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For the Wizards, a Family That Plays Together Stays Together

Brendan Haywood, above, and Etan Thomas have called a truce. Eddie Jordan and Gibert Arenas are also on the same page as training camp opens today.
Brendan Haywood, above, and Etan Thomas have called a truce. Eddie Jordan and Gibert Arenas are also on the same page as training camp opens today. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)

When a team's coach and his best player don't have a decent relationship in the NBA, losses, trades and firings usually follow. There was even recent talk that Arenas might publicly go after Jordan on media day.

When I asked Arenas about this in mid-September, though, he backed off.

"I was mad about that for a good two or three months," he said. "But I had the summer to think about it and now I realize stuff happens. If you asked me three months ago, then I'd have said, 'Yeah.' But naw, it's bigger than that."

In time, he realized the injury gave him some space from the U.S. national team for a summer after a bad international experience a year ago led to him coming home and not competing in the world championships.

"I know I would have went back and everybody would have been a little awkward, so this gives everybody a chance to mend," he said. "I looked at the positives instead of the negatives."

Arenas has yet to speak to Jordan about his feelings on the matter. But he added his support of Jordan has not wavered since he campaigned for his coach's contract extension a year ago. In explaining his thoughts, he essentially became the messenger for Grunfeld and Jordan's continuity themes.

"Everyone always thinks you get rid of a coach or you go to another team and the grass is goin' to be greener," Arenas said. "But we lost two players to free agency, Larry Hughes and Jared Jeffries. And they're both miserable where they are. You might have feelings where you're angry at each other but you need to move past that.

"Say you get rid of him," he added. "And then we bring in a coach nobody likes. We're practicing five hours a day. He slows the ball down. Well then it's, 'Get rid of this coach.' If it's a good fit, it's a good fit. And I still think it's a good fit."

Beyond the perceived Eddie vs. Gilbert divide, another relationship was rumored to have soured. Eddie and Ernie, that shotgun marriage of a coach and general manager that had amazingly produced the franchise's first, consecutive playoff appearances in two decades.

It got to a point where Tom Thibodeaux, the former Houston assistant coach known for his defensive techniques, had agreed to take a job under Jordan. Several days later, he reneged and eventually wound up in Boston.

The reason he backed out, a friend of Thibodeaux's said, was because the coach was worried he had been brought to Washington to eventually take Jordan's job. He didn't want to be viewed as undermining another coach and his staff, and he felt that that's how it might look if Grunfeld took action during the season to remove Jordan.

A Wizards official, on condition of anonymity, said there was never any such discussion about Thibodeaux's potential role with the team.

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