We have more understanding about Ted Leonsis’ take on Gilbert Arenas after the new Wizards owner spoke to the media, VIPs and dignitaries, and members of his newly formed Monumental Sports & Entertainment organization this afternoon. Via the DC Sports Bog:
“I think it’s very important that Gilbert be re-embraced as a person and as a player. So suffice to say that Gilbert knows that the most important thing for him to do is to get in shape, and to be a great teammate, and to be a pillar of our community, and that he will show atonement. But his major deliverable is to come back and be a great part of this next generation Wizards franchise and what we’re trying to accomplish.”
After Leonsis’ press conference, one during which he almost seemed like royalty perched atop his podium throne as other regal members of the D.C. sports scene, including Wes Unseld and John Thompson with his sons John the III and Ron, Ernie Grunfeld and Flip Saunders spoke with members of the media.
I specifically asked Grunfeld about his communication with Gilbert Arenas, since as recent as a March 27 press conference before the Wizards faced the Utah Jazz, Ernie said that he’d yet to personally speak with the embattled guard.
“Yes, I have,” Grunfeld said in regard to speaking with Arenas. “The relationship is good, we’ve spoken several times as a matter of fact. He was in the building for two, three weeks in a row working out. And he’s excited. He’s excited about what’s going on. Obviously Ted spoke with him, and what happened in the past, nobody’s happy about, but we’re trying to put that behind us, move forward. I think he’s very excited about the No. 1 pick and the possibilities that brings. And I think he’s excited with new ownership and having a clean slate.”
I specifically followed up with perceptions of a fractured relationship between Arenas and the front office.
“I don’t know where those reports came from. You put a name to it, we can talk about it,” said Grunfeld.
I then mentioned John Mitchell’s May 20th article, “Why the Washington Wizards will axe Gilbert Arenas,” written for the Grio.com, which was also discussed here at Truth About It.net.
“It was rumors, I believe it was rumors. I don’t know if he had any specific name on there, did he?,” Grunfeld asked. A couple reporters said ‘no’, only “sources” are mentioned in Mitchell’s article in reference to this specific topic.
“Well, you should ask Gilbert and you should ask me,” Grunfeld continued. “We’ve spoken and we’re moving forward on everything. What happened last year, as I’ve said, nobody was happy about that. And now that’s behind us, Gilbert has a clean slate and a fresh start.”
This isn’t the first time Grunfeld has mentioned a “clean slate” when speaking about anyone affected by the ownership transition, much less Arenas.
“From us, we expect him to be in great shape. We expect him to come and be apart of the team,” said Grunfeld. “I think he showed last year, after not playing the previous year really, that he’s still a very good player who can put up big numbers. And he’s a big time talent. So we expect him to come back, get in great shape, and be part of what we’re trying to do.”
Mitchell’s article alluded to previous talk of “clean slates” and “rebuilding” being telling that Arenas would be a surefire goner. And that may very well be the case. If the Wizards listen to or reach out to gauge trade interest in Arenas, they are simply practicing due diligence and doing their job. It doesn’t mean they are trying to get rid of him with a vengeance.
Relations on the two-way street between Arenas and the franchise were probably fractured in the past. Can you blame them? The road was paved, mostly by Arenas, but both sides had a hand in what went down.
Grunfeld has been around the block and does not seem susceptible to making rash decisions, and certainly not the type to hold a grudge. If moving on with Arenas, rather than without him, is what Leonsis wants to do, then the organization will follow suit.
But now, the onus is on Gilbert to prove himself on the basketball court, and more importantly, beyond … and that may not be the easiest thing to do.