Flip Saunders on Gilbert's fake injury
The gong show returned to Verizon Center Tuesday night, when Gilbert Arenas apparently came up with a fake injury to help Nick Young get more playing time and then joked about it with the media at virtually the same time that Flip Saunders was praising Gilbert's mentality. Bad idea.
On Wednesday, all three of these men addressed the incident with the media. I wasn't there, but Saunders also went on ESPN 980's The Sports Fix and discussed the incident. He said that he decides who sits and who plays, not Gilbert, but he also made it clear that he didn't think this was a hilarious gag by a resurgent jokester.
"I went through the game last night, and the first time I heard about his comments, someone texted me last night at about 12:30," Saunders told Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro. "So that was more a surprise to me than anybody. My reaction was that was not what was told to me, that's why it was a situation that was handled very quickly, not only in front of Gilbert but in front of the whole team. Actions were taken, and then what you do at that point, we have to move on."
Saunders said Arenas was fined, but that no other punishment would be meted out. He said he made the decision to sit Arenas at shootaround, when Gilbert seemed to be having trouble moving around. He said the previous two practices had been tough and long, and it wouldn't have been unusual for Gilbert to be sore. But still, you can't lie.
"Believe it or not, Gilbert has been - in my two years here - the easiest guy that I've had to coach," Saunders said. "When I ask him to do something, he's done everything I've asked him to do from a player standpoint. I think at times, Gilbert can be his own worst enemy as far as talking too much. And I really believe this: he looks at being Nick's mentor, he likes to see Nick do good. But for him to make those comments, they're just unjustified type comments."
To their credit, Sheehan and Loverro wouldn't let this go, and Loverro finally let loose with this.
"How could he possibly not have the maturity at this point to realize the impact of saying that I committed a fraud so I could dictate who started?"
"That I can't answer," Saunders said. "All I can do is this, as I said to the team today...I don't question players as far as how they are from their health situation....For somebody sitting out there, do they maybe get frustrated [by Arenas]? I'm sure people get frustrated hearing that. But from my standpoint, as I told our team, I trust all 14, 15 guys that are in that locker room. And so if someone says they're hurt, we move on and put someone else in there. As a player, as a professional athlete, you've got to put yourself in a position to understand that when you step away, whether it's an injury or whatever it is, you put yourself in a situation that someone else can take your spot. And so like I said, so we move on."
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