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NBA players' union executive to meet with Wizards' Gilbert Arenas

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 13, 2010; D01

NBA Players Association chief Billy Hunter will meet on Wednesday with suspended Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas to offer his support and gain a better understanding of the law enforcement authorities' investigation into Arenas bringing four weapons to Verizon Center last month. Hunter sat courtside for the Wizards' 99-90 loss to the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday and said he would wait until the investigation is concluded and NBA Commissioner David Stern determines Arenas's punishment before deciding what action the union would take.

"Once the commissioner makes his decision, that will determine what extent we get involved and don't get involved," Hunter said, adding that he understood why Stern suspended Arenas indefinitely last week after he mimicked shooting his teammates before a game against Philadelphia. "I think the commissioner felt compelled to take action under the circumstances, to try to quiet things down.

"But everybody is entitled to due process," he said. "The question becomes one of ensuring that the punishment fits the offense. You don't use a sledgehammer to drive a tack. That's what I'm about, to ensure due process. A lot of it depends on how quickly the investigation by the authorities gets completed."

The latest round of players met with law enforcement officials on Tuesday in the Arenas probe, with JaVale McGee, Mike Miller and Andray Blatche taking their respective turns explaining what they knew about the dispute between Arenas and Javaris Crittenton that led to guns being displayed on Dec. 21. At least nine players, Coach Flip Saunders and President Ernie Grunfeld have been brought in for questioning over the past 10 days, with more team personnel expected to follow this week.

McGee said he sat with the grand jury for about 30 minutes, describing the experience as an episode of "Law & Order." Caron Butler, one of three players to speak with law enforcement officials Monday, said he hopes the team can get some closure soon with regards the investigation.

"It's been a little chaotic around here for the most part, the past couple of days -- a big inconvenience," Butler said. "It was tough because that's something you don't want to have to keep revisiting. As a player, you want to focus on basketball only."

Saunders said he has tried to convince his players that playing basketball could have a "calming effect" for them with all the outside distractions. But these have been far from calming times for the Wizards.

They played without Blatche, who was suspended for the Pistons game for conduct detrimental to the team. Blatche arrived at Verizon Center in the morning as he prepared to make a statement to lawyers before speaking with law enforcement authorities later in the afternoon.

Blatche was still unsure of the exact reason he was suspended Monday, saying he was shocked when he arrived for practice and Saunders sent him home. Blatche said the best he could surmise is that he was suspended because of his attitude during a timeout in Sunday's 115-110 loss to New Orleans.

A person with knowledge of the situation said Blatche sat six seats down the bench and stared at the scoreboard while coaches attempted to speak with him. On Monday, Blatche complained on his Facebook page about having no shot attempts in the game. He wrote, "Never have I played a game and had no shot attempts, they got me all [expletive] up."

Saunders addressed Blatche's concerns about shots before the morning shootaround. "I know he says 'I didn't get a shot.' If you're 6-10, 6-11, you can get an offensive rebound. For anybody who thinks that a coach has to run plays to get you shots, that's a team that's not going to be a good team," Saunders said. "My biggest thing since coming here, I've been to four straight conference championships, I have never ever, on those teams, had a player ask about shots. And since I've been here, my main focus is to change the number of players who say, 'I've got to get shots.' In Detroit for three years, I never had one player ever ask. Same thing in Minnesota. The only player I think I ever had in 14 years, was maybe Wally Szczerbiak, a few times. And 'Dray is one of them."

Blatche said he didn't say anything to the coaches about his lack of touches. He said the coaching staff told him to get in the low block on Sunday, but whenever he got in the post, "It's like I'm invisible." He said that's why he often drifts out to the perimeter to get the ball.

After the loss on Sunday, head athletic trainer Eric Waters approached Blatche and asked him to head to the training room to check on his knee. Blatche angrily responded, "Do I look like I care about my knee?" Blatche said he had complained about soreness in his left knee for almost a week and had never been offered treatment until he was dressed and ready to leave. "I'm always the guy they want to make an example of," he said.

Saunders said that his players have to change their priorities if the team is going to be successful. "I hope he comes back energized. I hope he comes back with a focus. I hope he understands what it takes to win," Saunders said of Blatche. "We have to have a mind-set change, if what we talk about doing is trying to be a winning team and winning a championship. It might not happen this year. If we want it to happen down the road, certain things have to change."

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