MIAMI — Mike Bibby and Flip Saunders were sharing a laugh in the Washington Wizards locker room Friday night, standing so close to each other that no one could hear their words.
It could be the first of many player-coach chats they share in the coming weeks.
Some lingering paperwork was finally completed Friday afternoon, formally closing the books on the trade that brought Bibby to the Wizards and clearing the way for him to make his debut with the Wizards when they visited the Miami Heat.
“We had a good talk,” Saunders said. “We just talked about his role as far as on this team right now. The more he’s with us, the more he gains. … He is going to play some tonight.”
Bibby checked in at the start of the second quarter against the Heat. It was his first time with his new team — and that doesn’t just mean in game situations, either.
Bibby was a spectator when the Wizards held a shootaround practice in Miami on Friday morning, still held up by the paperwork issues. There was speculation he may seek a buyout of his deal, in which he’s making nearly $5.6 million this season and just under $6.2 million next season.
For his part, though, Bibby sounded fine with being in Washington for now, even though leaving the Hawks almost certainly means he’ll be watching the postseason from home this spring.
“I’m not even worried about it,” Bibby said. “It’s my first day here. I’m trying to soak it all in. I have no control over that.”
The Hawks agreed Wednesday to trade Bibby and two other players to Washington for Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong.
Washington views Bibby as someone who can help both as a player — he’s averaging 9.4 points and 3.6 assists this season — and as a mentor to John Wall, the team’s No. 1 pick and one of the top rookies in the league.
Saunders is even talking about playing them side-by-side.
“We can play him and John together because of John’s size,” Saunders said.
Some members of Bibby’s family can relate to what he’s going through, because, well, it happened to Heat guard Eddie House last season. They’re brothers-in-law, and last winter, it was Bibby watching when House got sent from the championship-contending Boston Celtics to the then-lowly New York Knicks.
“We just talked about how crazy it is because I went through the same stuff last year,” House said. “You go from a contender to a team that is literally done in April so we just talked about that like how crazy that is dealing with that.”
Bibby said he was surprised by the trade, but stopped short of saying he was angry.
“It’s hard, but that’s the nature of this business,” Bibby said. “I’ve been traded before. I know what it’s like. You never know it’s coming. You hear the rumors, but you always think it’s rumors. It hurts, but you’ve got to get through it. There’s nothing I can do. I’ll just try to help this team as much as I can.”