Resulting from multiple knee surgeries, absence from the court, and subsequent intake of criticism, Gilbert Arenas turned silent … most notably when he stopped blogging, the last entry occurring on November 15, 2008.
By February ’09, Gilbert had entered a full-on Hikikomori (Japanese term for a withdrawal from social life BTW), by not speaking to the media and wearing a hotel ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign around his neck at the Wizards’ practice facility. This happened shortly before he began secretly practicing.
Time passed. Silence … deafening silence. Not a word. Not so much of a peep from Gilbert Arenas.
September comes around and OMG! … It’s Mike Jones of the Washington Times with an ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ piece on the elusive target. Jones had people buzzing and congratulating him about his story for weeks.
“When I was entertaining and playing, all you guys focused on was my words, now I’d rather you just focus on my basketball … you know, put the gimmick out and just play basketball.”
“I don’t want to entertain anymore, I just want to go out there and play.”
It was thusly proclaimed that Agent Zero, the Hibachi, Gilbert Arenas the Entertainer would be …. no more.
Seemed like a plausible story. But behind the scenes … in the press lounge, coffee shops and blog comment sections, no one really believed Gilbert. He wouldn’t be able to help himself. The entertainer would come crawling back … or rather, find a way to burst on the scene.
October brought training camp in Richmond. There was ‘Gilbert Arenas Limp Gate‘ which caused a bit of a stir … and was not aided or quelled by Arenas’ refusal to speak with the media.
Days passed and the $25,000 thousand fine came, leaving us with Agent Funeral.
Arenas still had done a cameo appearance with Dwight Schrute in a corny TNT commercial, relaunched a new website on Halloween night, and sent invitations to score like him. The spotlight might have been dimmed, but the entertainer was still selling himself.
Then came the Nones of November, basketball gods struck the Wizards. Loss number two in the current streak of six that started in Cleveland came in the Phone Booth at the hands of the Heat.
“The basketball gods will get you and you can’t cheat the game in a lot of situations,” said Flip Saunders … a fitting quote if basketball were The Wire, but perhaps better applied to general instances of cheating in real life.
Life got real and the Agent seemed to have no need for the act any more. He started being himself. A regular guy. The fun guy. The return of the mythical Zero, partially inspired by a 5’5″ earthling who last performed his on court magic in a foreign land.
The rebirth of slick is also reflected in Gilbert’s marketing arena. His new website presented a new video on November 17, the timely eve of a matchup with a rival — Classic product placement with Arenas serving as the wares and his name brand the push.
But as some have pointed out, The ‘Gilbert Arenas vs. Agent Zero’ battle has been raging since 7:53 pm on October 30th, a night of mischief, and the night before the pre-planned launch of the website anyway.
Others smell a repackaged Lil’ Penny, here to sway the pendulum of Arenas’ inability to stay medium. Bullets Forever’s Jake Whitacre dubs Gil ‘Coke Classic’, highlighting the idea of Arenas adhering to the Cubanian theory of leading the media like a ring master. The same media he’s previously accused of being lazy puppet masters of his words.
Then, in a veiled act of grass roots market research via Twitter, the word was spread that Arenas would give the masses conditional samples of his marketing drug in 140 character doses … just like the brief instances of his two upward-facing palms miming ignition of the Hibachi on the hardwood. But with terms of the condition set at one million followers, this could take awhile … unless he makes another promotional tour in the Philippines.
Dave McMenamin, former keyboardologist for Arenas’ NBA.com blog, Agent Zero: The Blog File, got in on the Twitter promotion too. Word spread like a California wildfire. Mike Jones arrived with text message confirmation of Arenas’ bait:
traded texts w @gilbertarenas. yes, he’ll tweet if a mil follow. but he won’t bring back blogging on the relaunched gilbertarenas.com.
Did the Twitter return of the prodigal son of fun originate with Arenas’ request to a top twittering teammate and a call to a basketball writer for hire?
A curiosity struck on who, exactly, was first to Tweet this breaking news. A quick search indicated that the first Tweet mentioning the ‘@gilbertarenas’ account came from @PrancersWorld. Judging from the associated MySpace page, Prancer is “Prancer of VH1″ … whomever that is. An even further search revealed that “Prancer,” or Mercedes Clausen, has appeared on admirable shows such as VH1′s “I Love Money 2″ and “Flavor of Love 3.” Seems like we have a modern day muse helping with the marketing campaign’s initiation.
With the sudden push, one can’t help but feel like much of Agent 180′s somber schtick has been a “Syke! I was just playing” moment. Well … not the 2-7 record. You can’t necessarily blame that on Arenas’ off court marketing efforts.
Whatever the rhyme or reason behind Arenas’ persistent quirkiness, it’s easy to be encapsulated by this ongoing tale that relates one of the most unique characters of basketball in the last three decades. If you’re not, you’re probably the type who watches Twilight.
In winning or losing, Arenas is here to take Wizards faithful on a wild ride, a circus of twists and turns. Just look at Wednesday night, you have the cavalry riding in on their horses, but likely sans acts from the 325 pound pink elephant in the room and Bozo the Clown. The game between rivals will be just as impassioned nonetheless.
Be glad a better personality is back. Yes, Arenas is rolling the dice on the table of public perception. But he has nothing to lose … well, except for more games, supporters, and a city’s confidence in local pro sports.
But whether the ship is going down or about to embark, you want the band to be playing. If you’re going to go out, might as well have fun.
At the end of last season’s exit interviews, Arenas said:
“It’s all smoke and mirrors with me.”
“I’m controlled chaos.”
If releasing the built up tension of withholding his personality from the outside world 140 characters at a time is what’s needed for Arenas to clear the smoke in his point guard head and control the chaos, then so be it. So what are you waiting for? Go follow @gilbertarenas already.