Wizards hold team meeting to clear air, regroup
WASHINGTON -- The team captain got hurt. The starting and backup centers got in their third fist fight in the last two seasons. And when the team's best scorer promised he'd drop in 50 points and came up 41 points short in a blowout loss, he blamed his coach for stressing defense.
The Washington Wizards need a hug.
They took a step towards getting back in track on Monday, as the team, which has lost four of its last five games, held a players-only meeting and star guard Gilbert Arenas sat down with his coach, Eddie Jordan, and watched a video of the game, with Jordan explaining what the Wizards were doing wrong in team captain Antawn Jamison's absence.
Sunday, when Arenas failed to score 50 on the Blazers as promised -- as part of his campaign of revenge on coaches who left him off the U.S. national team during last summer's FIBA World Championship -- he criticized Jordan for overemphasizing defense in the game. Arenas said he was playing "like a robot" for fear of being sat down for a defensive mistake.
Told about Arenas' comments, Jordan deemed his criticism "ludicrous" and criticized his leadership skills.
But after their meeting Monday, Jordan said he and and Arenas had worked things out.
"What's important is that Gil and I got together and talked, and things are very, very positive," Jordan said.
"The way we finished our meeting you would have never known something bad had been written," Arenas told The Washington Times. "Everybody is on the same page. The air is cleared."
He also told the Times that Jordan's criticism of his leadership didn't bother him.
"Eddie has been trying to groom me into a leader since I got here," Arenas told the newspaper. "As a player it's hard for me because when you are a leader you have to have a perfect air about you. My leadership is different. I'm not going to be the guy who speaks up all the time. My role is to keep the locker room loose. At the same time I put the pressure on myself and try to take it off of the other guys. But in our locker room there is no question who the leader is. It's Antawn. So no, I didn't take offense to what Eddie said."
Arenas has one of the most colorful personalities in the league and often speaks his mind, but this was going too far.
"I talked to him," Jamison said. "He's like a little brother you've got to spank every once in a while. I put him in the closet and whooped his [butt] last night."
"He's just frustrated of late," Jamison said. "He knows he made some mistakes, and he's going to do everything possible to patch things up and go out there and do something on the court. ... He's got to understand that he's one of the well-known basketball players in the NBA, so no matter what is said and done, he's definitely under a microscope, and he just has to be more cautious and choose what comes out of his mouth. He realizes that."
Arenas said Tuesday that his criticism of Jordan stemmed from frustration because the team has had trouble winning since captain Antawn Jamison was sidelined with a knee injury. Arenas said his relationship with Jordan is good.
"It was blown out of proportion. We had a little bump, and we can fix it now," Arenas said.
Jordan has said the team needs to find new leadership during Jamison's absence. Arenas, who had an unsuccessful stint as a co-captain last season, said he is not the solution.
"I'm a goof. C'mon, everyone knows that," Arenas said. "I look at my elders as the leaders. I don't want nobody looking at me. How can I tell somebody 'Don't shoot that shot' when I'm out there chunking 'em?"
Meanwhile, Jordan reflected on the "real good high" the Wizards were riding less than two weeks ago -- until the knee injury that will sideline Jamison for three to six weeks.
Then center Etan Thomas was suspended two games and banned from practice for punching Brendan Haywood during practice on Friday. Add in the latest Arenas saga and it's no surprise there was the 30-minute players meeting Monday -- the first since training camp.
"You're going to have disagreements in the household," Butler said. "I disagree with my brother all the time. You have to know how to make everything work, and that's what we're doing now."
Getting everyone back on the same page might be the easy part. What's hard is finding a way to win without Jamison, who was averaging 19 points.
That's why Jordan was stressing defense on Sunday, something he's tried to do for three years with little success. The Wizards have been winning with their offensive prowess, but that's harder to do without the floor leadership and points production from their captain.
"I was just a little more impatient with having to see people make mistakes over and over again," said Jordan, who shuffled players in and out frequently during the first half. "As a coach that's my duty. In the NBA, you sit down when you keep making the same mistakes."
Jordan has started three players in Jamison's spot -- Calvin Booth, Jarvis Hayes and Andray Blatche -- with little success. The Wizards will try again Wednesday at Philadelphia, but without Jamison they look like a hockey team forced to play with a man down -- for the entire game.
"He's very crucial to our success, obviously," guard Antonio Daniels said. "You know the old saying -- you never know what you had 'til it's gone."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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