Are­nas reaches terms on con­tract with Griz­zlies

The Washington Times Daily - - Sports -

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:

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