Arenas Vows Next Season He’ll Be ‘Better Than Ever’
All-star guard Gilbert Arenas says he plans to spend this summer rehabilitating his surgically repaired left knee, not lobbying for major changes to the Washington Wizards’ roster.
Arenas, who met with reporters before last night’s Game 3 against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Verizon Center, said he plans to come back “better than ever” next season. He has been out since tearing meniscus in his left knee against Charlotte on April 4 and underwent surgery the following day.
“I have a long summer, I’m not going on vacation this summer,” said Arenas, who will be featured on the cover of the popular video game “NBA Live” when it is released in October. “We’ll stay here and make sure this knee is 100 percent. I’m going to come back stronger than I was last year. Faster. I have to work at it.”
Arenas said he hopes the Wizards keep their core group together.
With Arenas racking up huge scoring games and hitting game-winning shots, Caron Butler playing at an all-star level and Antawn Jamison adding scoring and rebounding, the team went 22-9 in December and January and rose to the top of the Eastern Conference.
Arenas and Butler joined Coach Eddie Jordan in representing the Wizards at AllStar Weekend in Las Vegas in February and Washington came out of the all-star break looking like a team that could win between 45 to 50 games and make a deep playoff run.
Those hopes were damaged by injuries to Jamison and Butler and really took a hit when Butler went out for the season with a broken bone in his right hand on April 1 and when Arenas went down a few days later.
“At the end of the day, I still want to give this team one more shot when we’re healthy,” Arenas said, “because we were one of the top teams in this league for a while there and we showed that we can be a dangerous team.”
Arenas has two seasons remaining on his contract but could opt out following the 2007-08 season if he and the team do not agree to an extension. Arenas has repeatedly stressed a desire to compete for a championship and has said he fears falling into a position similar to those experienced by perennial all-stars Allen Iverson and Kevin Garnett in recent years — great players with big contracts who got stuck on noncontending teams.
“I have one more year to see how everything pans out, so going into next summer it is going to be: Either this team is going where I think it can go, or is it my time to move on?” Arenas said. “In December and January, we were one of the best in this league but you always need to improve. It’s hard to say what players need to go and what players need to stay because over the course of the year you fall in love with all of them, so that’s the big man upstairs’ decision. I can’t make that decision. Whoever comes on that floor with me, I’m going to go to battle.”
Arenas said he won’t offer opinions to President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld, who kick-started the franchise’s resurgence shortly after taking over in the summer of 2003 by signing Arenas.
“No, I’m a player and I think that’s where players get mixed up sometimes,” Arenas said. “ In this league, there are players, there are [general managers] and there are coaches. Whoever steps on that floor, that’s who I roll with.”
Arenas said doctors have told him that he could be cleared to resume full basketball activity by August. He is leaning toward not training with the U.S. men’s national team as it attempts to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.