 

It belongs to Brendan Haywood.