Arenas Says He Got a Foul Call
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas is frustrated about not being on the U.S. national team playing in the FIBA World Championship and said he believes he was not given a fair tryout.
When Arenas left the squad on Aug. 14, national team managing director Jerry Colangelo said it was because Arenas had an injured groin. But in his first comments since then, Arenas, the Wizards' leading scorer and a two-time all-star, said he didn't think he was going to make the 12-man roster and that the injury became an excuse to part ways.
"They already knew what they wanted. They said it was a tryout, but they already had their team selected," he said after playing in a Goodman Summer League game at Barry Farms Park in Southeast Washington on Tuesday night and showing no signs of the injury.
Arenas emphasized that he hopes to remain part of the national program and play in the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
In four pre-tournament tune-up games, Arenas made one start and averaged 3.8 points, 2.3 rebounds and 11 minutes. He was fighting for playing time in a crowded back court that includes Chris Paul, Shane Battier, Kirk Hinrich and Joe Johnson. Paul and Hinrich played the majority of minutes at point guard, and the team is loaded with perimeter scorers such as Johnson, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony.
"No joke, I felt like I was the 16th man on a 15-man roster," Arenas said. "You are there to support your team and support your country and be happy to play but you know, I did everything they wanted me to do; but if I did everything they wanted me to do, why am I on the bubble of getting cut? I sacrificed. You've got LeBron being LeBron. You've got Carmelo being Carmelo. You've got D-Wade being D-Wade. Why can't I be me? Why do I have to transform? I did that and now you are going to cut me?"
Colangelo could not be reached for comment.
Arenas and San Antonio Spurs guard Bruce Bowen were the two players trimmed from the roster on Aug. 18. Arenas, Bowen and other national team players who are not participating in the world championship, including Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, are still eligible for future international competitions.
Arenas, who averaged a career-high 29.4 points a game last season , said he tried to blend in by playing off the ball at shooting guard, by carefully picking his spots on offense and by hustling on defense but said he sensed that he was not a part of Coach Mike Krzyzewski's plans, saying, "I think I was the only person he didn't talk to the whole time we were out there."
Krzyzewski, who will lead the national team through the Beijing Olympics, said he faced a difficult choice in reducing the roster from 14 to 12 . Arenas and Bowen wound up being the odd men out while Wizards forward Antawn Jamison and Sacramento Kings center Brad Miller were kept.
"We had two point guards and the four main players on the perimeter for us are Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Joe Johnson," Krzyzewski said on Aug. 18. "We just felt that with the playing time they're going to get we needed support in the back line. When we played Brazil and Lithuania we needed depth there."
Arenas said he made up his mind to return home on Aug. 14 after he strained his groin while going up for a dunk attempt during practice. In a conversation with Colangelo that day, Arenas said it became obvious to him that he was going to get trimmed from the roster.