Every athlete should have it as good as Brendan Haywood. Eleven seasons into a serviceable, yet hardly spectacular career, the 7-footer out of North Carolina has already pocketed some $44 million in career earnings. At a time when some 32-year-old vets are wondering if they've got another payday coming, Haywood is locked into a generous deal afforded by owner Mark Cuban for three more seasons that will take his career earnings north of $72 million.
It's a good living if you can get it.
Yet, for that kind of dough the Dallas Mavericks might have expected more than 3.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 15.3 minutes -- with perhaps a hard foul thrown in along the way -- during four playoff losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The irony is that the Thunder were considered the favored first-round opponent over the massive front line of the Los Angeles Lakers that would pit Haywood on Andrew Bynum.
Haywood couldn't stay on the floor against OKC's Kendrick Perkins, who scored 13 points in Game 2 and averaged 7.7 rebounds in 27.3 minutes a game before leaving early in Game 4 with a hip injury. In those first three games, Haywood played a total of 36 minutes, shot 3-of-11 from the floor and had nine rebounds.
Go back to the series before that, yes, the NBA Finals. Haywood injured his hip in Game 2 and didn't play the rest of the way as Dallas secured the title in six games.
Haywood twisted an ankle and sprained a knee late this season and maybe those ailments had something to do with his ineffective play. Perkins even suggested prior to Game 4 that something must be bothering the Mavs' big man.
Since his arrival in February 2010 when Haywood started on a double-double roll, invoking praise by some as "best center in Mavs history," to OKC's first-round rough-up, his popularity among fans has hit an all-time low.
And now, thanks to the amnesty clause negotiated into the new collective bargaining agreement, Haywood's future in Dallas is certainly in doubt.
The Countdown rolls on at No. 11 ...
BRENDAN HAYWOOD Pos: C
Ht/Wt: 7-0, 263
Experience: 11 years
Age: 32 (Nov. 27, 1979)
2011-12 stats: 5.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 21.2 mpg
Contract status: Signed through 2014-15
2011-12 salary: $7.6 million
2012-13 salary: $8.3 million
Brendan Haywood averaged just 3.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 15.3 minutes in the Mavericks' four straight playoff losses to Oklahoma City.
His story: In hindsight, the handsome, five-year contract (the sixth year is non-guaranteed) the Mavs handed Haywood following the 2009-10 season doesn't look so great. Of course, when Dallas did the deal it didn't know that a few weeks later Tyson Chandler would land in its lap via a trade with the Charlotte Bobcats. Haywood took Rick Carlisle's early offseason promise that he would take over as the starting center with Erick Dampier on his way out. Except Dampier's expiring contract turned into a resurgent Chandler, who came off a successful Team USA stint and instantly changed those starting plans. The Mavs will point to their defensive statistics this season as proof that Chandler wasn't missed as some would have thought. Others will point to athleticism, attitude, leadership and a stretch from March 2 through May 5 in which Haywood managed one double-digit scoring game and averaged 4.2 rebounds as proof that the Mavs took a significant dip at the center position.
His outlook: This is where things get interesting. If the Mavs are to sign Deron Williams in July, they will have to amnesty a player to help create the appropriate cap space to offer a max deal. There are two amnesty candidates, Shawn Marion and Haywood, but Marion figured to be the leading candidate if only because it is so difficult to find a 7-foot center to plug into the starting lineup. But, as the season wore on and as Haywood's floor time dwindled in the playoffs, plus with Marion having a fine season -- particularly as a defensive stopper -- speculation raged that Haywood has taken the amnesty lead. Haywood even said during an appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM's Ben & Skin Show that he would not be offended if the team does cut ties. And why should he? The Mavs will still owe him the $28 million remaining on his contract and he'll pad it a bit more from whichever team should get him next.