Wiz coach: Arenas investigation was like 'taking body punches'
As the remaining Washington Wizards went through what coach Flip Saunders called a "workmanlike practice" Thursday, life-size, color cutouts of Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton still were hanging on a wall overlooking the court.
A day after Arenas and Crittenton were suspended for the rest of the season by NBA commissioner David Stern for bringing guns to the locker room, the Wizards set out to, as Saunders put it, "move forward."
"We've become at times ... emotionally and mentally worn down," Saunders said. "It's almost like a boxer: You continue to take body punches, and eventually what it does, it just wears you down."
Saunders said the "waiting and not knowing" what Stern's ruling would be was in some ways more difficult than hearing the news Wednesday.
"At least there's some closure, from the standpoint of the team, and trying to put it behind us as best we can," the coach said. "Once you find out and you know, it's easier to say, 'OK, this is where we're at, and this is what we're going to have to do."'
Arenas and Crittenton each admitted bringing a gun into the Wizards' locker room -- violating a provision added to the NBA's collective bargaining agreement in 2005 -- after a dispute stemming from a card game on a team flight. Stern said the players expressed remorse, but added, "Nevertheless, there is no justification for their conduct."
Saunders said he's been communicating with Arenas.
"I know he's hurting. He's texted me, and he's called, and we've talked," Saunders said. "He's just mentioned from the standpoint that he's felt that he's let me down at times, and I think he understands the magnitude of what's happened."
Arenas already had been suspended indefinitely Jan. 6; Crittenton hadn't played in a game this season because of an injury.
Washington's first game since the final punishment will be Friday at the New Jersey Nets, the only team in the Eastern Conference with a worse record than the Wizards' 14-30 mark.
Despite how the season has gone so far, on and off the court, Wizards players Antawn Jamison and Brendan Haywood both spoke Thursday about holding out hope of contending for a playoff spot.
"I'm not happy. This is an embarrassment. To go through the things that we went through this year and to have the expectations that we expected to have as a group and to be where we're at right now -- this is a very disappointing season," Jamison said. "But the thing about it -- we're still going to compete. We're still going to go out there and play. We still believe that there's a chance for us making the playoffs."
Jamison said he hasn't asked the Wizards to trade him, and he expects to be with the club at season's end. He has two more seasons left on his contract.
"I don't see anything happening," Jamison said.
Saunders wouldn't discuss whether the team might try to fill the roster spots that will open up when Arenas and Crittenton are both on the suspended list.
Nor would he speculate about whether Arenas ever will play again for the Wizards. On Wednesday, team president Ernie Grunfeld didn't rule out the possibility of voiding the remainder of Arenas' six-year, $111 million contract.
Jamison was asked whether he thinks his longtime teammate, with Golden State and Washington, will wear a Wizards uniform in the future.
"I would love for it to happen," Jamison said. "He's a guy I've been around pretty much his whole career. ... I know him pretty well, and we've had talks about achieving things together, and I would like to see that become a reality. But that's up to Mr. Grunfeld and the people in the organization -- to see which direction they're going in."