Thursday February 3, 2011 2:55 p.m.
By Frank Hanrahan
"No matter what's going to happen, he (Gilbert Arenas) will look back at his career and he's going to know that the best times he ever had was when he was here in Washington," Wizards coach Flip Saunders said after practice Thursday as his team prepares to face Arenas and Orlando Friday night at Verizon Center. "He put a lot of smiles on people's faces in this arena," Saunders said.
Arenas wasn't doing too much smiling his last few years in D.C., as his health and off court troubles dogged him to the point where both the Wizards and Arenas had to get fresh starts without each other. After seven seasons in Washington, the three-time All star and renowned volume-shooter was traded to Orlando for forward Rashard Lewis last December. Arenas so far has been a a disappointment in Orlando, coming off the bench averaging 8.6 points a game in about 22 minutes, shooting just 34 percent from the field.
Despite the Wizards 0-25 road record and 13-35 overall, Saunders hopes the arrival of Orlando can get some juice back into his team. "There are huge story lines," Saunders said. "You got Gilbert who is coming who was a big part of where this organization was at. You have Rashard Lewis who was there who was a huge part of where there organization went from where it was at to becoming a contender. There will be some energy in the building."
The Wizards, with or without Arenas, were not going to be a contender this season as their self proclaimed "rebuild" was helped by being able to get Arenas's huge salary off their books. It also put Arenas in a spot where perhaps he can thrive and compete for a title with the once again playoff bound Magic. "When you do get older as is Gil is you want to be in a situation to try and win as much as you can," Saunders said.
Former teammates are looking forward to to seeing Arenas, but don't want him getting out of town with a win. "It's going to be different," forward Andray Blatche said. "We ain't trying to be anybody's friend, we going out there for a win."
Notes: Forward Josh Howard who has been out for a month with a sore knee returned to practice but is not game ready just yet but could return soon. Center JaVale McGee sat out with a bad toe.