Arenas Keeps the Mood Light

Gilbert Arenas made it clear in my story today why he came back to play five to seven games at the end of the season instead of waiting until next season. He also explained what caused him to shut down during the Washington Wizards' first round playoff series against Cleveland last April. If you haven't done it yet, you can read the story at the above link.

Arenas will travel with the team the rest of the season but he won't play Wednesday in Memphis, saving himself for the home game Thursday against the Cavaliers on TNT. Although Arenas didn't play against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, he couldn't be ignored in the locker room before the game.

He kept his teammates energized with his comedic flair. First, he started heckling Nick Young and cracking jokes while Young attempted to do a television interview with Wizards analyst Phil Chenier. Arenas had Young laughing so much that Chenier eventually had to find a back corner to complete the interview.

Later, Arenas sat down, reading on his computer and receiving electric stimulation in his left knee from a machine that looked like a car battery. Rookie JaVale McGee entered the locker room, flexing his muscles after lifting weights. Arenas shook his head and told McGee that he needed to get bigger. McGee walked over to Arenas, doing his best Mr. Universe pose, and asked, "What? Did I just hear you say that I'm bigger?"

Nope. Arenas again told McGee that he needed to get bigger and stronger after he got tossed around by Kwame Brown the night before. McGee had no rebuttal. He just dropped his shoulders and laughed. "Kwame is strong," McGee said. Andray Blatche got up from his seat to second McGee.

The pre-game laughs were good, but Antawn Jamison said he prefers the Arenas he saw on Saturday -- the one who put on his headphones to block out the rest of the world; the who didn't talk and carried a mean mug on his face. In other words, the Arenas who was preparing to play a basketball game.

"You miss that," Jamison said. "Right now, we really need something to pick us up. He's the guy that's going to take us to the promised land and we need for him to be healthy. I hope this is the first step as far as that happening. It's been a difficult year, but we hope that it makes us better, especially the young guys. We're due for some good fortune and some good news. We've got a window [to win a championship] and I think the window is still open."

By Michael Lee |  March 31, 2009; 8:49 AM ET
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the new gilbert won't last. next year he will be jacking up shots left and right and will be lazy on defense. Our offense will have zero ball movement and we will get bounced first round if we do make the playoffs.

Posted by: jdgreger@yahoo.com | March 31, 2009 9:14 AM

It would take the following items to be a legit contender next year:

1) a quality coach with prior NBA coaching experience
2) a commitment to team D, especially by Arenas, Jamison and Butler
3) Griffith or trading the lottery pick + a player for a quality combo guard
4) commitment by the team and players to develop McGee, Blatche and Young so that they can consistently perform above average
5) recognition that the Big 3 will not take them the whole way and that they need to be at full strength for the playoffs (meaning 35 minutes a game or less during the season and several off days on back-to-backs)

Posted by: Izman | March 31, 2009 9:22 AM

Championship? This is the worst team in the NBA. We can always dream, but they should focus on making the playoffs first, which is not a given next year.

Posted by: twigmuffin | March 31, 2009 9:38 AM

I love Arenas.......my son went to college
with him a U.of Arizona....and he has been
great for the Wizards....but with double
knee problems the past couple of years...
signing him for 100 million and expecting
him to remain a star was a terrible business decision....the money could have
been spent on other healthy players and
improve the Butler-Jamison team.....but
the Wizards ain't the smartest team around.

Posted by: JoeMc1 | March 31, 2009 10:24 AM

I LOVE IT; Before he was injured Gilbert was one of the top ten players in the NBA and i have no doubt that he will return to that status, but their's always the naysayer's if any of you watched the game on Saturday versus the Pistons you saw how easily the offense flowed with Arenas in the lineup now if we had a coach...... Arenas brought life back to the phone booth for the first time in months once he gets his shot back he'll be lethal and so will the Wizards.

Posted by: dargregmag | March 31, 2009 10:29 AM

I completely agree with the items on Izman's list, and the importance of those items, except for #3 (I'd like the Wizards to keep the pick).

I would edit #5 slightly so that the Wizards ditch the "Big 3" concept, and instead focus on everyone on the team being important, rather than establishing a caste system (which I think was Izman's point, anyway).

Posted by: disgruntledfan | March 31, 2009 10:30 AM

I here Antawn talking about "He's the guy that's going to take us to the promised land and we need for him to be healthy."

I think that is great and all but what about when a new coach comes in November.
Then the concern and excuse is "well we have to learn and adjust to a new offense".

Sometimes the acclimation period can take a whole season. It makes you wonder if we should have just kept Eddie Jordan.
For 2 reasons:

The window of opportunity with a 32 yr. old Jamison is less and less.

Continuity is 1 thing you have on your side to not slow down that process with the small window of time.

I think everyone can agree with me at least in this respect, that the window of opportunity is short.

Posted by: slipperyrichard | March 31, 2009 10:35 AM

Thanks Mike, in Wizards land we eat this stuff up. Pretty much every bit of info you get is valuable to us, whether its a formal interview or quote from a player or coach, or even casual observations of the guys interacting in the locker room. This is great stuff, thanks again

Posted by: emmet1 | March 31, 2009 10:37 AM

Arenas is #3 in the league in assists per game at 10.0, and #1 in the league this season in assists per minute.

That's right, I said it.

Posted by: psps23 | March 31, 2009 10:47 AM

The Miami Heat went from being one of the worst teams in the league last year to being a solid playoff team this year, so it's easily possible for the Wizards to bounce back too. Dwayne Wade was able to regain his form after multiple injuries and surgeries. There's no reason that Arenas can't do the same.

Posted by: pjkiger1 | March 31, 2009 11:01 AM

This team needs a defense first head coach, a guy who has the power to sit players who don't play defense. As much as fans loved the fast breaking Wizards, that team was committed to a style that does not win in the playoffs. The rules are simply don't allow for it.

To win in the NBA and even moreso in the playoffs you need efficient half court offense and defense, not more 7 footers who play like they're 6'5.

Posted by: heiser3@yahoo.com | March 31, 2009 11:13 AM

I like Izman's list but I would modify #2 slightly.

2) a commitment to team D, especially by Arenas, Jamison and Butler

Our problem is defense and primarily interior defense. Not many point guards or even shooting guards are stoppers. Usually the good ones funnel the offense into the teeth of the defense. The key on this list is really Jamison and he can't play good interior defense because he doesn't have the size.
Caron doesn't play good defense at the 2 for whatever reason and is too small to play it well at the 3. he needs a PF and C to back him up. Gil is probably competent but hasn't had a coach that demanded D yet.

As long as AJ is the starting PF, our D will suffer. Griffin has the size and athleticism but didn't seem to be a defender in college. On a team with all of these scorers, will he fit in?

The only solution I see is to move AJ for Griffin if we get him. Otherwise, just get Greg Monroe and bury him on the bench alongside his clone, AB.

Posted by: original_mark | March 31, 2009 11:15 AM

To qualify my previous statement, EJ asked Gil about defense and he rebelled (as reported by Ivan).

He never DEMANDED that Gil play it because he knew as well as we do that if Gil concentrated on defense, he'd probably be good at it but the team would score 75 points per game. We need Gil to score to be effective on that end of the court. The 'threat of Gil' is what opens things up for AJ and CB.

Posted by: original_mark | March 31, 2009 11:25 AM

We're scoring 3 less points per game and giving up 3 more points per game compared to last year. It's a formula for disaster.

My opinion on the reasons are...BTH is no longer anchoring the middle. While we werent defensive world beaters last year giving up 99.2 per game, it beats the heck out of the 103.3 we're allowing this year.

Offensively, we're shooting less 3's and at a lower percentage. It's almost like the perfect storm happened. Either of the two would have been bad but the combination killed us.

BTH and Gil coming back next year should put us back to last year's level and hopefully a new coach will improve on the D. If that happens, we should be looking at improvement on our playoff season of last year.

Posted by: original_mark | March 31, 2009 11:34 AM

Izman, top flight coaching with emphasis on winning is the most imperative ingredient for next year.

Secondly, we have to clean out our archilles heel, scope the knee, so' to' speak.' DSon has proven his worth, but he along with ETan and MJ should not be in the mixing bowl next year. JD is out also to give us a slot.

At the very least DSon, ETAn and MJ are inactive. Don't care about the money if your goal is to win.

Along with my first rate coach I have one slot for Griffin or a NBA caliber draft pick that can play now.

And lastly, Abe is going to have to spend and take a hit, if he wants to win now as he says.

Ernie Grunfield's legacy will shine or rust with this coming offseason.

But from where I sit, I AM VERY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THIS ORGANIZATION COME NEXT YEAR.

EVEN IF THEY GO WITH A NON-PROVEN COACH LIKE MARK JACKSON.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | March 31, 2009 11:57 AM

I think this could be a good thing wizards struggled this year this hopefully gives us a top 4 draft pick. But i feel if we dont get the number 1 pick in blake griffin then i think we should trade the pick draft ty lawson to backup arenas , use a 2nd rounder on Stanley Robinson an athletic player kindoff like McQuire. If we trade our top 4 pick get another one Dejuan Blair be a good interior guy go alogn with Haywood,McGee,Jamison and Blatche . The team lacks a 3 point shooter which scares me in the long run because having Roger Mason JR gave them something last year that havent got this year.

Posted by: cjdwolfpack | March 31, 2009 12:09 PM

Not bad CJDWOLFPACK. Not bad at all. Makes a whole lot of sense to me.

LarryInClintonMD.

Posted by: LarryInClintonMD | March 31, 2009 12:56 PM

the Wiz, WITH Haywood, should not have
interior defense issues. It is simply a
fact that we are awful by historical stds
at defending the 3. Last year we allowed
the most made 3s in NBA history. It is
Eddie Jordan philophy of "protect the paint" that brought us to that level of
ineptitude and sufficient justification for
his removal as coach. Say that again, the most 3 pt shots allowed in NBA history.
And looking at defense by statistically
informative measures (pts allowed/possesion) we are still just awful.

Whatever happens in the lotto and the draft
will have LESS impact on how the team does
next year than will the selection of a
demanding defensive coach (and reasonable
health). Jamison is an awful defender but
the right scheme will hide him sufficiently
for the team to be at least average in
that dept.

Posted by: dobrojim | March 31, 2009 2:51 PM

Wizards interior defense will improve with Haywood back in the lineup, but defensive weaknesses of Jamison, Butler, and Arenas will continue to keep this team mediocre. As much as I like CB3's game, he is a tweener who struggles when covering larger players at the 3 and doesn't have the quickness to be a fulltime 2. Looking long-term, he's our best bargaining chip given he's still fairly young (29) and could be the last piece for a championship contender. Trading him along with a bad contract like Etan's or James might give us a true veteran inside player to compliment BTH and reduce Jamision's minutes to 30-35 (possibly as a 6th man).

Picking an coach with prior NBA experience will be key for this team to turn things around and set a new tone that things aren't business as usual. I'm not suggesting Avery Johnson, but Flip Saunders would be a good potential choice.

Posted by: wizfan89 | March 31, 2009 3:46 PM

nobody likes van gundy( the skinny one) as the next coach?

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | March 31, 2009 3:50 PM

Darn Gilbert why didnt you play 2 weeks ago when I was sitting 10 rows from the floor @ Verizon. Please stay healthy. Tell Jamison to shut it down and pull a Garnett. Season is over baby! Griffin or BUST!

Posted by: jercha | March 31, 2009 4:05 PM

cjdwolfpack, Blair reminds me a lot of Unseld or Lenard "Truck" Robinson. The guy is a flat out load in the lane. If McGee thinks Kwame is strong he'd have a load of fun wrestling with Blair.

Pairing Blair with McGee, Haywood, or Blatche up front could make for an interesting 4/5 combo.

Griffin, Thabeet, and Blair seem to be the three best rebounders in this draft. The Wiz need a space eater in the lane and a rebounder at the 4 or 5 position. My take is they need to come away with one of those 3 guys in the draft.

If they don't come up with Griffin or McGee in the top 5 I'd think they could trade down and still get Blair.

Trading or drafting a shooter would be second on the list. There's some guy's that fit that description who are sitting on teams that are looking to clear cap space. Thomas and James deals could have some value in those cases.
GM

Posted by: flohrtv | March 31, 2009 4:16 PM

I'm not sure an NBA retread is what's needed as a head coach.

What did Flip Saunders ever do that
was that notable?

Give me Tom T, Bill Laimbeer or
the asst at SAN (name escapes me).

Caron Butler may not be big by SF stds
but he has a very affordable contract by
AllStar standards. Having him at the 3
should not be a major focus for potential
improvement. We need an above average 2,
and a physical 4 to spell Jamison or move
him back to the 6th man role. Blatche and
Young could be those guys but we can't say
if that will happen or how soon.

Posted by: dobrojim | March 31, 2009 4:17 PM

Who cares about championships? I just want the Wiz to make the playoffs and beat Lebron James one series.

Posted by: bryan1976 | March 31, 2009 4:32 PM

The jokes about how strong Kwame is, are a painful reminder of what might have been. If you think about it, Kwame is very similar to Blake Griffin physically. Powerful build, quick first step, and an inconsistent shooting touch.

But, they are complete opposites when it comes to what is between the ears and that thing beating in their chests.

The majority of Kwame's draft class was a bust, but he had the most upside. I guess at least we can be thankful we got CB3 in return for him before it was too late.

Posted by: SportzWiz | March 31, 2009 4:57 PM

kwame coulda been what blake is if he had 2 years of major college ball to adjust. as far as the draft goes, i like griffin,thabeet,and lawson. i think blair is a great goon, but he seems unskilled. the league likes to protect superstars, and i think blair will spend most of his rookie year in foul trouble. while thabeet isn't extraordinarily skilled, he's also less aggressive than blair and picks up less fouls. Griffin is the prize of course, him being everything blatche and jamison are not. but if the wiz drop out of the top 3 picks i think they should go for lawson if he's available.

Posted by: lilhollywood10 | March 31, 2009 5:10 PM

Tom T will be the coach. You heard it first here.

Posted by: ptp23 | March 31, 2009 10:26 PM

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