This is part 2 of my e-mail exchange with Washington Times beat reporter Mike Jones on his Gilbert Arenas story and subsequent blog posts. Part I can be found here. In this part, we discuss Arenas' comments about leadership, his thoughts on the Princeton offense and the reaction of the front office to Arenas' comments.Mike Prada: At one point, Gilbert mentioned that Eddie Jordan "didn't want him to be his leader," but at the same time, Gil himself shied away from being a leader in the past. How much truth do you think there is to the statement that Eddie didn't want Gil to lead?
Mike Jones: Gil said this went back to when he first got to Washington, but didn't want to further divluge, "because it's in the past." But, I've heard from multiple insiders that Eddie didn't want Gil in the first place, and that he wanted Kevin Ollie instead. I've been told that Gil was expecting to get drafted by New Jersey, but "an assistant" told them he wouldn't be a good fit for the offense, and Gil always believed that to be Eddie from what he heard. People close to Gil tell me that Gil quickly felt that Eddie didn't trust him, or appreciate him. So, whether it was real or imagined, he believed Eddie didn't want him leading his squad. This was before I was on the beat, so I don't know first-hand.
Mike Prada: What do you see as the differences, if any, in the way Flip Saunders has encouraged Gilbert to lead and how Eddie Jordan encouraged Gilbert to lead? Why is Gil praising Flip’s methods while criticizing Eddie’s?
Mike Jones: Gil's a sensitive guy, and likes to feel appreciated. Flip has made him feel this way so far and even asked for his input on things, which I'm told by a few Wizards, isn't something Eddie did. Flip has worked to build a relationship with Gil, and also is trying to make sure Gil knows exactly what he wants from him while at the same time making it clear, I'm the coach, THIS is what I want you to do. And for whatever reason, this has Gil thinking this is the start of a great thing.
Mike Prada: Gil called the Princeton a "thinking man’s offense" and said it was a bad system for the young players on the team. Some felt he was putting down the teams’ young players. What was he trying to get across here?
Mike Jones: This is Gil keeping it real. Some of the younger Wizards have admittedly struggled with learning Eddie's system. Nick [Young] and Andray [Blatche] have both said they couldn't always remember plays. Gil says if you look at teams that ran the Princeton, it was more experienced squads like New Jersey, and to some degree Sacramento. He feels like this more traditional, more free-flowing offense the Wizards will be in now will better suit the young Wizards. Some times simple is better. We'll see ...
Mike Prada: Gil also mentioned how he felt the team needed more size. In general, he was much less optimistic about the teams' chances than Caron Butler or Antawn Jamison. Why do you think so and what message, if any, is he trying to send?
Mike Jones: He repeatedly refused to make a prediction, but said he feels talent-wise, that the team is back to the level they were in 2005, 2006. He said compared to Cleveland, LA, Boston, they don't have as much size across the board. But he does feel like Ernie [Grunfeld] is putting in place the right pieces. He said "We're headed back in the right direction now." I think he wants to be cautious and make sure that he can stay healthy before he goes off making bold predictions.
Mike Prada: What type of response, if any, have you received from the team about Gil’s comments? In particular, how does management feel about his comments?
Mike Jones: I've gotten a lot of responses, about 70-30 (sic.) on Gil's comments. Most people are like "What do you mean, you need to be held back? Man up!" Others are more along the lines of "maybe they did need to hold him back some more, but the more stupid thing was paying him all that money when he wasn't right." Then there are "Yeah, why'd they use him like that?!" Everybody has their view.
I've spoken with a team insider, and no one is really rubbed the wrong way. Of course there were probably some "Say what?!", some eye-brows raised and some eyes-rolling going on over there at Verizon Center. But, for the most part, I don't think there were many seriously ruffled feathers.