WASHINGTON | Interested in hearing Gilbert Arenas describe the lessons he learned from serving time in a halfway house? Don’t hold your breath.
NBA commissioner David Stern has advised Arenas and the Washington Wizards not to talk about the former All-Star’s felony gun conviction, and the Wizards say that’s fine with them.
“The commissioner spoke to Gilbert,” NBA spokesman Tim Frank said Thursday. “His message was: ‘You’ve paid your price, you’re back in good standing, and don’t feel obligated to talk about the past.’”
Arenas has not spoken publicly since he was sentenced in March to one month in a halfway house and two years of probation after pleading guilty to felony gun possession. Arenas brought four guns to the Wizards locker room in December after getting into an argument with a teammate over a card game.
Arenas was also suspended by Stern for the final 50 games of last season.
New Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has talked about the need for Arenas to reintroduce himself to the community so that fans can embrace him again, but that will apparently not include any reflection or explanation about the series of events that transformed him from marketable hero to franchise embarrassment in a matter of weeks.
Arenas is expected to meet with reporters on Monday as part of the team’s media day on the eve of training camp.
“The commissioner advised and suggested that Gilbert, the Wizards and Ted look forward and not look back, and Ted agreed with that advice and suggestion,” Wizards spokesman Kurt Kehl said.
Leonsis told The Washington Post that he would comply with Stern in part because he didn’t want to be fined, but the Wizards clarified those comments, saying the commissioner did not order Leonsis to keep quiet about the matter under threat of penalty.
“The idea of being fined was never intimated to him at all,” Kehl said.
Frank reiterated that Stern’s suggestion was not a gag order, but rather a gesture to let Arenas know he had the support of the commissioner if he didn’t want to talk about his conviction.
“Gilbert’s paid a huge price here,” Frank said. “The commissioner wanted him to know that we’re going to support him.”
The Wizards are still free to talk about Arenas’ basketball psyche, however, and team President Ernie Grunfeld gave some insight on that topic at his state-of-the-team news conference Thursday. Grunfeld said Arenas has been very upbeat while playing pickup games at the Verizon Center for the last two weeks and was the first player to pass the Wizards‘ preseason conditioning test.
“Gilbert has always been a basketball junkie,” Grunfeld said. “He loves the game. He loves to be in the gym. He’s always been an extremely hard worker, and he’s doing the same things he’s done in the past. He’s been in the gym. He comes back and shoots at night. He’s been in the weight room. He’s in outstanding shape, and I think he’s really looking forward to this season.”
That’s what the Wizards need to hear, given that Arenas has four years remaining on the six-year, $111 million contract he signed in the summer of 2008. No. 1 overall pick John Wall is the new face and future of the franchise, something that might require an ego adjustment from Arenas, but Grunfeld thinks the two can be a good on-court combination.
Asked if he thought Arenas had learned his lesson from the events of last season, Grunfeld wouldn’t bite.
“He’s put in all the time that he needs to put in,” Grunfeld said.
Notes: Grunfeld said F Josh Howard might return in November or perhaps December. Howard had surgery in March on a torn ligament in his left knee. … F Andray Blatche, recovering from surgery to repair a broken bone in his right foot, has been given “full clearance” for basketball, according to Grunfeld, although it might be a week or two before Blatche takes part in full contact drills. … Grunfeld’s pre-training camp news conference usually contains a reference to playoff aspirations, but not this year. “We’ve made no secret of the fact that we are rebuilding,” he said. “We want to be competitive.”
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