WASHINGTON (AP)—For someone looking to get back into the good graces of his team, its fans and the NBA, Gilbert Arenas(notes) has a funny way of showing it.
The Washington Wizards guard’s latest escapade took place Tuesday, when coach Flip Saunders announced before a preseason game against the Atlanta Hawks that Arenas would miss the contest with a sore left knee.
But Arenas revealed after the Wizards’ 107-92 victory that he pretended to have a bum knee to give teammate Nick Young(notes) a chance to start. He told reporters Wednesday that he was trying to do Young a favor.
“I lied to coach and told him my knee was sore so he’d start Nick,” Arenas said.
Arenas was fined an undisclosed amount by the Wizards for his deception. It was another blow to the image of a player who is still trying to recover from his 50-game suspension and felony conviction for bringing guns into the locker room last season.
After Wednesday’s practice, Arenas first said he wasn’t talking, then appeared before reporters offering a halfhearted apology for his actions.
“I screwed up again, so I just want to say sorry,” he said. “I wasn’t really thinking that this was going to be another media outburst. It’s like everything I do now, someone, tit for tat, tries to blow it out of proportion.”
Arenas’ altruistic gesture might have gone over a little better if Arenas didn’t lie to his coach, or if he hadn’t already ruffled feathers this preseason with his moody press conference at the team’s media day or his statements that he would “move on” after helping No. 1 pick John Wall(notes) learn the ropes.
Saunders, who has gone out of his way to defend Arenas this preseason, said he was shocked and disappointed with Arenas. He spoke to Arenas and the team about the situation.
“I was probably the most surprised,” Saunders said. “I got a text late last night. When I talked to Gil at the shootaround, he indicated that his knee was a little bit sore and stiff and he didn’t think he was going to play, and I said, ‘Fine,’ and I moved on.
“I said to him that I’m most disappointed personally. Because I believe in him. There’s been a trust factor. I told him, ‘You’re going to have to be honest with me.’ It’s just like dealing with your kids. Your kids make mistakes and you deal with them. It doesn’t mean you love them any less.”
Arenas on Wednesday blamed the media.
“If I wouldn’t (have) made any comments, you guys wouldn’t have known, right?” Arenas said. “Right. So, let’s just say I blew it again. You guys want somebody honest, but you don’t want somebody honest. I messed up again. I’ll never do it again.
“At the end of the day, you guys got to do your job. Even though it’s not right that you guys are nitpicking everything I do, you’ve got a job to do and I’ve got a job to do.”
For his part, Young feigned innocence about the entire situation, but was more than happy to take advantage of it, scoring a team-high 24 points in Washington’s win.
“I didn’t know nothing about it,” he said. “I heard this morning—I saw it on TV. That’s just Gil doing Gil. I don’t even know what was going on. I just went out there and played my game.”
Would Young consider paying Arenas’ fine in exchange for the playing time?
“Nah. He’s got a lot more money than I do,” Young said.