Arenas reaches terms on contract with Grizzlies
MEMPHIS, TENN. | The Memphis Grizzlies signed Gilbert Arenas for the rest of the season, filling a need at point guard. Contract details were not immediately available.
The oft-injured free agent had not played since finishing last season with the Orlando Magic. Arenas worked out for Memphis on Monday and will be used to back up point guard Mike Conley, who hasn’t had reliable relief all season.
Arenas, 30, has averaged 21.2 points and 5.4 assists in his nine-year career but no longer is an elite player because of knee injuries. The Orlando Magic acquired Arenas from the Washington Wizards last season but waived him in December through the new amnesty clause so his contract wouldn’t count against the salary cap.
Utah Jazz forward Josh Howard is expected to miss the rest of the season with an injured left knee. Howard, who signed with the Jazz as a free agent in December, averaged 8.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 41 games.
CINCINNATI | Punches flew. Blood dripped on the court. Two proud basketball programs saw their reputations stained in mere seconds last December, when Cincinnati and Xavier players lost their cool at the end of their game.
The moment would follow them everywhere for the next three months. The video was played countless times. The questions kept coming.
Finally, that’s changing. By reaching the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament together, the crosstown rivals have finally gotten beyond the brawl.
“It’s a good thing both teams are doing well now,” Xavier point guard Tu Holloway said Tuesday.
Far better than anyone expected three months ago, when four players from each team were suspended for the melee at the end of Xavier’s 76-53 win on its home court Dec. 10. It became a national talking point and a turning point for both teams.
Both teams have gotten past the fallout and made it deep into tournament time. Cincinnati (26-10) plays Ohio State (29-7) in Boston on Thursday in a regional semifinal. Xavier (2312) plays Baylor (29-7) in Atlanta on Friday.
The only time they think about the fight now is when it invariably comes up during interviews before NCAA tournament games. They don’t mind the question as much as the implication in some of them.
“After a win, they try to make it out as if we didn’t have that fight, we wouldn’t be where we are now, that the reason we’re playing so good is because of that,” Cincinnati power forward Yancy Gates said on Tuesday
Fair or not, the fight became the lens through which the rest of their seasons would be viewed.
Xavier was 8-0 and ranked No. 8 when Holloway, guard Mark Lyons and forward Dez Wells were among those suspended, costing the Musketeers their top three scorers and knocking everything out of sorts. They lost five of their next six games and had a tough time regaining their confidence and chemistry.
Plus, they seemed to be affected by the national attention, losing the toughness that Holloway and Lyons had bragged about after the Cincinnati game.
For the first time in six years, the Musketeers failed to win at least a share of the Atlantic 10 regular-season title. When they got to the A-10 tournament, they knew they had to win some games to keep playing.
Xavier reached the A-10 final in Atlantic City, then knocked off Notre Dame and Lehigh in the NCAA tournament to reach the round of 16 for the fourth time in five years.
They’re back in a familiar place, with their confidence restored.
“We played so free in Atlantic City because we knew we had so much against us,” Holloway said. “We knew if we lost our opening game, we’ be in the NIT. We play free with our backs against the wall. We just started clicking.”
With Nene replacing Javale Mcgee at center, and complementary pieces in Edwin Ubiles and Brian Cook in place of Nick Young, Washington’s coach knows it’s going to be a bit of a juggling act.
“We’ve got three new players that are trying to learn a whole new system, all three of them being from different systems,” Wittman said.
He compares the roster shakeup to taking over for Flip Saunders, who was fired Jan. 24.
His plan then, as it is now, is to simplify the offense.
“I don’t want the new guys out there ‘thinking’ what they’re supposed to do, I want them to go out there and play,” Wittman said.
He plans to play Nene and Kevin Seraphin together in spots and believes it will open up the offense since Nene can play power forward and center.
“I know Nene. He’s been in the league 10 years,” Wittman said. “Seeing him in practice, getting to know his likes and dislikes, that’s always important. But I’m going to throw him out there. He can swim.”
When asked about Nene’s ability to get out and run, Wittman joked, “I told him the altitude’s not as high here, so his lungs ought to be pretty good.”
With the ability to use Nene at two positions, and Seraphin showing significant improvement in recent weeks, Wittman plans to shelve Andray Blatche, who has looked out of shape and out of place on the court since his March 3 return from a calf injury that kept him out five weeks.
“We thought we could try to play him into shape once he got back,” Wittman said. “After looking at it, it’s unfair for me to put him in that position. We’re going to not play him for a while and get him into a program where he can go after it from a conditioning standpoint to get himself in shape.”
Wittman gave no timetable for Blatche’s return but said the team had enough bodies.
The new-look Wizards held their first full practice Tuesday. John Wall seems to approve of the changes.
“I think it will be good to have that low post presence,” the point guard said of Nene. “I think he can do a great job. We’ve just got to get him adjusted to the offense.” WIZARDS AT NEW JERSEY Today: TV: