Wizards prepare for Bulls, thinking of Arenas
Antawn Jamison is saddened and scared about what the future holds for his teammate Gilbert Arenas, as Arenas prepares to plead guilty to a felony gun possession charge this afternoon at D.C. Superior Court. But as the Washington Wizards prepared for the Chicago Bulls with a morning shootaround at United Center, Jamison said that he hopes that people, athletes in particular, can learn from Arenas's situation.
"The Michael Vick situation should've opened up a lot of eyes. This is another situation that should let you know you have to do things a certain way," Jamison said. "You're under a microscope. You're a role model. People, kids look up to you. I hope it opens up a lot of people's eyes, let them realize, you have to cherish the moments. You have to make smart decisions. These couple of incidents in the last couple of years have shown, if you don't make the right decision, you can be in deep trouble."
The Wizards don't know what punishment Arenas will receive for his guilty plea, but Coach Flip Saunders said the team has prepared to be without Arenas ever since NBA Commissioner David Stern suspended indefinitely the three-time all-star on Jan. 6.
Arenas's guilty plea places his future with the Wizards in jeopardy, with speculation that the team could look to void the remaining four years and $80-million left on his contract. He has already lost nearly $1 million sittiing out the past five games.
Jamison and several of his teammates have reached out to Arenas in the past week or so, but Arenas has yet to reply to their phone calls and text messages.
"I haven't talked to him," Jamison said. "When he reaches out to me, I'll be there for him. But in the time being, I'm still checking in on him, seeing how he's doing. I hope he's doing better than I would be doing in this situation. One thing about Gilbert; he's a tough-minded individual.
"It's still going to be tough. We miss him," Jamison said. "This is a guy you wish he was out there playing with you and he's not. [Arenas's guilty plea] doesn't make the situation better or make us sleep better at night. Something serious has happened and you wish it never did happen."
As players walked from the team bus to the basketball court, they still managed to crack jokes and laugh with each other, but Saunders said that the bus ride over from the team hotel to the United Center was much different.
"We had probably the quietest bus ride over here. It's almost trying to catch their breath a little bit," Saunders said. "This has been a surreal situation for the past two weeks, until there is closure and everyone knows what the ramifications are, I think then you'll see maybe more of the true emotions come out at that point."
Saunders heard the laughter from his players as they walked behind him. "You can tell they are loose, but they are mentally drained," he said. "Players have gone through a lot individually, the meetings with lawyers and the grand jury, and those things. It's only been a couple of days since they got that done."
Saunders said he hasn't spoken with Arenas since the suspension. No matter what happens in the courtroom this afternoon, Saunders realizes that the team is still far from reaching closure with this situation. "I think right now, we don't know. Everyone is kind of waiting to see what happens," he said. "We're still going through the legal situation and the situation we have with the league."
He then said, "Today is no different than yesterday."
Jamison added that the distraction would remain for some time. "It really hasn't changed. No matter where we go, right before the game, after the game, it's still the same questions," he said. "But for us, we know it's something we've got to deal with and we've got to handle it a certain way. We've seen it on ESPN yesterday. Just when you think you can get away from it, something new comes back. We're kind of used to it right now, but for us, we've got to really concentrate on playing basketball.
"I got a job I got to do. Whether I have good distractions or bad distractions, you still have to do a job," Jamison said. "My teammates are relying on me, the coaching staff, the fans. To be honest, those three hours are an outlet just to have fun and do the thing I love to do, which is compete."
When asked if having a game so quickly after Arenas's hearing would be good for the team, Saunders said, "I hope so."
The Wizards are just 1-4 without Arenas this season, Jamison winning these games would be better than just playing them. "It's the only cure," he said. "If we win eight or nine games out of 10 or 12, it goes away a little bit. That's the only thing -- I don't want to say make it go away -- to make it easier to come to work on a day in and day out."
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