Wizards still say Cavs got breaks because of LeBron
WASHINGTON -- True to form, Gilbert Arenas was back in the gym less than 12 hours after the Washington Wizards were knocked out of the playoffs. For the last three days, he has lifted weights and shot jumpers.
But he has yet to take a free throw.
Arenas had planned a rare week of vacation once the season ended, but the sting of losing three one-point games to the Cleveland Cavaliers was too much to ignore, especially given that Arenas' two missed free throws late in overtime gave Damon Jones the chance to hit the game-winning shot that eliminated the Wizards on Friday night.
"Once you miss free throws at the end of the game, you start questioning your jump shot again," Arenas said Monday. "I still haven't shot the free throw yet. It's like when you've been drinking all night, you've got to stay away from it for a little bit. I'm going to wait a couple of weeks. I'm detoxing from free throws right now."
Arenas and the rest of the Wizards had their exit meetings with coaches and management Monday. Arenas took home recordings of all six games of the Cavaliers series.
"I'll watch it, but I'm not going to watch the last 30 seconds," he said.
Arenas said he had no problem with Cleveland star LeBron James' bit of trash talking between the two free throws -- "I would have done it," Arenas said -- but he reiterated the sentiment that the Cavaliers got the breaks in the series because of James.
"It was little things that stood out in big times in the games," Arenas said. "You're going to get away with walks and travels and fouls at the beginning of the game, but that last 30 seconds to a minute. ... I said earlier in the series: We have to actually beat them to beat them. If it's a close game, we're not going to win."
Moving on from the pain of the series, the Wizards spoke of what needed to be done this summer to improve on this season's 42-40 record.
"We don't want to be thought of as a perennial playoff contender," Antonio Daniels said. "We want to look past the first round, look past the second round."
Coach Eddie Jordan cited a core group that includes Arenas, Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Daniels, Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas. He would also like to re-sign restricted free agent Jared Jeffries and see more development from some younger players, especially 6-foot-11 forward Andray Blatche.
But Jordan knows his team needs more. An enforcer-type in the paint is near the top of the wish list.
"Hopefully there's something that can put us a little over the top out there, whether it's a draft pick or a free agent signing," Jordan said. "We'll see if there's any trade possibilities that can put us in a great situation."
There will be some measure of suspense surrounding three players: Jeffries, Haywood and Blatche.
Jeffries' future is obviously uncertain because of his free agent status. Haywood, who was benched twice this season, has a sometimes frosty relationship with Jordan and could become trade bait.
"We all know what's been going on with Brendan and how he feels with the coaching staff," Jamison said. "I don't think it's a going to be a problem. Either you want to be here or you don't, and he wants to be here. It's just some things that have been said and done, but that's part of the nature of basketball."
Blatche represents another solution to the team's need for a stronger presence in the paint. He's a big man who can shoot, but his rookie year began with a gunshot wounds from an attempted carjacking and ended with teammates feeling uncertain over whether he has the year-round commitment that could turn him into a solid NBA player.
"This is his crucial summer," Arenas said. "He has to make a commitment. I told him I'm out there working all the time. You can't go back home and spend two months at home and then decide you're going to start working out."
There is also the matter of a possible extension of Jordan's contract, which expires after next season. President of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld is expected to address the matter Tuesday, but Jordan's players are full of support for the coach who has led the Wizards to back-to-back playoff seasons for the first time since the 1980s.
"My development here these last three years was because of Eddie," Arenas said. "He was there for me when teams were scared to take a chance. We both came in together. We made it to the playoffs two times straight. Why wouldn't he get an extension?"
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press