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Ernie Grunfeld on Gilbert Arenas' future: "If he wants to play, this is the place he's going to play"

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It was supposed to be a press conference about the departures of Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson.  It was supposed to be a way for the general manager to explain why he decided to go in a completely new direction with his team.

But as with all things Wizards this year, the subject of Gilbert Arenas came up.  It took a while for someone to ask the question, presumably because many assumed Ernie Grunfeld wouldn't have much to say about him.  

But this was a franker Ernie Grunfeld than usual, particularly on the subject of Arenas.  Grunfeld threw in a few qualifiers as usual, but if you take Grunfeld's comments today at face value, Arenas' future with the Wizards may not be in jeopardy after all.

"If he wants to play, this is the place he's going to play," Grunfeld told assembled media at Verizon Center today, reiterating that Arenas has four years left on his contract.  "He's still one of the top players in the league.  He averaged 23 points and seven assists.  He's under contract and he's going to be with us."

 

Grunfeld didn't say what the Wizards specifically planned on doing with Arenas, saying they'll sit down in the summer to discuss that, but he at least publicly seemed to support Arenas today.

"Gilbert's a basketball player.  That's what he likes to do.  That's his life.  Obviously this is a tough situation for him, it's a tough situation for everybody.  We all feel for him because he loves to play the game so much and this is something he really misses.  Nobody wants to see anybody go through something like this."

 

Grunfeld said the Wizards organization has, in fact, kept in touch with Arenas since the suspension, though he added that Arenas was "gone for a while after the incident happened."  He's not allowed on team facilities, but they have been in contact with him.  

"He's back in town getting therapy and working on things with our training staffs."

There was only one awkward moment.  One reporter asked Grunfeld how he'd describe his own relationship with Arenas.  Grunfeld deadpinned for a second, as if he wasn't expecting the question, and said in a low voice, "It's fine."  Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but the comments he made about Arenas besides that indicate that a return is actually possible.