Q&A: Mike Jones of the Washington Times on his Gilbert Arenas story (Part 1)

Earlier today, I exchanged a few e-mails with Mike Jones of the Washington Times about his story and subsequent blog posts on Gilbert Arenas.  Mike's a new addition to the Wizards beat, but he's done a great job covering the team since he started a couple seasons ago.  This story, in which he scooped the Washington Post, may be his coming out party nationally, but rest assured, he's been doing great work for a while now.

I asked Mike several questions about Arenas and the story he wrote.  I'm going to post this in two parts - one right now and one tomorrow morning.  On behalf of the entire community, I want to thank Mike for taking the time to answer these questions.

Make the jump for more.

Mike Prada: We all know Gil's been a pretty elusive guy all summer, really since the 2008 playoffs.  Without giving away any "secrets," how exactly were you able to get him to talk to you so you could write this story?

Mike Jones: I'd love to tell you that I had a secret to getting him to talk, but it's nothing profound. It all goes back to a lesson my first editor told me back when I was at a small-town paper back in Virginia 10 years ago: You have to build a relationship with your sources, and work to earn their trust and then it will pay off. I've tried to do that with all the Wizards, but especially Gil. We talk about non-Wizards stuff -- video games, movies, music, tattoos, politics, football, whatever. I feel like we've developed a good rapport.

But... a lot of dealing with him is luck. You have to catch him at the right time. I've had times in the past where I'll ask for a comment, and he'll say he's not talking, and then later that afternoon find out that he walked right out the door and changed his mind and talked to the next reporter he ran into. I was fortunate this summer. I tried to keep a steady flow of contact with him, and this time it worked because eventually when he was ready, we went ahead and began on-the-record work for the story.

Mike Prada: What do you know about the specific type of training Gil did at the ATTACK facility?  

Mike Jones: Tim Grover said it was "too many methods to quickly break down" but said a lot of acupuncture, a lot of massage, (Gil said deeper than deep tissue massage that was extremely painful), a lot of range of motion work, weight training ... Grover said it wasn't until the six-week mark that he unleashed Gil to partake in basketball action.

Mike Prada: Gil claimed the Wizards' medical staff treated him like a "case study" and didn't do a good job of "holding him back from himself?"  How much truth is there in those statements, particularly when a couple of years ago, the doctors seemed like they were indeed trying to hold him back?  What was Gil trying to get across?

Mike Jones: I think what Gil was trying to say as far as the case study part was that his situation was one that the Wizards' medical staff had never seen, and that's why he didn't blame them for the failed comebacks. He said he did, however, find fault with management not saying "Sorry, but we're going to hold you back whether you like it or not." Now, how well that would've worked, I don't know. I have a feeling it wouldn't have gone well. But Gil, now having gone through a tough two years, believes that he probably would've benefited from that. He did add, as you probably saw, "but, I can't judge them. I told them I felt fine, so what were they supposed to do," or something to that effect.

Mike Prada: Gil said the Wizards didn’t want him lifting weights because he might chip a bone.  Is that true, or was that hyperbole?  What did the doctors specifically tell him to do and how much did he follow their plan?

Mike Jones: From what I was able to observe and from what Gil told me in the past, this was true. (Ernie Grunfeld doesn't let the trainers speak publicly for interviews, else I would have loved to get their take on this).  But yes, I was told that they first wanted him to get stronger through other training methods and THEN start with the weightlifting. Grover said "they had a different way" of doing things, but that since Gil started training in Chicago, he and the Wizards' trainers had been speaking often and working on learning new methods of rehab from Grover and his team.

Mike Prada: He mentioned something about the Wizards using him to sell tickets.  What exactly was he referring to there?

Mike Jones: This statement here was rather damning, but humorous at the same time. Had they not featured him on that big billboard on the front of the Verizon Center, he probably wouldn't have been upset. But in his mind (and I don't know if it was true or not because I don't know the behind-closed-doors going on), they were eager to take his word for it that he felt good so they could market him and say "He's back!"

Stay tuned for Part II tomorrow morning!

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