- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 14, 2009

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) | Flip Saunders was facing the Detroit Pistons for the first time since being fired by the team he led to the Eastern Conference finals three straight seasons.

But for the new Washington Wizards coach, the memories of being with the Pistons from 2005 to 2008 remain extremely pleasant.

“I had a lot of great times although we didn’t have the success we would have liked to have had in winning a championship,” Sanders said after his new team beat his old one 101-98 in an NBA preseason game Tuesday night at Van Andel Arena. “Outside of that, we had a lot of success.”

Gilbert Arenas, who was fined $25,000 by the NBA earlier in the day for not making himself available to the media, scored 24 points to lead the Wizards.

The NBA also fined the Wizards organization $25,000 for not ensuring that its players follow the league’s media interview rules.

After the game, Arenas twice declined to comment on his fine.

“Both teams played hard,” he said in the locker room. “I feel fine.”

Arenas was 9-for-11 from the field and played nearly 28 minutes.

“I’ve been impressed with his work ethic. That’s never been a question,” Saunders said. “He wants to be a great player. He’s been good when he decides he wants to show a little bit of flash and he can dominate for a few minutes.”

In his three seasons with the Pistons, Saunders had a 176-70 record, but he was let go by team president Joe Dumars after the 2007-08 season.

“My regret is that we didn’t win the whole thing,” Saunders said. “From a standpoint of being in the city, Joe gave me a great opportunity, and he always did whatever he could do to try to better our team and try to win a championship. The one thing Joe always talks about is that championships is what it’s all about.”

“There’s a lot of things I learned in Detroit that I’ve brought to Washington with the idea it will give your players a better opportunity to have success,” Saunders said.

Added Pistons guard Richard Hamilton: “In this business, you’re going to play against a lot of people that you played with previously. It was fun.”

Antawn Jamison added 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Wizards (2-2), who led 46-45 at halftime. Arenas scored 13 points in the third quarter as Washington opened a 75-68 lead.