Few players in the league understand Gilbert Arenas like Knicks guard Larry Hughes. Hughes and Arenas were best buddies as members of the Wizards before Hughes signed with Cleveland, and Hughes still talks to Arenas regularly. In fact, Hughes is wearing #0 this year since he got to New York in honor of Arenas (before you ask, this was a decision he made at the beginning of the season, not after Arenas' incident with Javaris Crittenton.
Before tonight's game, Hughes held court with a number of writers (both DC and New York) and talked about his friend Arenas. A transcript of that interview follows below the jump:
Reporter: Gilbert has talked about how much it set the team back when you left as a free agent. Is that something you still ever think about? Do you ever have any regrets about signing with Cleveland and going away from DC?
Larry Hughes: It was an opportunity for me, an opportunity to move forward as far as the playoffs, basketball knowledge and things like that. I went over [to Cleveland], we won a lot of games, made it to the Finals, had that experience. But I definitely always keep the guys over here, the organization and the city as kind of a second home, second NBA city for me. I enjoyed the time I spent here. I'll always think that the basketball decision I made was good. As far as personal [decision], it could have been a little different, but I definitely made the right basketball decision because I gained a lot of knowledge and a lot of experience as far as playoff series and big games. As far as what it takes to win in this league, I learned a lot.
Reporter: How much have you talked to Gilbert, if at all, this season?
LH: I talked to him early on once the season got started. I haven't talked to him since the events as far as him being suspended. I'm just giving him time just to get himself together and reflect on what's going on. I'm sure he'll call me when he's ready.
Reporter: Have you tried to reach out to him with a text message or anything like that?
LH: Yeah, yeah, I sent him a message, left him a voicemail. I understand that, when you make a mistake and everybody's kind of watching you, you kind of need your space and time to get everything right. He'll start returning phone calls once he gets back focused.
Reporter: You've played with him, you know him well. What's maybe not coming through in the reports that are out there that we should know about him?
LH: I think everything has been reported, as far as him being a jokester and that, him really not grasping what he did wrong when he first did it, because he's a joking guy. That's been reported. I don't think he's been held as a guy who's been a thuggish guy or anything like that. I think he's been kind of portrayed [as a guy who] made a mistake and didn't handle it the right way.
Reporter: In terms of the pranks, was there anything he did where you thought that maybe it was a little too much or maybe he should calm down with this jokes, or was it all in good fun with him?
LH: A lot of that stuff happened after I left, as far as really going toward that line, so I don't know detail on what actually went down. While I was here, it was much more kiddie than anything. I don't really want to speak on that because I was gone by then.
Reporter: What's the funniest thing he did with you?
LH: He didn't play jokes on me. (chuckles). We had an understanding. He would always tell me he was going to do something, if there was a chance I would get involved, he would let me know.
Reporter: Did you choose #0 because of him?
LH: Yeah, yeah I did. Number 20 was taken, so he was the next number in line.
Reporter: Did he give you a hard time about that?
LH: Nah, he didn't even know until I said something about it. I think I said something about it early on in the paper once I got zero. He didn't know.
Reporter: Of all the people you could have taken the jersey after, why Gilbert?
LH: He's one of my best friends in this league. We have history. I was there when he came in. I looked out for him. We just got close and we're friends. I did it for that reason.
Reporter: When David Stern initially suspended Gil indefinitely, one of the things he said is that he wanted to protect Gil from himself. You said he needed some space, so in light of what the commissioner said, is that kind of in line with how you feel? Was it right to suspend him like that so he can get everything together and kind of reflect?
LH: I think he understands what he did wrong. I think the commissioner made a respectable decision. I don't think there was any malice to his decision as far as suspending him for the remainder of the season. I think Gil respects that, because he did make a big mistake. Obviously, he doesn't want to lose that playing time, lose that money as far as being without pay, but I think he understands that he made a big enough mistake that warranted being punished like he was punished. I think he'll be back. He'll be back.
Reporter: Do you see him coming back here?
LH: Honestly, I do [see him back here]. I think this is a special place. When you played here and the city gets behind you, you realize what the fans want, what the city wants. The organization is just behind you. I think he'll come to realize that. I can see it, I can see it. It always [is like], when you get in trouble, you're mad at the authority, but I think it'll blow over. I expect to see him back here.
Reporter: Do you think he might have to go the extra mile to make amends with the fans here?
LH: The fans love him here. I obviously haven't been in the city to know exactly what's been said about him, but when I come back from playing in Cleveland, I see that they love him. Obviously, he'll have to get out and really speak upon what's going on, but I don't think they'll hold a grudge against him.
Reporter: The team took down a banner featuring him, stopped selling his jersey and took down other pictures of him at the Verizon Center. Do you think they were justified in taking those actions after it happened?
LH: That's the decision that they had to make. They had to protect the name of the organization. It's bigger than just one guy, the owner or the GM or the coach. It's an organization and they have to protect that. Guys around us, they still know he's a big part of what's going on here and what went on here, so I think things will get back to normal.