Arenas Not Bothered By Team USA Snub

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, February 16, 2008

NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 15 -- Gilbert Arenas will not be invited to try out for the U.S. men's Olympic basketball team this summer, national team managing director Jerry Colangelo said on Friday afternoon.

Speaking after a ceremony to announce the finalists for Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Colangelo said USA Basketball will invite 18 players to Las Vegas for a short training camp June 27-30 to determine which 12 players will represent the country in Beijing.

"He's not part of the mix," Colangelo said of Arenas. "Not at this point, because of what transpired the first year and he was out the second year. He's on the roster, but as of right now, we don't see him as one of the 18."

Arenas was a member of the national program and participated in a few exhibition games prior to the 2006 world championships before he was released. At the time, Colangelo said Arenas had an injured groin. Arenas later said the injury was an excuse to part ways and he didn't believe U.S. Coach Mike Krzyzewski gave him a fair shot.

He wasn't able to participate last season because he was recovering from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. When reached by phone yesterday afternoon, Arenas said he was disappointed but still supported the team.

"No hard feelings for me," said Arenas, who is in Washington rehabilitating from his second knee surgery in the past year. "It is my contract summer and it was a big debate in my mind, whether I was going to go for it and if they were going to give me a fair shot from what happened the last time. I just said, 'You know what, that's a dream that's just past.' I got my chance to play and I got in a couple of games with the USA jersey on, and I satisfied a hunger I had as a child."

Arenas then said that other factors played a role in him not sticking with the team. "Sometimes politics plays a big part in sports. If it's about names and what shoe company is controlling who plays, then I don't want to be a part of that," said Arenas, who has a deal with Adidas. Most members of the team wear Nike, which sponsors Team USA. "My whole thing from Day One, if they are going to give me a fair shot, then I would've loved to play. That's the part that disappointed me the most. I know it has nothing to do with my skill."

Colangelo said Arenas's past comments about USA Basketball and his current knee injury didn't affect his decision.

"I'm just laying it right out there -- it was about performance," he said. "It had nothing to do with who said what and when and his injury and that type of thing. To me, that's water under the bridge and that means nothing. He didn't play with us last year. Guys who have equity in this thing, that has to be a consideration, too."

Arenas has targeted March 2 as his return date for the Wizards. He hasn't played since Nov. 16 and the team has gone 22-22 without him. Arenas said he expects to be cleared to start practicing with the team on Monday. "I'm not going to try to jump out and play," he said. "It might be two or three weeks."

Arenas said he doesn't regret what he said after his first experience with Team USA. "The next year, came back, I took over the league. By me saying what I said, it worked out in my favor," Arenas said. "I wish them the best of luck and I'm going to watch like the rest of the country. I'm going to support my country. I'm an American."

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