Their recent results may prove otherwise.
A day after their controversial guard was in the news again, the Wizards will try to avoid a fourth straight loss Friday night when they visit the Chicago Bulls, winners of three in a row.
While Saunders was hoping Washington’s current two-game road trip would help his club temporarily forget the legal troubles surrounding Arenas, that continues to become tougher to do.
The former All-Star was charged Thursday with felony gun possession in connection with a Dec. 21 locker room confrontation involving teammate Javaris Crittenton(notes). Arenas, who was suspended indefinitely by NBA commissioner David Stern on Jan. 6, could face a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Crittenton, who’s yet to play this season after foot surgery, has been excused by the team from practices and games while authorities investigate.
“I don’t think it’s ever going to be out of our minds,” said Saunders, whose team is 1-4 since Arenas’ suspension. “They haven’t had a chance to catch their breath and concentrate on being a basketball player. I think everyone was happy to get on the plane, to get away.”
Arenas, averaging a team-leading 22.6 points and 7.2 assists this season, is scheduled to make a court appearance Friday and indications are that a plea agreement has been reached.
Later in the day, the Wizards (12-25) will try to bounce back from Wednesday’s 94-82 loss at Atlanta.
Antawn Jamison(notes) had 25 points with a season-high 19 rebounds while Randy Foye(notes) added 18 with eight assists for the Wizards, who did their best to remain competitive despite shooting 35.8 percent.
“I think it shoes the character of a guy like Jamison that we didn’t quit,” Saunders said after Washington lost for the eighth time in 10 games and fell to 6-14 on the road.
With Arenas out, Jamison has carried the load on both ends of the floor. The veteran forward is averaging 22.4 points and 8.8 rebounds this season, and 29.0 with 10.7 in his last six games.
He’s averaging 22.8 points and 12.2 rebounds in his last six games against Chicago, which has won three of the last four meetings with the Wizards.
While Washington is looking to change its recent fortunes, the Bulls (17-20) seek their season high-tying fourth straight victory after winning 96-83 at Boston on Thursday.
Chicago is averaging 108.7 points and shooting 51.4 percent while taking each of its last three games by double digits. The Bulls last won four in a row from Dec. 26-Jan. 2.
Luol Deng(notes) scored 25 points, Derrick Rose(notes) added 17 and Joakim Noah(notes) had 15 points with 11 rebounds as Chicago outlasted a Celtics team without injured big men Kevin Garnett(notes) and Rasheed Wallace(notes).
“I think when Lu plays the way he did, and Rose played, it was just a team effort,” said Noah, who has 19 double-doubles this season.
While Deng has scored 52 points in his last two games, Noah is averaging 14.7 and 11.8 boards in his last six contests.
Chicago, which has won two in a row at home over Washington, is trying for a third straight victory overall at the United Center before opening a season-high seven-game road trip against Golden State on Monday.