WASHINGTON -- Gilbert Arenas and the Washington Wizards were fined $15,000 apiece by the NBA on Friday after he ducked out of the team's annual preseason media day, avoiding any discussion of his third left knee operation in 1½ years.
A few of his teammates who did speak at the event wondered aloud about when -- and whether -- their All-Star point guard would be back to his Agent Zero self on the court.
"I think probably everybody's worried about that. I think Gil's got to be worried about that," center Brendan Haywood said.
"It's one of those things. I want to see him bounce back and be the player he was when he averaged 30 points, six assists, and was one of the top five vote-getters in the Eastern Conference. I think he can get back there. The doctors all say he can get back there," Haywood added.
"But in the back of everybody's mind, you're a little worried: 'What if?'"
What if Arenas takes longer to return than the vague, December-or-January target he wrote about on his blog the day after last week's knee surgery?
What if when Arenas does return, it takes a while for him to get into shape?
What if when Arenas does get into shape, it takes a while for him to play at his best?
"One thing I'm expecting to happen is that when he comes back, we're going to see Gilbert this year, but we probably won't see Agent Zero until the end of the season," forward Antawn Jamison said, "or maybe towards next year."
Arenas has yet to answer any questions in front of a group of reporters since his $111 million, six-year contract was announced in July. His first public discussion of his latest surgery was supposed to come Friday, but he was the only Wizards player the media wasn't able to talk to at the team's arena.
He did show up long enough to pose for photographs, but the team said Arenas cited his knee rehab work in declining to speak. Instead, a Wizards spokesman said, Arenas will address the media Saturday, when the team opens training camp in Richmond, Va.
Arenas was penalized "for failing to make himself available to the media," the league said, while Washington was docked the same amount "for failing to ensure that its players comply with NBA media interview rules."
Team spokesman Scott Hall said the Wizards wouldn't comment on the fines.
The Wizards haven't offered any timetable for when Arenas might be able to start practicing or playing. He first had surgery on the left knee in April 2007, then had another operation in November, and appeared in only 13 regular-season games last season.
Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld, coach Eddie Jordan and several players have been optimistic about playing well until Arenas does don a uniform. They made the playoffs last season by relying on All-Star forwards Caron Butler and Jamison, veteran guards DeShawn Stevenson and Antonio Daniels, and Haywood.
"We need to go out there and understand that if Gilbert's here, it's a great thing," Stevenson said, "and if not, we're just going to have to work a little bit harder."
Whatever worries Arenas' teammates might harbor, they are looking on the positive side.
Long as it might take, they figure, certainly the day will come when their enigmatic guard is hitting buzzer-beating 3-pointers, just like in the old days.
"Eventually, he's going to be back to normal. I think so," Jamison said. "He's going to do everything possible to make sure he's at that level and healthy."
Stevenson has spoken to Arenas about what the future may hold.
"We're tight, so obviously, we've talked about it. I know him. I know he's going to work hard. He's not one of them guys who gets his money and goes out the window," Stevenson said. "So you will see a Number Zero jersey back on the court."
A reporter pointed out that about half the questions put to Stevenson were about his pal and backcourt mate.
Stevenson shrugged, smiled and replied: "Making $111 million, it's going to be like that."