WASHINGTON (AP) — With various players missing for various reasons, including some who had to talk to authorities about the Gilbert Arenas gun investigation, only eight members of the Washington Wizards were warming up on court Tuesday as coach Flip Saunders spoke nearby.
“Right now, there is definitely going to be discipline,” Saunders intoned, “whether they like it or not.”
Clearly, Saunders has his hands full at the moment. He is in his first year with a team dealing with far more serious matters than its 12-24 record after Tuesday night’s 99-90 loss to the visiting Detroit Pistons — a club that had lost its previous 13 games.
“We just weren’t mentally alert,” Saunders said after the game.
Asked how much the short-handed practices and distractions might have played a role in the defeat, Saunders said: “I don’t want to blame it on that, because we might have a lot of those days here over the next month.”
Two Wizards, Javale McGee and Mike Miller, were absent from the morning shootaround because they were going to be questioned about what happened with Arenas, who was suspended indefinitely by the NBA last week.
“It’s hard, because every day we’ve been going through so much,” guard Nick Young said.
Another player, Andray Blatche, also was slated to be speaking about the Arenas case — and he was barred from practicing anyway Tuesday, having been suspended for the Pistons game for conduct detrimental to the team.
“He said, ‘Well, I didn’t get a shot in a game.’ If you’re 6-10, 6-11, you can get a shot by getting an offensive rebound and getting shots. Anybody, whether it’s him or anybody, that thinks a coach has to run plays to get you shots — that’s the sign of a team that’s not going to be a very good team,” Saunders said.
Later in the day, asked whether the 6-foot-11 Blatche might feel he’s being singled out, Saunders said: “It’s like dealing with your kids. You have to do things. As I tried to explain when I talked to Andray: ‘It’s not against you. It’s against what you did. How you acted. So it’s nothing against you.’ I don’t hold grudges over those type of things.”
Caron Butler wasn’t at the morning shootaround because of what Saunders called “an accident in his family” but he did play against Detroit.
“It’s been a little chaotic around here for the most part the last couple days,” said Butler, who spoke to authorities on Monday. “That’s something that you don’t want to have to keep revisiting. As a player, you want to focus on basketball and basketball only.”
Also missing Tuesday was Arenas, of course. As was Javaris Crittenton, whose Dec. 21 spat with Arenas prompted the three-time All-Star to take guns out of his locker at the team’s arena.
Crittenton, who has been out all season with an injury, has been excused by the team from practices and games while the legal process plays out. Arenas has acknowledged keeping guns in his locker and taking them out in a “misguided effort to play a joke,” while Crittenton has kept a low profile, revealing no details about the incident and saying through his lawyer that he did nothing wrong.
Saunders and at least seven Wizards players have been questioned in the case.
The coach singled out co-captains Antawn Jamison and Butler, along with Miller as players who are “totally committed” to doing what it takes to win, despite all that is going on around the team.
Saunders also made clear he wouldn’t hesitate to find ways to get players to adapt to how he wants them to play.
“This is how things are going to be, and if guys aren’t going to act that way — if we have to play with five guys, we’ll play with five guys,” Saunders said. “We have to have a mindset change.”
Asked how difficult it would be to change his players’ mindset, Saunders replied: “It’s going to be really easy. You’ve seen them on the bench. That’s the easiest way.”