Coach sticks up for 'much maligned' Brendan Haywood

DALLAS – Brendan Haywood basically shrugged his shoulders when asked about his 19-rebound, five-block performance.

“I would have been more impressed if we got the win,” Haywood said after the loss to the Nuggets, when he played about as well as a big man can while scoring only one point.

One of Haywood’s bosses, on the other hand, was pretty impressed. Rick Carlisle, without prompting, made a point to praise Haywood and strongly hint that the center has been unfairly criticized for underachieving in the first season of his deal that guarantees him $42 million over five years.

“Haywood is a guy that’s much maligned by a lot of people in this room, if we’re going to be honest,” coach Rick Carlisle said, referring to the media. “All he does is come in every day, work and keep himself ready.”

Haywood, who has 30 rebounds as a fill-in starter the last two games, appears to be less than fully engaged during many games. Perhaps that’s reading too much into nonchalant body language, but it certainly seems like Haywood plays with more energy as a starter than when he’s coming off the bench.

In eight games as the starter, the role he thought he’d have when he signed the contract, Haywood has averaged 9.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 27.8 minutes. His per-minute production dips significantly off the bench, as Haywood averages 4.6 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 17.0 minutes per game as a reserve.

“It’s not anything about that,” Haywood said when asked whether it’s easier to play with energy as a starter. “When you start, you get more minutes and you get a better chance to showcase yourself. But energy is just coming out there and playing hard.”

As far as his coach is concerned, Haywood has done that consistently.