Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy described Gilbert Arenas’ brief stint in Orlando last year as a “difficult situation” for the ten-year veteran.
However, he said doesn’t have any regrets on how he utilized the three-time All-Star shooting guard, who signed with the Memphis Grizzlies on March 20.
While speaking with reporters Thursday before the Magic played the Grizzlies at FedExForum, Van Gundy responded to Arenas’ recent comments in which Arenas publicly expressed his displeasure in having played for the Magic because Van Gundy made it virtually difficult for them to co-exist in his only season with the team.
Arenas said that Van Gundy spent a majority of last season disregarding him, going as far as to say that his former coach “basically sat me in a corner.” Additionally, he said he and Van Gundy never engaged in a personal conversation until after Orlando’s opening round playoff loss to Atlanta.
After serving an indefinite suspension the second half of the 2009-2010 season for conduct stemming from a December 24, 2009 incident in which he stored an unloaded handgun in his locker at Verizon Center, Arenas was traded to the Magic nearly a year later in exchange for Rashard Lewis.
During his 49-game stint with the team, Arenas made just two starts, both of which he felt took place when other players suffered injuries. He averaged 21.6 minutes per game, his lowest amount of playing time since his rookie season, and was eventually waived by the Magic 21 games into the 2011-12 campaign.
Van Gundy, meanwhile, said that while he understands Arena’s disappointment in how things played out in Orlando, he said wasn’t aware that Arenas’ role for the Magic affected his productivity in terms of adjusting to the team’s assortment of offensive schemes and his unorthodox style of coaching.
“I don’t think he took offense to it,” Van Gundy said of the Arenas’ role with the team. “I think he tried to do everything he could to help us win. I mean, he wasn’t there very long. It was short. It was on the fly. We didn’t get him until late December. There was no training camp, no offseason. There weren’t a lot of time. It was a tough situation for him, coming off the bench.”
So tough, in fact, that the 30-year-old Arenas, who averaged eight points per game during his brief tenure with the Magic, said he rarely left his apartment to tour the city of Orlando and that most of his best games took place on the road.
Despite Arenas and Van Gundy’s turbulent relationship, the two manage to connect during Thursday’s regular-season finale for the Magic and Grizzlies.
Arenas, who left the Grizzlies locker room without speaking with reporters, embraced several of his former teammates during pregame warm-ups. Then, before checking into the game at the 2:40 mark of the first quarter, Arenas walked over to the Orlando bench and greeted Van Gundy and his staff.
“At the end of the day, he’s still the same good guy he is,” Magic guard Jameer Nelson said of Arenas. “It was just casual conversation. When you play basketball with guys, you develop friendships with guys.”
When asked to assess the relationship between Arenas and Van Gundy last year, Nelson said, “I have no comment on that. I have no place to discuss that.”
Since signing with the Grizzlies, Arenas, who also played seven seasons for the Washington Wizard from 2004-2011, has appeared in 17 games for Memphis, averaging a career low 4.2 points.
The Magic play at the Indiana Pacers Saturday in Game 1 of their best-of-7 Eastern Conference playoff series.
The Grizzlies, who secured homecourt advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs with Thursday night’s 88-76 win over Orlando, will host the Los Angeles Clippers Sunday in Game 1.
Andre Johnson is a regular contributor for MemphiSport. Follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.