Gilbert Arenas: "I'm Not Quirky."
I had no idea what I was stepping into when I walked into the Wizards locker room before their victory against the Charlotte Bobcats yesterday. Gilbert Arenas had something he needed to get off of his chest: He is getting sick and tired of being labeled, "quirky" and he wanted to talk to me about it - with every player in the locker room serving as the audience.
Wizards reserve Calvin Booth was sitting in a chair playing video poker on his computer when Arenas looked at me and said, "See, that's the same game I played. But when I do it I'm weird. Calvin's normal. I'm just weird. Quirky."
For a bit of a refresher, Arenas admitted last year that he played video poker during halftime at home games - a revelation that would've raised eyebrows with many, but was marked off as more "Gilbertology" for him.
"What is quirky?" Arenas asked me, seeking a definition. "Why do people always call me quirky?"
I told Gilbert that "quirky" is a nice way of saying he's special; that people call him quirky because, well, "you're a little different."
"What are you talking about?" Arenas said. "I'm not different!"
Brendan Haywood, sitting about 10 feet away, quickly lifted his head and said, "You are different, Gilbert."
"No I'm not. What makes me different?" he asked.
I tried to come up with all the reasons that I have labeled him quirky and eccentric in my time covering him. Arenas is often painted as a bit of a goofball by those of us in media. I know that I've helped contribute to the quirky label - but so has he. C'mon, Sports Illustrated dubbed him the 'Wizard of Odd' with good reason. I'm embarassed to admit that I never thought that I'd need to prepare myself to have a discussion with Arenas about what makes him weird. I figured some things are universally understood. Sky is to blue as Gilbert Arenas is to quirky.
Needless to say, since I wasn't ready, I didn't have all of my "Gilbertology" material readily available in my mental Rolodex (do Rolodexes still exist?) - such as the jersey tossing, the obsessive late-night workouts, the strange superstitions, the time he got ejected from a game when he was on the injured list or even his recent revelation in Esquire magazine that he sleeps on a COUCH in his bedroom instead of the bed. Even then, we're just scratching the surface with Arenas.
The first thing that came to mind was how he used to train his pit bulls on a treadmill during his time with the Golden State Warriors. I said, "Most people don't do that."
Arenas argued back. "What? My dogs needed exercise. Otherwise, they'd be in a bad mood."
Haywood began to laugh. I shook my head and began to laugh, too, until Wizards reserve James Lang entered the discussion and said, "I put my dog on the treadmill. I've got a pit bull."
"See!" Arenas said. "That's what I'm talking about. I'm not weird. I'm advanced."
"I think you're weird, Gilbert," guard DeShawn Stevenson said while getting dressed.
I told Gilbert we're all a little quirky in our own way, "But nobody wakes up, looks at themselves in the mirror and says, 'You know what? I'm a wierdo.' " The locker room was filled with laughter.
Then I mentioned how when he was in Golden State, he once broke into Chris Mills's house, stole his throwback jersey, then wore it on the team plane to upset him. "That's not weird. That's just funny," Arenas said, laughing to himself.
"No," Haywood said. "That's break-in and entry. And don't play with me like that."
Then I reminded him about having the oxygen level in his house converted to the Colorado altitude and how he planned on taking an oxygen tent with him on the road this season. "That's a little weird, Gilbert," I said.
"No, it's not!" Arenas said. "That's being smart."
Arenas then told me that "at least 14 players" have contacted him about having the same simulated conditions in their home. He mentioned Richard Jefferson, Kwame Brown and "the whole Chicago Bulls team" wanted to know how to get that in their homes. "People want to make me out to be Michael Jackson or somebody. I'm not Michael Jackson," Arenas said, adding some unsavory comments about Jackson that will never see the light of day in this blog.
I told him that when you want to buy the Elephant Man's bones you've reached that NEXT level of strange. "You haven't gone that far," I told him.
"Okay, I'll give you one," Gilbert said. "The shower."
For those who may not recall: Another one of Arenas's more bizarre antics (to me at least) was during his second year with Golden State when he was upset about his team's performance and took a shower at halftime of a game against San Antonio - and played soaking wet in the second half. None of his teammates came to his defense on that one. Arenas just said he was fired up and being emotional, that it was all because he's a competitor.
I told him that most competitiors don't break stuff in the locker room. Arenas then got defensive about how players get certain reputations in the league. He takes exception the labels that players around the league receive. He asked how certain players are called hotheads for being emotional when they lose, but others are called passionate and fiery - for doing the same things - if they win. I told him that winning is air freshener for you flaws in this league.
"That's not right," Arenas said. "My first few years in the league, I was called a 'hothead.' Now
that I'm winning, I'm 'quirky.' I don't get it."
"You're not quirky, Gilbert," Antawn Jamison said, coming in on the tail end of the conversation.
"Thanks, tawn," Arenas said back.
Jamison then looked my direction and said, "He's not quirky. I don't know what word you use, but it's not quirky."
At that point, another reporter asked if would be okay if she asked Arenas a few questions and the discussion came to a standstill. My gut tells me, though, that it's not over.
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