“YOU SUCK GILBERT!,” yelled a member of the attending audience who witnessed Gilbert Arenas’ 2-14 performance (1-9 from three-point land), right after the final buzzer sounded on a Washington Wizards loss to the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday night.
And Gilbert did suck, but getting impatient with his play right now lacks an understanding of how difficult it really is to score in the NBA … when the clock is ticking and the lights are on.
A lot of people can hit in practice. Regular guys, like this guy, go on shooting streaks by themselves, easily. Watch any NBA player, even a big man, in most non-game settings, and they are hitting shot after shot. Sure, hitting a baseball is probably the hardest thing to do in sports, so then shooting the rock in practice is the equivalent of Albert Pujols hitting countless dingers off a bullpen pitcher during BP.
“You always think he’s going to make the next one, that’s just the way he’s been,” theorized Flip Saunders on his streaky shooter after the game. “I hesitated because Nick [Young] made some shots, you know, putting him in. But the thing was, Gil’s the one guy that was actually rebounding for us in the second half. He was our second leading rebounder, and he was active as far as getting his hands on a lot of balls.”
And do give Arenas credit. He gathered six rebounds, skying high for an offensive board after a Kirk Hinrich three miss with 7:42 left in the game. That aggression led to an Andray Blatche layup, assisted by Arenas, that put the Wizards up 75-74. Arenas also, for a stretch in the second half, turned into a creator because he knew his shot wasn’t working (although four assists to four turnovers on the game is not a good ratio). It’s just that at the end of the game, Arenas was left wide open, and honestly, was the Wizards’ best chance to get hot and start sinking game-saving threes.
He missed a ton of shots instead. It just wasn’t meant to be. The Hibachi stayed cold.
Arenas might make denials about his weight, or shape, but patience should be practiced with his jumper. There’s more nuance, speed of the game, etc., to get used to than the average fan realizes. The positive sign is that Arenas seems more than happy to come off the bench, and that he’s trying to do the little things. In addition to his rebounding on Friday, I observed his hands active in the passing lanes, hand-carrying the ball and the what-not.
If Arenas’ shot continues to be off, if his legs continue to appear heavy as cement, if Arenas continues to look like he’s playing on a dusty rec center floor when closing out on shooters, there will be cause for concern. By the way, as Arenas mentions in the video below, he’s been getting up 300 makes at night. I’m not sure of the frequency of this occurrence, but Arenas is a notorious gym rat, so the answer is likely, ‘as much as possible.’
Keep in mind, from not playing due to knee injury in the past, to a tweak of the ever-so-sensitive groin area, to an injury to the ankle that’s been played down, Arenas has been through a lot. Hate the guns in the locker room, but on the court, give the guy a break.
Regardless, keep a close eye on the Gilly developments. You very well could be witnessing a great comeback story, or the tragical downfall of a career that gives trolls like Tony Kornheiser a boner, which is pretty gross to think about … if Kornheiser can even get one of those anymore.
Take it away Gil.