Wizards coach Flip Saunders calls Arenas’ sentencing closure; teammate happy he avoided jail

By Mike Cranston, AP
Friday, March 26, 2010

Wizards’ Saunders calls Arenas sentence ‘closure’

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — At the same time suspended Washington guard Gilbert Arenas was sentenced to 30 days in a halfway house for a felony gun conviction on Friday, Wizards trainer Eric Waters was in the hospital awaiting surgery to remove his appendix.

“We always have something going on with our team,” coach Flip Saunders said Friday before Charlotte beat Washington 107-96 for the Wizards’ team-record 14th straight loss. “It’s just one thing after another.”

Saunders and Wizards players reacted with relief and some dark humor after finding out about three hours before facing the Bobcats that Arenas won’t be going to prison for bringing unloaded guns in the locker room in December. Arenas began serving his season-long suspension on Jan. 6.

“It’s good for him, especially with the reports and what people were saying (about jail time),” guard Mike Miller said. “It’s good for him to move on now, good for the league to move on, and I think he’ll make the most of the opportunity.”

Added guard Randy Foye: “Everyone across the world knows he made a mistake. The biggest thing now is trying to make sure the younger kids and little kids don’t do the same thing, don’t make the same mistakes he has made.”

The Wizards’ once promising season turned into disarray with Arenas’ help. The All-Star guard brought four guns to their home arena after an argument with teammate Javaris Crittenton’s over an unpaid gambling debt.

“In the conversation I’ve had with him I think he’s aware that he did something that was very stupid,” Saunders said. “He was aware there was going to be some type of consequences.”

District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Robert E. Morin didn’t send Arenas to prison on Friday. The sentence also includes 400 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine.

“It puts a little bit of closure on the situation,” Saunders said. “Now he can move forward. Gilbert knows what he has to do so that’s basically it.”

The Wizards released a statement saying they’re “moving on and focusing on building this team into the contender that our outstanding fans deserve.” The club didn’t address if they’ll try to void Arenas’ $111 million contract over the incident, but Saunders talked of Arenas getting ready soon for next season.

“He’ll probably start doing some stuff come summer time that he needs to from an in-shape standpoint,” Saunders said.

Since the incident the Wizards broke up much of the core of the team’s core. Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood were traded to Dallas and Antawn Jamison was sent to Cleveland. The remaining group has lost consistently, and Saunders benched Andray Blatche from a game against Charlotte on Tuesday after they got into a spat.

Forward Al Thornton (hip flexor) missed Friday’s rematch with the Bobcats, forcing Saunders to use his 24th starting lineup.

Waters being rushed to the hospital just added to what’s been a strange season.

“Unbelievable,” Miller said.

Bobcats coach Larry Brown hopes Arenas gets another opportunity. He referred to Charlotte guard Stephen Jackson, who has thrived this season after past off-court and legal issues.

“I listened to his comments. He knows he made a mistake and wants to do better,” Brown said of Arenas. “I’m hopeful he’ll get another chance. He’s a great player. Stephen always talks about, he made a mistake. He’s been given another chance and you see what he’s done and how people respect him.”

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