April 19 - The Grandest Wizard
Try to make it quick, because his team is probably going to be eliminated in the
first round of the playoffs.... but make sure you check out Gilbert Arenas of the
Washington Wizards in the playoffs this year.
Serious basketball folks might be mistaking me for a rube at this moment...
suddenly showing jump-on-the-bandwagon love for a guy who has been doing
20ppg for a few years now. The French call people like that an "arriviste." This
also isn't someone just now figuring out that Arenas can play. "Wow... it gets
dark almost every night..." No.
This also is not a "profound" revelation brought on by some narcotic. That's not
why I write for High Above Courtside. Well, kinda not why.... but I digress.
The reason you want to watch Arenas are legion. He's right up there with Kobe at the top of the
scoring charts. He killed my Celtics a few times this year on some last second shots. He gave
Milkwaukee 43 points last night, abusing poor T.J. Ford like a rental car. He's not just a gunner- he
generally runs the point, and is among the NBA leaders in asisstisis.
He's also a nice Horatio Alger story. He's a second round pick- which means that every single NBA
team passed on him at least once when selecting players.. http://www.nbadraft.net/2001.htm has the
whole list, but the fact that you've never heard of Jeryl Sasser or Kirk Haston doesn't change the fact
that they were drafted ahead of Arenas in the 2001 NBA draft. He not only made the team... he made
himself into a superstar and a millionaire.
He has particular hatred for the Celtics, which will always keep him on my radar. The Ghost Of Rick
Pitino passed over Arenas not once-not twice-but three times in that draft. They had traded their
second round pick that year, but they were planning on passing on him a fourth time if they had one.
Joe Johnson is a pretty nice player, but Kedrick Brown is out of the NBA, and Joe Forte just flunked
out of Europe.
Golden State fanned on him twice, but they ended up snagging Gil in the second round. Therefore, Gil
has focused on Boston. That two finger salute he got caught on film giving Boston's bench wasn't just
spur of the moment. He has gone what is probably a few steps past genuine dislike. Everyone else in
the NBA only passed on him once, so he generalizes them into a general chip on his shoulder. I'd do
the same thing- it saves him time and effort.
This hatred is but a small part of why Arenas is so goddamn funny. Gilbert isn't crazy. While I don't
know the man personally, he seems steady enough. He doesn't seem to be a threat to run amok and
kill people, like an Iverson or an Artest. If he were a rap act, no one would be stabbed at his live
performances. He's just a bit eccentric.
Eccentricity is different than insanity. Metaphorically, if you're looking at insanity as a charred steak,
Artest going after those poor people in that crowd is well done... Arenas is more of a medium rare.
Most of you are basically raw in this context, although we've all been on the grill for a hot minute.
If you read enough NBA news in your spare time, you gain valuable insights into the psyche of the
players. I always remembered Gilbert's stated distaste for Boston, and I remember him admitting to
the press that he played poorly because he had been up all night playing Xox. I recall reading about
him making an honest effort at mentoring the unpopular Kwame Brown... and I recall Kwame later
stating that he wanted to slap Arenas- generally the sign of a poor mentorship. Still, a couple of gems
have been mined from the psyche of Mount Arenas these past few weeks that merit your attention.
One of the best ones is his halftime routine. I've coached a few seasons, and
halftime is when you make adjustments, get chewed out, etc... Not Arenas. He
likes to play online poker. I've read this story in a few spots, and I don't know
how much money he throws around (or if he throws it around... you can play for
free all over that Intranert thing these days). His habit is tolerated, because he
produces. You can accept eccentricity. The Pacers were and the Kings are
hoping Artest is eccentric.
I'm stashing this story in the back of my memory... . and the day will come
when the second half is beginning as Gilbert is holding 4 aces. No matter how
it turns out, it will be fine entertainment. He will either:
- Not report for the start of the second half, so as to complete his poker hand. If this happens, he may
try to elicit sympathy by treating everyone in the arena to hot dogs or something if he wins. If he loses,
it's almost redundant to fine him. It'd make a good P.A. announcement... "the second half will be
delayed while Gilbert works his four aces." Maybe they could patch it up onto the Jumbotron.
- Collude with the refs to delay the start of the second half. "Four f***ing aces man, and you have
$87,000 in the ante!.... All right Gilbert... we'll measure the basket height or something. I have a
daughter in state college, I'll remind you."
- Bring his laptop on the court with him, while sympathetic Wizards just post up Jamison every play.
It's not like he's gonna be in it for 45 minutes or anything, and it'd be fun to watch.
- Arenas refuses to miss the start of the half, and hands the laptop to some terrified 14 year old
ballboy.... who then has to make a split-second decision with $75,000 of this huge brother's money
on the line.
And Gilbert collects his bets, believe you me. The Washington Times had an article about Gilbert's
2001 Monte Carlo. He never drives it- he only has it because he bet his Escalade against it in a game
of Halo 2 against one of his friends. It was a sucker bet, too- Arenas had his friend convinced that he
was an XBox novice, when nothing of the sort was true. He plans to offer his pal a chance to win it
Next to that rumor about L.T. losing $50,000 playing Chutes And Ladders at a celebrity party, it's my
favorite sports bet story. Arenas is said to bowl in the 270s, in case you're of the gambling sort