Leonsis not ready to give up on Gilbert Arenas

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Ted Leonsis will be the next owner of the Washington Wizards, which puts him in a unique position to dictate the course of Gilbert Arenas’ career. If Leonsis wanted, he could banish Arenas a la Stephon Marbury. He could try his damnedest to keep Gil away from his team until Ernie Grunfeld could find a way to move him. Leonsis could stick Arenas in the closet and try to move on by putting the face of the turmoil out of sight and hopefully, out of mind.

But those options seem a bit ridiculous with Gil. The tales of real guns and finger guns and “Pick one,” and cover-ups are too complicated for their own good, but even though Arenas has made some really horrible decisions over the last few months, nothing he did deserves banishment. Especially not when the Wizards are going to be stuck with his contract one way or another, as few owners would willingly take on Gil’s deal with a new CBA right around the corner.

Leonsis gets that, or at the very least gets that Arenas’ transgressions aren’t worthy of vilification, and that his banishment would accomplish little aside from its symbolism. Maybe what everyone needs in this case — especially Gil — is a hug. From Dan Steinberg of the Washington Posts’ DC Sports Bog:

And so Leonsis chatted with Comcast SportsNet’s Russ Thaler on
Thursday, and offered I believe his first specific comments about
Gilbert Arenas’s future.

“I know Gilbert a little bit from seeing him in the hallways and
talking to him,” Leonsis said, when asked what he would say to Arenas.
“He’s always been a very, very sweet kid. I like him. And I believe in
the best in people. And so I don’t think I’ll say much. I want to get
to know him, but you need to do it in a way that’s respectful of the
hierarchy.

…”And I do want to look Gilbert in the eye and see what makes him
tick and understand what he’s thinking. I’ll probably give him a hug,
and we’ll kill a couple of aliens with some video games and get to know
each other. You have to empathize with people and understand them and
what makes them tick, but his boss is Flip and Flip decides what system
and how he plays. And I’ll never get in the way of that relationship.”

I suppose nothing is certain as of yet, but it appears as though Leonsis may give Arenas an open door. It’s his call as the man paying the bills, and while it’s not exactly optimal for Washington to start next season with Gilbert’s baggage, the Wizards reboot will likely include Arenas.

  

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.