[Gilbert stands where he's told as the Washington Post's Mike Wise, a reporter/columnist
who's covered Arenas' rise and fall as close as anyone, looks on in the background.]
You could tell from the second Gilbert Arenas started his descent down the stairs to the Wizards’ practice court at the Verizon Center … the mean man, the quiet man, the unexcitable version of Arenas we saw before last season, had returned (sans fines for not talking to the media, so far). Well, at least this describes the facade Arenas has resurrected in his on again, off again relationship of gamesmanship with the public media.
Gilbert, in nature, appeared to be just as reclusive on Monday’s official Wizards Media Day, looking like in front of the media spotlight is the last place he wants to be. That he just wants to play basketball is the seemingly earnest tune he’s singing again. In appearance, the bushy bead that accompanied him drove home the point. Comparisons to Harrison Ford in the movie The Fugitive, or to Ricky Williams when he surfaced from wherever he was for a spell from that segment on 60 Minutes, or to Grizzly Adams, who actually did have a beard, pinged back and forth amongst attending members of the media.
The somber facial expression conveyed by Arenas might make an acting school newbie envious, but I’m not buying it. It’s not the real Arenas. As the media scrum herded themselves in a circle of sweat and stank, developed under hot camera lights and close confines around an empty table, jostling for position and anticipating the arrival of Arenas, the calm Agent formerly known as Zero kept a straight face. In a far corner of the gym, just outside of the curtain where he was set to speak to a mass public for the first time in months, Gilbert stood patient, at least much more patient that the awaiting press, as he was debriefed and retained by members of the Wizards, public relations staff.
Then for a second, the poker face broke. Enter John Wall into the gym. The 20-year old bounded down the stairs and onto the practice court like a teenager given the keys to his first car, glad to be around his new teammates, glad to be a step closer to basketball action, glad to soon be driving an entire NBA franchise.
From the distance of half a court away, Wall gave his 28-year old teammate a point and smile as Arenas stood in the corner, waiting to face the music of the media. A smile broke across Gilbert’s face. He was in on the joke, the joke poking fun at him and the attention he was receiving, and the joke ignited by a rookie teammate set to take Arenas’ place as the face of Ted Leonsis’ team. And Gilbert was fine with it.
It was a moment that wasn’t noticed by many. Again, most media members were busy fighting for elbow room within a squared off section of the practice court … looking, waiting, checking BlackBerries. But it was a brief moment that might bring a bit of relief to worrisome Wizards fans … a small morsel of hope that the duo of Arenas and Wall might be a lot more exciting than know-it-all pundits anticipate. Because, just maybe, such minor exchanges are an indication of a stronger developing bond. And perhaps interactions built atop this one will, for a moment, quell media members anxious to pounce on Arenas with accusations a cancer-inducing persona.
If you’re looking for tension between the two players who are supposed to be the main catalysts for this Washington NBA team, you might want to call off the dogs. Fans, through the media, may be getting the mean man/quite man version of Arenas for now, but they can rest assured that the face you see on media day is not the one he has shown and will be showing to his coaches and teammates.
Gilbert’s calculated words to the fray of microphones and recorders don’t mean much right now anyway, the true telling show will take place tonight at the stroke of midnight.
[A Reflective-On-The-Outside Gil]
[Photo Credits: Kyle Weidie, Truth About It.net, copyright 2010]