Still, head coach Flip Saunders and captain Antawn Jamison were in a reflective mood about their experiences with Arenas, who had led the Wizards to their greatest run of success in two decades before first injuring his left knee three seasons ago, then violating the NBA's gun policy by bringing three unloaded firearms to the locker room last month.
"You hope that what he's gonna be able to do, he'll get things going in the right direction as far as what happens to him in March (when Arenas is sentenced for his guilty plea to a felony gun possession charge), and he'll get on with his life and get on with his career.''
When Saunders was hired in the offseason in the wake of the Wizards' 19-63 season, the player he spent the most time speaking to in person and on the phone was Arenas, while he rehabbed his latest knee operation after having played just two games that season. Saunders sold him on the idea of being the point guard rather than the combo guard he had been before, of emulating his former point guard in Detroit, Chauncey Billups, and on accepting the leadership mantle more than he ever had. In return, Arenas began the season pledging to prove Saunders right -- in part by being more serious and dropping the old "Agent Zero'' and "Hibachi'' personas. To a man, the Wizards players and coaches talked before the season about not only returning to the playoffs, but reaching the Eastern Conference finals.
Instead, they go to play the 4-40 Nets Friday with the second-worst record in the East at 14-30, and with the certainty of the absence of Arenas and Javaris Crittenton, also suspended for the rest of the season.
"I'm disappointed in the situation that's evolved, as anybody would be,'' Saunders said, "but it doesn't take away from how I feel about him. But like I said, the most important thing is, I hope that as a person he gets on with his life and gets on with his career when the time comes.''
Jamison and Arenas had been teammates at Golden State for a season, 2001-02, and for the past six season in Washington; they reached the playoffs in each of their first four seasons as Wizards and in 2005 helped win a playoff series for the franchise for the first time in 23 years.
"I'd be lying to you if I told you I (was not) struggling a little bit,'' Jamison said. "I thought last year was tough, but it's very disappointing. Expectations -- a couple of years ago, second round, on the door step trying to break through, and now we're at the bottom of the pack, and you ask questions like, 'Where did it go wrong?' So for me, I'm struggling a little bit.
"When I get on that court, all of it goes away; for those three hours, there's an outlet for me, I can have fun, I can compete. But to be honest, it's embarrassing to go through the things we've been through this year and have the expectations we had as a group. To be where we're at right now, it's a very disappointing season.''
However, Jamison said he is not so disappointed that he wants to be traded. Speculation remains high that the Wizards will move their best assets by the Feb. 18 trade deadline, primarily Jamison -- who still had an outside chance later Thursday to be named an Eastern Conference reserve for next month's All-Star Game -- and Caron Butler.
Asked if he wanted to stay amidst all the turmoil on the Wizards, Jamison said, "Yeah. I'm not gonna run. I want to win more than anything. Nothing has been said to me. I see those guys (in the front office) every day. I'm not asking to leave. This is my job. I'm gonna sit here and fight and continue to do what I do until I'm not here anymore.
"After what we've been through and the way things have gone, this is home for me. It's tough right now and we're disappointed right now, but it's building character in myself, and I'll keep fighting night after night and do it with a smile and see what happens.''