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David Aldridge

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Antawn Jamison and the Wizards can only wonder how the Arenas situation will further affect the team.
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Wizards have plenty to ponder as Arenas situation churns


Posted Jan 11 2010 10:15AM

We are taught to hate the sin and love the sinner.

This can be difficult when the sinner has access to Twitter, and proclaims he didn't do anything wrong even as he acknowledges he brought four guns to the workplace as a "joke," and is captured mocking the situation (though he maintains he was mocking only the caricature that the media created of him, not the seriousness of what he did).

This is easier when the sinner is your teammate, and friend.

It is harder when all of this takes place in a national setting, when every move is micro-analyzed, when David Letterman puts you on the Top 10 List, when Al Sharpton and other national, non-sports types chime in, when you're a 12-23 team trying to stay afloat after a brutally disappointing start, and the team is in the process of being sold six weeks after the franchise's owner, and the family patriarch, Abe Pollin, passed away.

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It is easier when the sinner is your best player.

This is life for the local NBA team in Washington, D.C., these days, trying to find an equilibrium amid the chaos, trying to band together without its bandleader, Gilbert Arenas -- its marketing force, the former face of the franchise whose face was removed from the billboard that adorns Verizon Center last week, suspended indefinitely by NBA Commissioner David Stern, his future in doubt, the current players uncertain if they'll be around when he comes back -- if he comes back.

"Right now, we have to focus on the players we have with us," team president Ernie Grunfeld said Sunday night. "We have to let the process take its course, and see where it takes us."

The Wizards are facing a four-headed hydra.

One, trying to win games without their superstar. They banked for this possibility by trading for Randy Foye last summer and bringing Earl Boykins in from Europe early in the season, but neither is Arenas. Offensively, there's still plenty of firepower; when Washington moves the ball around it can still find a lot of open shooters. But the Wizards need Mike Miller healthy to do that; he missed six weeks with a calf injury, returned Friday against the Magic, then aggravated the calf Sunday against New Orleans.

"Mike Miller encourages ball movement," center Brendan Haywood said. "We don't have, without Gilbert, we don't have a Kobe Bryant. Or we don't have a LeBron, where we just throw the ball to a guy and be like, 'Hey, man, we're going to give you this ball for the whole fourth quarter; carry us.' No, it has to be a little bit of Antawn (Jamison), a little bit of Caron (Butler), a little bit of Mike, a little bit of Randy, maybe a tip-in for myself or Andray Blatche."

Two, the uncertainty of the legal process Arenas is facing. No one knows when the grand jury that has heard the testimony of Arenas and others will return a decision to proceed or not; no one knows whether it will come back with misdemeanor or felony charges against Arenas if it decides to issue indictments; no one knows when a trial would come, if it comes to that.

The difference between a misdemeanor and a felony indictment could be the difference between Arenas being back on the court this season for the Wizards and never putting on the jersey again. And that could well come down to whether there is an ambitious prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District or not.

A veteran attorney in Washington who's appeared in that court extensively over the years says the grand jury, in most cases, follows the path set by the prosecutor. The attorney spoke on background because the attorney was not directly involved in the Arenas case and could not speak to the specifics of that case. In cases similar to this one, when an incident occurred between two people with few witnesses, physical evidence becomes almost an imperative for the prosecution. The Washington Post reported last week that Arenas' teammate, Javaris Crittenton -- with whom the initial argument with Arenas began two days earlier -- took out a gun after seeing Arenas' guns near his locker, and loaded his gun. But that gun has not been located.

"But if somebody saw you with a gun, it doesn't matter," the attorney said. "What matters is what your intent was." For example, what was the person with the gun saying at the time he or she had it? What had they said before? And what did the victim think was going to happen? Did they believe they were in danger?

Three, how does the team welcome Arenas back into the fold if it turns out his absence is a relatively short one?

DeShawn Stevenson, Arenas' closest friend on the team, made his support clear by writing "AGENT" and "ZERO" on the tape on his right and left ankles, respectively, before the Wizards' loss to the Hornets Sunday.

"We just try to be supportive to Gilbert," Stevenson said Friday. "I text him a lot. I've got a close relationship with him. Just try to be positive. That's all we can do. Obviously, I'm talking to the investigators and stuff like we're doing, but other than that, just try to work our way out of this ...

"I know he wants to be a part of this. He's a winner. He wants to win. But he just put himself in a bad situation, and ourselves in a bad situation. It's tough to see that."

But it's a delicate dance. The Wizards have a product to sell, in a community that has been ravaged for two decades by gun violence. No one thinks Arenas is a malevolent guy or has ill will in his heart; that's what drives everyone in the organization crazy. If Arenas was a jerk, he could be dismissed. But he's well-liked, even by those who grow exasperated by his antics. And he still has lots of supporters in D.C.; there isn't universal condemnation of his behavior.

But the Wizards, in two statements released by the Pollin family, have made their disapproval clear. And it was left to Jamison, after talking with Grunfeld before Friday's game, to publicly apologize to the Wizards' fans on behalf of his teammates for the infamous photo of Arenas -- his fingers extended as if they were guns, as he pretended to "shoot" his teammates, most of whom encircled him, laughing. Including Jamison, who is as far from Arenas in demeanor as Felix was from Oscar. (Butler, it should be noted, was not in the picture.)

Did you know immediately, I asked Jamison, when you saw the picture, that it was really bad?

"I definitely knew it wasn't good," Jamison said. "You can understand when people are looking at it, thinking that we're all laughing at the act. That wasn't the case at all. He said something funny before that, and during that point we was laughing, and then he came out with the act, and that's when everybody broke the huddle ... I was embarassed. I'm in it. From the looks of it, it looks like I thought it was funny. I've worked hard for my image, and I'm not taking this for anything light at all. This is a very serious situation."

Then there's four, the league's ultimate punishment. Remember, Stern suspended Arenas indefinitely. There's another shoe to drop.

There's been a lot written lately about how the leeway the Wizards supposedly gave Arenas over the years. There's not a team in this league that treats its superstar the same way it treats the 12th man. No, not even San Antonio. I'm pretty sure Marcus Haislip isn't consulted on personnel moves. You can argue that Arenas isn't as good, or as trustworthy, as Tim Duncan -- or, for that matter, Bryant or James or Dwyane Wade. You'd be right. But the Wizards didn't have any of those fellows. Obviously, Washington took a gamble giving Arenas $111 million guaranteed, coming off a knee injury. Today, it doesn't look like the right move. Who knows how it could look tomorrow?

The Wizards have learned not to think much about tomorrows.

"The most important thing right now is for him to get the legal process handled," Jamison said. "But it goes beyond teammates, us just playing basketball. He's a friend. And I'm going to reach out as much as possible, because I wouldn't wish this on anybody. These two guys took a situation overboard, and they made bad decisions. And that process is affecting a lot of people. But they're our friends.

"When we're done playing basketball, especially me and Gil, we're going to still remain friends. We're going to hang out and things of that nature. The friendship really comes into place as far as reaching out to him. And for us, we pray and hope he gets the opportunity to play, especially this year. We're a better team with him."

Dribbles

I'm Tired...
Tired of Playing the Game...
Ain't it a Crying Shame?
I'm..so...tired.
--"
I'm Tired," Blazing Saddles

Many nights this season, Tony Parker looks like he's got a piano on his back.

"I just think I've played too much basketball," Parker said last week.

The Spurs' guard is still just 27 years old, in the prime of his career. But there are days, and weeks, when the grind of non-stop play for almost a decade catches up with him, and he is ready for it to end. Something is going to give between Parker's commitment to San Antonio and his commitment to the French national team.

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Year-round hoops is wearing on Tony Parker.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Through Sunday, Parker was averaging 16.5 points per game, more than five points off of his average last season and his lowest in five seasons. His assists are down by one from last season, and his turnovers are up. It doesn't mean he's still not an elite-level point guard, but it does mean there's been some slippage. And slippage is not a good thing when you have only a year left on your contract.

"I've played five summers in a row, and I think it's about time I need a rest," Parker said. "It's going to be tough (to play). The contract's coming up, and (coach Gregg) Pop(ovich) wants me to play well every night. Sometimes it's tough, because you know you play all these championship runs, and every year I play for the national team. Every year. This year is the first year I've found my body is a little bit tired, you know? So I'll have to make some decisions, because I'm not Superman. I can't do 82 games at the level Pop wants, and then play on the national team."

International players feel a special pressure to compete in all international competitions, not just the World Championships and Olympics. The never-ending grind of playing both for China and Houston almost year-round for almost a decade has almost certainly played a role in the injuries suffered by Houston's Yao Ming, who is recovering from foot surgery and will miss the season -- though he has not ruled out playing for China in the Worlds if he gets clearance from the Rockets.

In 2009, Parker played with the Spurs until they were eliminated in the conference semifinals in May. But he spent most of the summer with the French team, which needed to qualify for the 2010 World Championships by finishing in the top six at the European Championships in Poland in September. France finished fifth; its final game was Sept. 20. Parker started camp with the Spurs less than two weeks later.

The Spurs, like other NBA teams, have struggled in recent years with allowing their marquee players to play in international competition. Popovich has all but ordered Manu Ginobili to cease and desist from the Argentine national team, after he helped lead Argentina to a silver at the 2002 Worlds and a gold at the Athens Olympics in 2004. But it's come at a large cost; Ginobili aggravated his ankle injury in the '08 Games, requiring surgery that rendered him a shell of himself last season. And with the Spurs' contender window likely open for just this season and next (that's how long ownership has committed to making significant luxury tax payments, coinciding with the last two years of Tim Duncan's contract), they are short on time.

The Spurs don't know if Parker is going to play in the World Championships, which start in Turkey Aug. 28 and run through Sept. 12. That doesn't count the practice time Parker would rack up with the French team beforehand.

"Look at Manu," Parker said. "Every year he goes, and every year it hurts us a little bit. Because he was hurt, and we're not the same team when Manu's not playing. When Manu's playing his best, we're a championship caliber team. It's going to be tough for everybody -- for (Pau) Gasol, (Dirk) Nowtizki -- Nowitzki took a pass this summer. So I think everybody, as you get older, it's tough to do both. It's very tough to play every game and then go play with the national team."

Top O' the World, Ma!

(Last week's ranking in brackets)

1) Cleveland [2] (29-10): Um, Jawad Williams?

2) L.A. Lakers [1] (29-8): Haven't lost three straight since acquiring Gasol.

3) Boston [5] (26-9): Rondo playing at All-Star level.

4) Dallas [4] (25-12): If Najera has anything left, a steal.

5) Orlando [3] (25-12): What's up with Rashard Lewis this season?

6) Atlanta [9] (23-13): Looking for three straight over Celtics Monday.

7) Denver [11] (23-14): Nuggets 3-2 since Melo's been out.

8) San Antonio [8] (22-13): A Mahinmi sighting Sunday!

9) Portland [7]: Miller, McMillan hug it out after shouting match.

10) Phoenix [6] (23-14): Since 14-3 start, Suns are under .500.

11) Houston [10] (21-16): Need home cooking (eight of next 10 at Toyota Center).

12) Toronto [14] (19-19): Lost seven straight to the Celtics.

13) Miami [13] (18-17): Skip to the rescue.

14) Oklahoma City [12] (20-16): Thunder 15-1 when scoring more than 100.

15) New Orleans [NR] (19-16): No secret: when Peja plays well, so do Hornets.

Team of the Week

(1/4/10-1/10/10)

New Orleans (4-0): Hornets started out 2-13 on the road before consecutive wins at Utah, Oklahoma City and Washington this week, which has propelled New Orleans back into the Western Conference playoff race. Bugs had held five straight opponents under 100 before their 115-110 win over the Wizards Sunday; David West is shooting 60.7 percent (68-112) in his last eight games.

Team of the Weak

New Jersey (0-4): Lather, rinse, repeat.

Nobody Asked Me, But ...

Any chance Joe Dumars wishes he had that cap room back?

"No," Dumars e-mailed Sunday, and what could he say, really? But Dumars used the room he got from Allen Iverson's expiring contract to give $55 million to Ben Gordon and $37 million to Charlie Villanueva last summer, and that's locked in his team in for the foreseeable future. And that team has lost 12 straight games, including Saturday's horrifying effort at home against the equally woeful 76ers -- when Detroit trailed by 26 in the first half. It's the Pistons' longest losing streak in more than 15 years.

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Detroit's rebuilding phase hasn't been pretty.
Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Dumars could have rolled that cap room over until this summer and made Detroit a player for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, et. al. But he chose to strike last summer, when there were a lot fewer potential competitors -- but fewer impact free agents as well. The Pistons didn't waste any time snatching Gordon from Chicago and Villanueva from Milwaukee, and added Chris Wilcox, Chucky Atkins and Ben Wallace as well before training camp.

For six weeks, the Pistons withstood injuries to Gordon, Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince, hanging around .500 with contributions from the likes of Rodney Stuckey, guard Will Bynum and rookie forward Jonas Jerebko. Wallace also stepped into the Wayback Machine for a minute, looking more like circa 2003 Ben than the 35-year-old version. But Detroit hit a wall before Christmas. The Pistons aren't just losing, they're getting drilled, losing nine of the 12 straight by 10 points or more. What used to be one of the most reliable sellout crowds in the league is a distant memory; The Palace of Auburn Hills is a mausoleum many nights.

What's most surprising is that the Pistons aren't scoring. They're next to last in the league in points per game, averaging just more than 91 per game.

"We just aren't making shots," Dumars said. "Transitioning from a championship contender to a team that's rebuilding is aways tough."

First-year coach John Kuester is safe ("I really like Q and he's doing a good job," Dumars wrote), but coaches lit into the players after Saturday's debacle, asking how long the team is going to accept its fate. Many around the league think it's just a matter of days before Dumars pulls the trigger and moves Hamilton or Prince, the two still-viable pieces from the '04 title team, for an impact big man. Dumars says he won't make a trade just to shake things up. But something has to change.

... And Nobody Asked You, Either

As always, send your comments, questions and snark to daldridgetnt@gmail.com.

The things you do for your kids. From Kay Morris:

Appreciate your writing concerning the decision of D. Stern. Myself and my peers have discussed this incident and find it very bad in action of Mr. Arenas. Our children and grandchildren interested in sports need to be told and see that this kind of action will not be tolerated. Any of us with every day jobs and brought guns to work would be fired on the spot. My personal opinion is that this discipline won't change Mr. Arenas much. He'll Twitter what a joke it is.

Maybe there's hope, Kay: Gilbert shut down the Twitter account last Friday. Hey, every journey starts with one small step, right?

Enter Skip. From Daniel Roman:

What do you personally think of the Miami situation @ point guard?...Chalmers is a nice player, but it seems that he lacks court vision to make the passes Arroyo can make and he's prone to turnovers.

As you wrote, Daniel, Miami brought in Rafer Alston after he was bought out by New Jersey on Tuesday, which gives you an indication of what the Heat believed about its incumbents at the position. As did I. Skip is an upgrade to me, though Chalmers can be an effective rotation guy.

MVP Watch

(1/4/10-1/10/10)

1) LeBron James (33 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 7.7 apg, .542 FG, .763 FT): Just a reminder: when he makes threes, forget it.

2) Kobe Bryant (24.8 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.4 apg, .256 FG, .690 FT): Doubt he's ever had a worse week shooting the ball.

3) Dwight Howard (16.5 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 1.8 bpg, .595 FG, .537 FT): The offense has to go through him.

4) Tim Duncan (22.5 ppg, 9 rpg, 1.5 bpg, .621 FG, .818 FT): Wearing out single coverage.

5) Dirk Nowtizki (25.7 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 3 apg, .400 FG, 1,000 FT): Has struggled from the floor since that shoulder injury.

By The Numbers

9 -- Consecutive victories by Portland over the Lakers in the Rose Garden after Friday's 107-98 victory.

9 -- Average margin of victory by the Blazers in those nine straight wins.

9 -- Win streak by the Lakers broken Wednesday by their loss to their crosstown rival Clippers.

I'm Feelin' ...

1) The Chuckster on SNL. Even if he was obviously reading the cue cards.

2) The Cliippers' sudden chemistry. Even with Blake Griffin's season-long injury, LA's 94-84 win over Miami Sunday was its sixth straight at home and fourth overall (per my man John Schuhmann, the Clips are one of just two teams -- New Orleans is the other -- still undefeated in the new year). Marcus Camby helps teams win when he gets extended minutes.

3) Whoever was keeping count before Ben Gordon scored the league's 10 millionth point Saturday. How did they do it? They'd have to have freeze-framed every game at the moment Gordon's shot went in.

4) Fan Night last Tuesday, when C-Webb and Kevin McHale both called out Bill Spooner for, in their opinion, missing a last-second foul call on Monta Ellis against Denver's J.R. Smith. We call 'em like we see 'em on NBA TV.

5) Referee Tom Washington, who, correctly, called a loose ball foul on Brandon Roy in the closing seconds of Grizzlies-Blazers Tuesday. It was a split-second call that was hard to see in real time, and Washington nailed it.

6) Andre Dawson, Hall of Famer. Sounds nice.

7) A terrible Wild Card weekend, redeemed by Cardinals 51, Packers 45. What an incredible game. You just knew that when Aaron Rodgers missed Greg Jennings on the first play of overtime that it would come back to haunt Green Bay, and it did.

Not Feelin'...

1) Orlando, not in the flow. The Magic's four-game losing streak ended with a rout at home over Atlanta on Saturday, but the Magic's offensive issues need to get straightened out. Stan Van Gundy says it has nothing to do with first-year-in-Orlando players like Vince Carter, Ryan Anderson, Brandon Bass and Matt Barnes getting used to vets Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson. "I still have great confidence in the guys in that locker room, that we've got good players and a good team," Van Gundy said. "We need to play better and I think when we play better we'll get some confidence. We'll see what happens. But there's no reason to panic at this point."

2) The knee-jerk banning of gambling on team planes in the wake of the Gilbert Arenas suspension. (That's not an exaggeration; Nets president Rod Thorn acknowledged to me that his team's new ban is in response to what happened in Washington.) If it would provide a real deterrent to five- and six- (and, seven-?) figure bets between players, I'd be all for it. But players are going to gamble, whether it's in the plane, in the club or in their homes. Just shifting the venue isn't going to stop it.

3) Um, Scottie?

4) Would love to say I love Portland assistant Bill Bayno's kicks. I'd be lying, though (hat tip to @pdxtrailblazers on Twitter).

5) Twenty-eight first-half points for the Bucks on Sunday. Frigid.

6) Kurt Warner, always yelling at someone on his team as he comes off the field. There's fiery and competitive, and there's obnoxious.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

It's over yall..
--Cleveland guard Mo Williams (@mogotti2), Thursday, 10:15 p.m., bragging about his alma mater, Alabama, and its 24-6 halftime lead over Texas in the BCS Championship game. He was a little less confident in the second half until the Crimson Tide held on late for a 37-21 victory and the national title.

Mr. Fifteen

This week's Mr. Fifteen is Orlando center Adonal Foyle. The 34-year-old hasn't played a minute this season since being activated in mid-December following knee surgery, and only a dire emergency -- injuries to Dwight Howard, Marcin Gortat, Brandon Bass and, probably, assistant coach Patrick Ewing -- would get Foyle out on the floor. But Foyle manages, year after year, to be on someone's roster -- partly because he's 6-foot-10, but partly because he's consistently been one of the game's true good guys. A product of the island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Foyle has become much more known for his work off the court as his play on it. He founded Democracy Matters in 2001, a non-partisan, grassroots program designed to get students more involved in political causes and issues. The program is now on more than 70 college campuses nationwide. His Kerosene Lamp Foundation, started in 2006, tries to reach young people in the Eastern Caribbean struggling with illiteracy and other problems. He was inducted into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame last September, which has honored the likes of Arthur Ashe, Roberto Clemente, Pele and other athletes for their charitable works since 1994.

Me: Why are you still here, trying to play, when you have such a well-formed idea of what you want to do afterward?

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Adonal Foyle says he's enjoyed the NBA life.
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Adonal Foyle: Basketball has always kind of been like my center. I've never been one of those people who thought the game is boring. I always find the game to be fascinating and an opportunity to learn so much. Most of what I do kind of tentacles out from the center, which is the game. Everything else is kind of connected. Basketball has been a part of my life ... when you look at basketball, and what it's done from many levels, you look at it from a socio-economic level, and what it's done to our society, what it's done to the integration globally. You could trace globalization through basketball. I find basketball to be a fascinating part of our society in general. Sports is, but I think basketball, because of its international implication, because it has the potential -- predominately African-Americans and what it's done for their lives -- I'm intrigued by it. I like it. I think I still learn something from it after 13 years ... it has the potential to take mere mortals to ridiculous levels and take average people and make them ridiculously wealthy, and has the potential to transform lives.

Do I want to play? Yeah, we all do. We all want to play 'till we're 60. One or the other is going to decide, (either) injuries or the body don't take it anymore. But until they rip the uniform off, I'm going to be around. I told Otis (Smith, Orlando's general manager) when he wants it, just take it away. Just rip it off, because I'm not giving it up.

Me: How does basketball provide entree globally?

AF: Credit the commissioner. He's done an incredible job of marketing the sport to such an incredible level. It's not hard to utilize the players. You look at how sneaker deals have been happening in China and stuff like that. Not many sports have been able to parlay the game and entrench into these cultures so that everybody from China to India knows who our players are. Professional baseball probably has the same mechanism and potentially the same appeal ... but if you look at what basketball has done, and been able to spread the game globally, I think commissioner Stern deserves credit, as well as the players, for giving us good quality and making the game available to everyone else.

I think there is something more fundamental; it's a simple game. I grew up on an island where there was cricket. Among the things you need to be a good cricketer, you need special cleats, you need pads, you need all these things. For basketball, you can go barefoot. You just need a ball and put a makeshift hoop someplace. So the game is accessible to poor countries as well, and poor people.

Me: Where do you want to take Democracy Matters?

AF: We always felt that the way to engage young people, the next generation needs to find a way to be political. I think of the 1960s as ripe time for people to be political. It was very clear. There were very clear lines of right and wrong. I think politics today is a bit harder, because everything is so entrenched and interconnected. So it's more about deciphering the interconnectedness of how the world works. It's never cut and dried. It's all these gray areas. So to me, it's very hard to be political in this era. I mean, is it really as easy as Nike makes sneakers in sweatshops? You have to look at the wage of that country. You have to look at how that compares to other countries. You have to look at the laws of those countries, and what's the standard they're holding up. It's not as cut and dried. You have to learn the small politics, and you have to learn how money influences everything that happens in our political system.

So what I try to teach the kids is that is where you have to become specialized. You have to be able to learn and trace the money. We have about 85 campuses; we've been doing this for six, seven, eight years. We just formed a federation with Common Cause (the nonpartisan advocacy organization that promotes citizen action to hold elected leaders accountable), because one of the things that's really worrisome about NBA charities and professional athlete charities in general is how does it become sustainable beyond your NBA career, when you're no longer the principal supporter? How do you make it last another generation? I felt that you go in with a preexisting organization that can help you. We've become almost the student wing of Common Cause ... and I think that way, it'll be enduring beyond my career.

Me: Have you thought about politics?

AF: No. For me, what's worrisome about politics is that politics has become so personal. I think when our founding fathers envisioned our country and our people, I don't think politics was meant to be a career. And I think what has happened is that we have too many career politicians, that they don't do things, because they want to be re-elected. I don't think that I can be that. I don't think I can be a person who wants to be a politican. I would like to be a person who does something because it's the right thing to do.

Me: So is it difficult to focus when you have one foot in basketball, and one foot out?

AF: I like it. I would like to be a GM in this league. I like the idea of putting a team together. I like the idea of seeing how players work together. I like the idea of creating a team in which the team can function. I like conflict and understanding conflict and handling and managing conflict. For me, I still see that my being here, without playing as much, I get an opportunity to learn from a different perspective. When I was fully engaged, playing every night, I didn't get to think about the game as much, because I was so selfish in my pursuit. I wanted to get ready. I'm in that constant, perpetual state of readiness. I think now, I can watch and learn and observe more. I can look at dynamics differently. I can look at Otis, and see what he's doing, and talk to him. I can talk to the coaching staff. I can sit and talk to the players. I'm kind of in both worlds.

Me: At practice with Dwight, what are you trying to teach?

AF: I try not to give him dunks. I try very hard. I will foul him rather than give him a dunk, or else, let him get to the middle. I try to take away the things that I know he wants to do and is easy for him to do. Sometimes you can tell a guy, you have to count the baseline. But in the game, it's easy when I just completely cut off the middle, and it's so obvious that I am not going to let him go to the middle. Right now, my sternum is hurting, because I wouldn't let him go, and he just ran right through me. And I would call the charge, and they wouldn't call the charge. In practice, I can see the things I know he needs to work on. One of the things I need to see him do is shoot the jump shot ... and dare him to shoot it, and mock him to shoot it. He has a good shot. When you're so good and you can dominate everybody else, it's hard to tell a guy, take the 20-foot jump shot when you go and tomahawk it over somebody's head. But when you need it, you can't just call on it. You have to practice it ...

I'm trying to get him to understand it, that if he makes it a part of his everyday repertoire, it'll be a lot easier when things are difficult. He shouldn't be getting beat up all the time. He should be able to have that jump shot in the game, but not only just for him, but it's for the team. So he can have a weapon. He can go left, he can go right, he can shoot the right-handed hook, he can shoot a left-handed hook, he has runners, he has dunks. He has the moves. But those things would be better set up if he'd set them up with a jump shot.

Me: Did you ever think you'd come out of Colgate, that basketball powerhouse, and play 13 years in the league?

AF: My dad told me a long time ago, if you're true to the game, and you really, truly become a student of the game -- and I didn't understand what he meant at the time -- he said, 'You started the game very late. But it's an advantage, it's not a weakness as most people think. Because it'll still be very fresh in your mind.' Most guys, by the time they get to the NBA, they've been playing basketball for 20-something years, and they're bored with it. And for me, because I started late, I was intrigued by it. I learned something every summer. I worked on something every summer. I may never get to show it, but I worked on something every summer.

They Said It

"Although it is clear that the actions of Mr. Arenas will ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse, his ongoing conduct has led me to conclude that he is not currently ft to take the court in an NBA game."
--NBA commissioner David Stern, announcing the indefinite suspension of Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas for both the initial Dec. 21 incident in which he brought guns to Verizon Center as part of an argument with teammate Javaris Crittenton, and his behavior afterward.

"Even if, as Arenas insists, he brought the guns to the arena because he wanted them away from his children at home, I wouldn't have bought that excuse. Buy a safe. Put them in there. End of story."
--Hall of Famer Karl Malone, a lifelong hunter and NRA member, expressing his displeasure with Arenas in a first-person account last Tuesday to SI.com.

"We told them, they can play cards. Just not for money."
--Nets president Rod Thorn, detailing his team's decision on Thursday to ban gambling from the team plane and bus in the wake of the Arenas-Crittenton mess.

Longtime NBA reporter and columnist David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here.

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