- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 17, 2009

It hasn’t been the rosiest of weeks for the Washington Wizards and guard Gilbert Arenas, who for the first time in two years is finally healthy and prepared to lead his team back into the ranks of the elite.

On Tuesday, Arenas - who since training camp began Sept. 29 had shunned the media to “focus on playing rather than entertaining” - and the Wizards were fined $25,000 apiece by the NBA for the guard’s refusal to speak.

A night later, Arenas saw sidekick Antawn Jamison go down with a partially separated shoulder. The Wizards know their leading scorer and rebounder of the past two seasons will miss the rest of the preseason, but beyond that they are unsure.

However, Arenas - one of the most electrifying scorers in the league from 2004 to 2007 - hasn’t publicly batted an eye at either mishap. The three-time All-Star is maintaining a steely focus that he expects will enable him to regain his old form and put the Wizards back in the playoffs.

Arenas has averaged 14.6 points and 7.0 assists in the preseason. Having tested his surgically repaired left knee over the summer while training with Tim Grover, the guard is confident he can be as effective as he ever was.

“Actually nothing,” Arenas said of the most challenging aspect of his comeback. “When you work out six hours a day, you’re not going to lose a step. It’s just getting your rhythm back in the game.”

The only negative for Arenas individually this preseason - aside from the fine and having to talk to the media against his wishes to avoid more punishment - has been the 4.2 turnovers he has averaged.

Coach Flip Saunders this week said he isn’t concerned with the miscues. Needing time to adjust to game speed and new teammates is to be expected, Saunders said, because Arenas has played just 15 regular-season games the past two seasons.

Arenas said the rhythm will come “just from playing with the ball again.”

“It’s not like the last offense, where it’s just pass and cut and every time I touch it it’s a scoring opportunity,” he said. “Now I’m sitting at the top with the ball just bouncing, and I haven’t been in that position in a long time, so I just have to get used to it.”

Arenas has looked passive at times, giving up the ball rather than taking open shots. But like his timing, Arenas said, his scoring will come because of how the offense is designed.

“It’s just the same as I was before,” he said. “I was in an offense that was made for two guards, two forwards and a center. … Before, when I drove and someone was open I passed, and if not I scored. Same thing here.

“I have the ball 95 percent of the time; I will find a way to score. It’s just a matter of [the rest of the Wizards] hurrying up and finding a way to get their rhythm. That’s the key.”

One thing Arenas said he doesn’t plan on changing is the his new tight-lipped demeanor. As he said at media day, Agent Zero and the blog superstar are gone - partly because he felt he received too much backlash from his colorful persona and also because he felt as if it caused the media to misunderstand him. The guard is aware his fans may miss the old Arenas, but he’s not concerned as long as he’s playing like his old self.

“Not one bit; I don’t think about talking again. The fans, I just think they just want to see me play again,” Arenas said. “I think they can live without me rambling on about stupid stuff in my life.

“I’ve loved the game the same as when I got hurt until now. That’s why I want to play instead of just doing interviews about nothing.”

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