The Coexistence of John Wall and Gilbert Arenas | Wizards Blog Truth About

The Coexistence of John Wall and Gilbert Arenas

Updated: May 19, 2010

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.

Kyle Weidie on EmailKyle Weidie on GoogleKyle Weidie on InstagramKyle Weidie on LinkedinKyle Weidie on TwitterKyle Weidie on Youtube
Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.

  • poppalaw

    A well written, reasoned and thoughtful piece. I agree completely with your hypothesis and predict future events will support it. That said, I am not sure I would not like someone in the middle more than Wall. Is Cousins really a bad guy, a head case? It would be nice to have someone who can defend the middle.

  • Sunny optimism…how refreshing. Amazing what the bounce of a little plastic sphere can do for the mood of a city.

    I actually buy the argument that the off-court stuff will work out. Not sure if that puts me in the minority, but I agree that Gil’s personality is immature but light-hearted. So long as there is no sinister malice he is an adequate teammate at worst.

    I just don’t see how it can work out on the court. It worked with Rip and Chauncey because Rip’s game was built around accepting and thriving in a role as a mid-range shooter and off-ball screens. No way Gil does that specifically, so can Flip find an analogous role for him while Wall runs the show? Since Arenas has NEVER proven himself to be an effective secondary option or capable off-the-ball, I can’t visualize how it can happen.

    Time (and maybe better basketball minds) will tell.

    Good stuff here Kyle.

  • When Will We Be Good

    how confident are you that we pick wall? I’m still scared that we’ll somehow “screw” this up and pick cousins or turner. I know both of those players could also be great(and to be honest, we prolly need cousins more than the other two), but with our history i just want us to pick the player with the most potential/star power, john wall.

  • Michael

    Another nice post, but I think all you need to know is last season Gil had a PER that ranked him 39th in the league as well as a field goal percentage of 41%. John Wall on the other hand didn’t even have a PER that ranked him among the top 100 in the NCAA. Plus, now in the league, Wall won’t be getting all those open looks he got in college because of all the talent the defense had to worry about. The fact is these are two of the most ineffiecient offensive players in the NBA and they happen to be our starting backcourt next year.

  • jwilaon

    I don’t think that wall wont be an efficient player in the nba with so much attention put towards blatche or arenas he will have a lot more space offensively

  • I think with John Wall run the show for Wizards next season , Gil will be like version of Ray Allen . He can shoot the 3 and drive to the basket hard . i dont see how that will be problem for wizards as long as the ball is in Wall’s hand.

  • kb

    perfect article. 2010-2011 is a year of reckoning….and percentages were an awesome point

  • arthur T

    There’s pride on F street. Anyone who pushes to get Gil out of town has a heart of stone. More selfishly, remember the joy he brought to DC and multiply that by 10 for how good it will feel to see a successful comeback, late rounds of the playoff, etc. Can’t wait.

  • hunter11

    Solid article. It will be interesting to see if Flip is willing to push the tempo more often. Wall excels in the open court and I think Blatche/McGee would have an advantage over a lot of front courts if the Wiz open things up a little more.

    in related news, while I do not think drafting John Wall puts the Wiz in play for Lebron/Bosh/Wade/Amare, I do think Rudy Gay is/should be a legit target.

  • jdg

    obviously this author has never watched gilbert play bball.

    Gilbert is not an off guard. He doesn’t move away from the ball, he doesn’t fight through screens. He must take the ball up and create off the dribble. Folks have been trying to convert Gilbert to shooting guard since college. He’s a jacking point guard that hijacks the offense.

    It’s like telling Shaq to make his free throws. It aint gonna happen.

    Gilbert is a shoot first point guard combo guard. He’s not going to run curls like Ray Allen or Rip.

    Man…you guys are clueless and in LA LA land.

  • ACJohnsico

    I love how the WIz finally have a huge positive night for once and immediately it turns to negativity because of Gilbert Arenas assumptions.

    Count me in for the Gilbert-Wall backcourt – Gil has everything to prove to the league, his team and especially the city.

    He will make this work… and it will be glorious!

  • I like it, but I still think that ultimately it’d be best to trade Arenas, whether that’s during the season after he’s proven he can help contenders, or a year or so down the line. They can play together but it’d be a little crowded in the backcourt together. For the first year, it might be nice to let Wall play just 30 minutes a game or so so he doesn’t hit the wall, so to speak. Anyway, what a great day for the Wizards:

    Could be the start of bringing back the glory days of the Bullets:

  • Eric

    Can we just agree on a couple of things? 1. Gil needs to go. His personality can be infectious in a very bad way, and in order for Washington to develop as a cohesive unit, we can’t have personalities that need to be managed carefully (such as Dre) to be influenced by Gil.
    2. He’s a hell of a player and we should look to get some excellent value for him on the market. Why wouldn’t Toronto look to a sign and trade if they are going to lose Bosh anyway? Surely someone in the league wants a legit 25ppg scorer who needs a fresh start?

  • patrik trimmer

    good stuff Kyle

  • Great post as always, Kyle.

  • tyquez

    that shit crazy/ like jeezy say

  • tyquez

    need to come to denver nuggets

  • Jeremy

    Gil is a star everybody know thats but what he did brining guns in locker room was worng so they might ship gil out and get so other players there and draft a super star in john wall but i say keep gil and let two allstar try and bring a ring back dc.

  • Evan

    THANK YOU!!! Someone who actually knows what there talking about, and shutting up the Rumors of Arenas leaving D.C. Hes still a great player and John Wall can only make himself and Arenas better by them playing on the same court. If Arenas leaves D.C ill be very disappointed in the Wizards Organization… Lets just keep the good players we have, and win!