Arenas eager for ‘new beginning’ with Magic

Gilbert Arenas was so eager to leave Washington he didn’t even

pack his bags.

After he found out his trade to the Magic was official, he ended

his workout, grabbed a pair of shoes, said his goodbyes and caught

the first flight to Orlando. There was no time to waste.

The chance to start over had finally arrived.

”This is a new beginning for me,” Arenas said late Saturday

night in a gray Magic practice T-shirt and black shorts, finishing

a workout in the team’s practice facility. ”This is a true new

beginning. Changing my number was a new beginning, but this is a

real new beginning with a new city, new people and new team, and I

get to start fresh.”

The Magic only hope he leaves all his problems behind.

Arenas was suspended 50 games last season for bringing a gun

into Washington’s locker room. He also faked an injury to sit out a

preseason game this year, and his off-the-cuff remarks were a

constant distraction for a young team now built around No. 1

overall pick John Wall.

Arenas never really fit with Washington once Wall took the reins

as the franchise player and new point guard. The Wizards were going

through growing pains this season, as young teams do, and Arenas

felt their plans no longer included him.

”I sensed something when I was coming off the bench,” Arenas

said. ”The excuse was that they needed scoring off the bench. My

questions was, ‘Where’s the scoring from the starting five?’ I

figured they were probably shipping me out because I was playing

well and some people would probably have some interest in


The interest came from a place so many had expected but always

wondered if it would really happen – Arenas included.

Magic president of basketball operations Otis Smith has been a

close friend, mentor and ”father figure,” in Arenas’ words, to

the guard since they were together at Golden State – Smith in the

front office and Arenas a young player. They often speak with each

other, and Smith has never given up hope that the three-time

All-Star might again be one of the NBA’s most dynamic players.

Now it’s Smith who might be putting his own Magic legacy at

stake with a bold move so many other teams refused to make.

”We have a tendency not to forgive people in this country,”

Smith said. ”We have a tendency to hold onto things a little bit

longer, particularly if they play professional sports. And I always

say that some times good people do stupid things, and that one’s

right on the top of the list. But I feel comfortable with who he

is, knowing him since he was 19 years old.”

Arenas is still due about $60 million over four years, one of

the biggest reasons – along with recurring knee problems that

limited him to 47 games the previous three seasons – many teams

also stayed clear. But the Magic were able to unload another

ballooning contract in Rashard Lewis, who still has two more years

after this season remaining on a $118 million, six-year deal.

Arenas has showed signs this season that he can be close to what

he once was when healthy. The 28-year-old has averaged 17.3 points

and 5.6 assists, scoring a season-high 31 points against the Magic

on Nov. 27.

”I had to prove a point,” he said, laughing.

Those around the league are also wondering how much Arenas has


”Just a few years back he was an MVP candidate,” Miami’s

LeBron James said. ”Injuries and off-the-court issues have plagued

his career the last few years. Do we know he’s going to get back to

the MVP type feel? We don’t know. But he’s a great player and he’s

had some great battles with me in a Cavs uniform and him in a

Wizards uniform.”

One thing is certain: The Magic are in desperate need of a


They have lost six of their last seven games to drop from first

to fourth in the Eastern Conference. The slide is magnified by

12-game winning streaks by Miami and Boston, a ripple effect that

was enough to force Orlando to revamp the roster again.

The Magic also acquired Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson from

the Phoenix Suns in a major roster shake-up Saturday. They sent

Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus, Marcin Gortat, their 2011

first-round draft pick and cash to Phoenix.

How it will all work is another story.

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said matter-of-factly that Jameer

Nelson will remain the starting point guard and that one player

among Arenas, Turkoglu and Richardson will have to come off the

bench. Arenas already volunteered himself.

That still leaves plenty to resolve on a team that has slowly

slipped from an NBA finals appearance two years ago. Orlando’s

Dwight Howard, still trying to process his revamped team, doesn’t

foresee any major problems.

”You have me and Jameer as leaders,” Howard said. ”There’s no

way you cannot fit into our team.”

Arenas, for his part, doesn’t think it will be a difficult


Arenas and Richardson formed a top tandem when they were with

Golden State. Orlando also was Arenas’ favorite team growing up,

Penny Hardaway was his favorite player – he plans to take

Hardaway’s No. 1 jersey- and most of his friends and family live in


As for learning the offense?

”Their plays are easy,” Arenas joked. ”If you have the open

shot, take it. If not, pass to Dwight.”

AP Sports Writer Joseph White in Washington contributed to this