For the first time in eight seasons, the Wizards and Orlando Magic will play a game in which Gilbert Arenas won’t be on either team’s roster — or any roster for that matter. Arenas remains unemployed after the Magic made him one of the first casualties of the amnesty clause provided in the latest collective bargaining agreement.
Coach Flip Saunders said he expects Arenas to find a job with a team before the season ends. “I would think eventually. When you see people get hurt, you would think that at some point, someone is going to give him an opportunity. I don’t think it’s going to be at the financial situation he was at in the past, or even close, but I think if at some point, he wants to play, he’ll probably have an opportunity somewhere.”
Arenas never connected with Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy and never appeared comfortable in his role as a backup to point guard Jameer Nelson after arriving in a trade for Rashard Lewis on Dec. 18, 2010. He resisted structure, and Van Gundy won’t have it any other way, so the experiment failed dramatically. But when asked why Arenas didn’t work out in Orlando, Van Gundy took responsibility.
“I don’t think it’s fair to judge Gilbert’s time here. If anything, if people are unhappy with the way Gilbert performed here, you got to lay that on me and the role I gave him,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t think you can lay that on Gilbert. I don’t think Gilbert really had much of a chance to play well consistently, with what happened.”
Van Gundy said Arenas was placed in a difficult position, with the Magic set in the backcourt with Nelson and Jason Richardson, a taller and more natural shooting guard, and him arriving mid-season.
“He didn’t have time. That was the big thing,” Van Gundy said. “It was a tough situation. We had Jameer still here, J-Rich here. So ask a guy who has been an all-star, and one of the big scorers in our league to come off the bench, tough role. And he wasn’t here very long, either, so there wasn’t any time to adjust or anything else.”
After averaging 17.3 points in his final 21 games with the Wizards, Arenas couldn’t contribute half of that amount with the Magic. He averaged just 8.0 points on 34.4 percent shooting in 49 regular season games with the Magic. Van Gundy said the opportunity for salary cap and luxury tax flexibility was the primary factor in the decision to sever ties with Arenas.
“It just became a money issue, like everyone knows. That’s what it came down to. That had nothing to do with us being dissatisfied with Gilbert or anyone else,” Van Gundy said. “That was just simply a business decision.”