By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 13, 2010; 11:35 PM
Gilbert Arenas stepped out of the shower on Tuesday night at Verizon Center and spotted Nick Young standing on the opposite side of the locker room. Arenas moved a towel from his shoulder to cover his mouth and whispered toward Young, "Sacrifice."
Young leaned back and chuckled, telling Arenas that he had already mentioned that Arenas had "sacrificed" so that Young could start and score a team-high 24 points in the Washington Wizards' 107-92 win over the Atlanta Hawks. Arenas sat out the game with what Coach Flip Saunders said was a "sore left knee" but when asked to explain what Young meant, Arenas offered a flippant response.
"Yeah, I told him I'd sacrifice playing tonight so he'd get some time. Because I know he's kind of frustrated not getting a chance to crack the three position, especially since we're going three guards. So I told him I'd fake an injury or say something's wrong with me, so he can start."
Arenas found out on Wednesday that he was sacrificing a portion of his salary as well after Saunders fined the three-time all-star guard an undisclosed amount for his deception. Saunders said he received a text message around 12:30 a.m. informing him that Arenas had pretended to be hurt to give his good friend an opportunity.
He addressed the situation in meetings with Arenas and the team. "I told him, 'I'm most disappointed personally, because I believe in you.' There has been a trust factor. I told him, 'You have to be honest with me,'" Saunders said. "In my conversation with both him and in front of the team, was when you guys indicate to me that you're in a situation that you can't play, I can't judge when someone is hurt or not hurt. Only you can tell us that. When you indicate and say that to me, that's what I go by."
Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld said: "Gilbert's actions and comments [Tuesday] night compromised the integrity of the game and were unacceptable. He has been fined as a result and we now consider this matter closed."
Arenas apologized for not being forthcoming with Saunders but said he was only trying to help a teammate get more playing time.
"I was trying to be a good teammate. Nick wanted to play, and since we are guard-loaded, I felt I'd take the day off, and I lied to coach and told him my knee was sore so he could start Nick," Arenas said. "Obviously, no one's taken it well. I was just trying to help out Nick, get some playing time under his belt because he's been working hard at practice. I screwed up again, so I just want to say, 'Sorry.' "
"I messed up again," said Arenas, who skipped a preseason home opener that would've been his first game since returning from a 50-game suspension for bringing guns into the locker room. "I'll never do it again."
Arenas said he probably should've handled the situation differently.
"In hindsight, yes, but I wasn't really thinking that this was going to be another media outburst," he said. "If I wouldn't have made any comments, you guys wouldn't have known, right? Let's just say I blew it again. . . . It's like everything I do now, someone tit for tat, try to blow it out of proportion. At the end of the day, Nick is happy. He got to play, got to show that he can play, and I'm out here taking all the heat again. I made my teammate happy."
But after speaking with reporters, Arenas was looking for Young to return the favor. He called Young from the practice court and while walking him to the locker room, Arenas jokingly asked, "You paying my fine money? It's bigger than me now."
When asked if he would pay Arenas's fine, Young said, "Nah, cause I don't know nothing about it, and he got a lot more money than I do.
"I guess it's just Gil being Gil," Young said. "I don't really know what was going on. I just went out there and played my game, started, got the opportunity and just wanted to play basketball."
Young admitted that he had expressed his frustration over his lack of playing time to Arenas. Saunders implemented a three-guard starting lineup through the first three preseason games, limiting Young's opportunities to get playing time at either shooting guard, his natural position, or small forward. "If you love the game, you want to play the game," Young said, adding that he appreciated Arenas's ill-conceived gesture. "Oh yeah, of course. I want to be out there on the court, and if he did, he felt it was a good thing to do. But like I said, when I heard I was starting, I was ready."
Young had his best performance of the preseason, as he made four three-pointers and shot 10 for 14 from the field. "I love the way he played, offensively," Saunders said. "But he played  minutes and he didn't have an assist or a rebound. I'd like him to improve on that, and not just be one-dimensional and be a shooter. But he shot the ball well. All of our guys know that when Nick does get on a roll, he can score as well as anybody in bunches."
Saunders said his decision to start Young had less to do with Arenas's fake injury, but more to do with the absence of Al Thornton, who was forced to sit with a sprained left ankle. "I told the team, 'I dictate who plays.' No player is going to dictate who plays."
When asked if Arenas would be available for Thursday's game against Milwaukee at Verizon Center, Saunders replied: "We'll have to see how he feels."