Gilbert Arenas begrudgingly dealt with the media on his return trip to Washington on Friday night. Well, that’s not entirely true. He was in no mood to talk before the game. After his Magic handled the Wizards 110-92, and as soon as the press was let into the Orlando locker room, Arenas rolled his eyes and said, “I was doing a lot better about 10 seconds ago.” He then exclaimed that he didn’t mean to be rude, but he was going to go take a shower … as 20 or so members of the media waited.
And they would continue to wait. Arenas knew this. He wants to talk, he just acts like he doesn’t. Yea, you remember ‘that’ guy … because that’s how Gilbert is, always looking for a show, or an angle, or to just make people wait for him. After he disappeared beyond the shower door just next to his spot in the visitor’s locker room, Dwight Howard joked with the media that he wasn’t going to come out.
“Agent Zero!, Agent Zero!,” Howard mocked the mass of microphones and cameras. “Agent One!,” another Magic player responded from across the room. Howard later joked that Arenas was taking a bath while another reporter joked that he might have found an escape route through the drain. Howard clearly didn’t know Arenas and how much the D.C. media, myself included, feeds off just about any quote that comes out his mouth, eager to jettison them into the algorithm in the form of pixels, tiny little pixels. “Well, we’re going to wait,” I responded to Howard at one point.
When Arenas was done with his excruciatingly long shower, he again put on an act of the unwilling.
“Y’all know the Super Bowl’s going on, right?,” he said as he finished getting dressed from a seated position, surrounded by dozens of pairs of feet. When he was asked who he liked in the game, his retort was simply: “Whoever wins.”
But when he started talking, he was … well, Gilbert Arenas … animated and quote-worthy as usual, but not too much. We’re not talking about pooping-in-shoe stories here.
One of Arenas’ moments, where he gave himself a good chuckle or two, along with the encroaching scrum, came when he spoke about his old buddy Nick Young.
On the night, Arenas scored just 10 points on 4-12 shooting in 25 minutes of the bench. He added six rebounds, six assists, three turnovers and two steals. His counterpart friend scored 17 points, but on 7-20 from the field. And to complete that very Nick Young stat line: one rebound, two assists and three turnovers in 36 minutes. Wait, two assists? Okay, so maybe that part wasn’t very Nick Young.
Arenas checked into the game at the 1:31 mark of the first quarter, to what I estimated to be a 6-1 cheer-to-boo ratio, and got both a steal and a block versus Young before the period buzzer sounded.
After the game, Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy praised Arenas for his defense, said it kept him in the game down the stretch, said he’s probably never heard a coach say that about him before. And what did Gilbert say when asked about said defense?
“I mean, I’m playing defense against somebody I taught every move to … So, you know, that was pretty easy for me,” he said.
Later, Arenas was asked if he got into Young’s head.
“I got in Nick’s head last week,” he said with a laugh and a subsequent pause. “He never scores on me,” more smiles, another pause, “He already knew what was going to happen, you know, so, I didn’t really do nothing different than I did in practice. He never scored in practice, so I knew he was never going to score in the game,” the master said confidently. “I see Flip was trying to get him involved to try to break the little spell I have over him, but not this time,” Gilbert concluded … with another smile of course.
My colleague Rashad Mobley, who covered the Wizards’ locker room tonight while I took a trip to the other side, told me that Flip Saunders’ press conference went long and that Nick had ducked out in the process.
Someone was able to catch Young before he left, the Wizards releasing this quote from him on his match-up with Arenas: “He was talking to me throughout the game but I really didn’t hear too much, I was keeping my focus. He came in as regular Gil, doing what he does best with us and the bench but we tried to look past it.”
Guess Nick didn’t look past Gil enough.
The apprentice remained the apprentice. The master remained Gilbert Arenas. Same guy, taking the same pleasure out of being the prevailing bully over the younger, less confident mark. Same guy, different uniform, doing all he can do to move forward.
“We’re going to miss you around here,” sighed one national reporter who resides in the Washington area after talking to Arenas.
I think we already do, yet there’s even more comfort to be found in all parties moving on.