The Coexistence of John Wall and Gilbert Arenas
Some are saying that John Wall in a Wizards uniform should mean the end of Gilbert Arena. They assume the two are incapable of co-existing.
Matt Moore of Pro Basketball Talk and Hardwood Paroxysm makes a solid argument using statistics. On PBT Moore cites Arenas’ high usage rate, and on HP he uses Synergy Sports to outline the types of solo offensive plays involving Arenas last season. Both pieces highlight valid concerns that a Wall-Arenas backcourt will not work because they both need the ball in their hands.
Moore also alludes that the Wizards’ locker room is likely still poisoned and assumes there’s little chance Arenas will emerge from his mess a man changed for the better … and that this would obviously be a bad situation to bring Wall into.
Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski takes a more sinister tone (which is par for the course with him), he writes:
“…rest assured that the Wizards will work harder than ever to find a trade for Arenas. It won’t be easy with the $80 million left on Arenas’ contract; they’ll have to take back someone else’s issues. Philadelphia’s Elton Brand, perhaps? Nevertheless, the Wizards will give Wall a locker on one side of the room with Arenas completely across the way. Truth be told, there will be tension between the old and new guard until Arenas is moved.”
This is wrought of sensational assumption without true comprehension.
Sure, the end result could mean Arenas’ departure from Washington. But it won’t be under the dubious, tension-filled circumstances that Wojnarowski suggests. Allowing things to go down in such a manner is not apart of Ted Leonsis’ Business of Happiness. The man does not stand for disharmony, even in going separate ways.
Now is not the time to trade Gilbert Arenas. Here are three reasons why:
1) How can Arenas and Wall play in the backcourt together?
Stop pigeon-holing multi-talented players into rigid positions. Wall and Arenas have different skill sets that could complement each other under the right circumstances. Wall can push in transition, create havoc in the half-court, and play pestering defense. Arenas can also create, is an outside threat, and can still get to the basket. His problems last year didn’t revolve around his knee or ability to get past defenders (aside from that one time against Tyreke Evans), they revolved around confidence, re-acquainted decision-making in a new offense, and re-gaining proper timing to ignore contact (and the referees) and finish at the rim.
Don’t worry, the desire for an Arenas/Wall backcourt to emulate the Chauncey Billups/Rip Hamilton backcourt on Flip Saunders’ Pistons teams is not under consideration. Apples and oranges in terms of player types. However, the idea is that both Chauncey and Rip were able to share responsibility in the offense*, and if there’s any coach who could massage a similar relationship between Arenas and Wall, it’s Saunders.
“I told our players when I came here that I didn’t want to get too many players labeled into one, two, three or four. You’re basketball players, the main thing you get labeled in is who you can guard,” said Saunders at Wednesday’s press conference when considering Wall (or Evan Turner) playing alongside Arenas.
Late in the season, Flip Saunders switched to a two-guard offense (which also helped get Andray Blatche better opportunities in the post — he’s a decent passer, you know) partially with Arenas in mind. I’m pretty sure a good chuck of the pages in Flip’s massive playbook can work with both Arenas and Wall in mind.
There’s also a widespread, misinformed stigma is that Arenas is a ‘me-first’ player with a huge ego. I won’t deny the ego part, but don’t confuse how it is applied. Gil’s ego derives from an attention-seeking personality, and much less, if at all, has anything to do with playing team basketball.
Arenas took a lot of shots in the past because that’s what he was asked to do, speaking in terms of Eddie Jordan’s souped-up pro-style Princeton offense. He had a high usage rate under Saunders because the coach stated that the ball would be in his hands 85% of the time before the season. Arenas has been painted as a gunner who jacks without conscience, but that has simply been blown out of proportion.
Case in point, among those who appeared in 30+ games and averaged more than 30 minutes per last season, Arenas ranks 10th in assist-percentage (an estimate of the percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted while he was on on the floor). His 36.3% is a hair behind the 36.4% of both Jason Kidd and Dwyane Wade.
[* In Saunders' three seasons in Detroit, the USG% (an estimate of the percentage of team plays used by a player while he was on the floor) of Billups and Hamilton respectively went as follows: 07-08: 23.0/24.5; 06-07: 21.5/25.9; 05-06: 22.9/27.4. In each season, Hamilton's UGS% was the higher of the two, but you wouldn't exactly count Chauncey as uninvolved. Both led those Pistons teams by sharing the scoring duties and by having great role players around them.]
2) Oh man, but you better separate those guys’ lockers.
Please. It’s easy to hear about Arenas’ pranks, antics and lies and just assume that he’s a prick, an asshole and bad leader. Arenas is not Latrell Sprewell. He’s not Rasheed Wallace. He’s not Elvin Hayes. Sure, he has a long way to prove himself worthy, a loooong way. But as hard as it is to believe for some, that doesn’t render Gilbert incapable of learning lessons, controlling his immaturity, and being the leader he’s shown he can be.
Lest we forget that Gil is a hard worker in the ‘let me go shoot baskets at 3 am because I love basketball’ variety; that he’s implored guys like Nick Young and Andray Blatche to get to the gym early or has invited them for extra workouts. As stupid as his mistakes are, those young players still look up to Arenas. The relationship is wrought with opportunity to move in a positive direction … that is if you are not entrenched in assuming the worst about Arenas.
3) Look, we don’t need the drama of Arenas’ comeback here in D.C. anymore.
Ted Leonsis is a healer, not a breaker-upper. He’s the type who factors emotion into business decisions, but doesn’t let it get in the way of the right choice. He’s going to look at this situation with compassion, not irrationality.
If anything, the arrival of Wall will dim the spotlight around Arenas’ return, and that makes for a better environment. Trust me, Gil will play nice and be an apt pupil. After losing all that money, he can’t afford to uproot the grotto, shark tank and his family and move to another city anyway.
But even more so, Arenas will want to win back the support of the DMV area. And they are ready and willing take him back. Marion Barry is known as the ‘mayor for life’ in the District. This is a forgiving city. If Gilbert went somewhere else, he wouldn’t be afforded the same leeway… especially in a city like Philly. Trade Arenas for Elton Brand? Bonkers.
Speaking of, right now it would be silly to lose value in a desperation move to trade Arenas. There’s a sense that teams have gambled on players like Arenas in the past and they will continue to do so in the future. Maybe. But in these fiscally conscious times, GMs are looking for a good deal, not to give up value for risk.
Getting a sense of who Ted Leonsis is (I’ve been reading his book), count on Arenas being in D.C. next season. And getting a sense (or hope) of who Gilbert is, expect for him to go from the dazzling Agent Zero to just regular old No. 6 (not to be confused with the “mean man” version of Arenas).
He’ll be the guy who’s just trying to fit in, not the guy hogging the spotlight. The guy who will have fun playing with John Wall because they will make each other better.