The Washington Times’ John N. Mitchell takes a break from selling flowers by the side of the highway to update us on the turmoil engulfing the Wizards on the eve of their opening night against Cleveland.

Etan Thomas will be the Washington Wizards’ starting center, coach Eddie Jordan announced yesterday, a decision that does not sit well with backup Brendan Haywood (above) or his agent.

While Haywood was unavailable for comment shortly after Jordan went public with his decision, agent Andy Miller said his client felt the decision was made along personal lines — not based on performance — and indicated Haywood may want out of Washington.

“He’s got a contract that he’s going to live up to, but this doesn’t bode well for his future in Washington beyond the contract,” Miller said of Haywood. “I’d like to seem him treated with the optimum level of respect, and that’s not going to happen in Washington. I don’t know how this situation is going to unfold.”

Jordan explained his reasons for naming Thomas the starter shortly after Haywood outperformed Thomas in practice.

“I’m ashamed to say it, but Brendan kicked his [rear] up and down the court, but that’s a good thing,” Jordan said. “What we saw as the preseason wound down with all of our evaluations and what we heard from our core players was that Etan showed a bit more force and a little more aggressiveness in terms of what we’re looking for to protect the rim and the paint.”

The tension between Haywood and Jordan also is well documented. Haywood felt slighted last season when he was benched and heard from reporters that Jordan had told Antawn Jamison — also temporarily benched at midseason — via phone conversation that he would be benched.

Both Haywood and Jordan have mentioned a meeting between the two this summer, but yesterday Miller said the outreach was totally on Haywood’s part, not Jordan’s

“We were the ones who tried to mend the relationship,” Miller said. “Eddie didn’t reach out to Brendan; Brendan reached out to him. I don’t know. Maybe he has a problem with my clients.”

Chucky Atkins, another Miller client, was the odd man out at point guard last season. The Wizards bought out his contract, and Atkins eventually signed with Memphis. Jared Jeffries, who signed with the Knicks, also employs Miller. The year before, veteran guard Anthony Peeler, also a Miller client, saw limited playing time with the Wizards.

“I can tell you that none of those guys knew what their roles were,” Miller said. “It seems like every year this is an ongoing situation where every year there is a veteran player that seems to be the focal point of Eddie’s frustrations, and now it appears to be Brendan’s turn.”

The New York Post’s Peter Vescey
reviews the list of familiar faces who find themselves without a team as the 2006-07 campaign begins.

Typically, renouncements, retirements and joblessness have created a swell of departures. Some of the more notable: Jalen Rose (Pistons, Lakers and Heat will come a courtin’ once he clears waivers, say sources), Penny Hardaway, Keith Van Horn, Antonio Davis, Howard Eisley, Shandon Anderson, Walter McCarty, Nick Van Exel, Jon Barry, Derek Anderson, Jimmy Jackson, Brian Grant, Toni Kukoc, Greg Ostertag, Doug Christie, Lamond Murray, Tony Delk, Voshon Lenard, Alvin Williams, and Luke Schenscher, America’s retribution, no doubt, for the Aussies’ recent firing of Mark Price after only five games (all losses) as coach.

Think of how many different starting lineups Larry Brown could conceive if given his dream job to coach the above players.