The Pixel-and-Roll Show: Agent Zero Storytime with Ivan Carter | Wizards Blog Truth About

The Pixel-and-Roll Show: Agent Zero Storytime with Ivan Carter

Updated: December 7, 2015

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The Washington Wizards of the mid-aughts will always have this “what if” quality to them. Those teams provided the city with jubilation, but they only won one playoff series in four postseason appearances. Injuries and a locker room gun incident led to a tragic downfall. The John Wall era began months after the roster was broken up.

The main protagonist in the riveting basketball drama was Glibert Arenas, aka “Agent Zero.” He joined Caron Butler and Antawn to form a Big Three. Even today, Washington fans have affectionate memories of the sensational trio.

During these seasons, Ivan Carter was on the Wizards beat for the Washington Post. He had a prime view of Arenas in his best years, developing a professional relationships with both players and coaches.

Carter joined me on a recent Pixel-and-Roll podcast to discuss those entertaining squads, chronicle the star personalities, and offer up insightful views on the NBA of the early- and mid-2000s. I transcribed some of the items from the podcasts. (Watch out, Steinberg!)


Carter shared a story about a conversation he had with then-Washington coach, Eddie Jordan. They were bellied up at Sacramento hotel bar after a Wizards loss to the Kings:

“‘Ivan, this guy ‘Zero’ is killing me.’ The stories Eddie had about trying to coach Gilbert, trying to get him to play defense, trying to get him out of Gilbert-ology … I felt like I was Eddie’s shrink. We sat there for about a hour, had two or three stiff drinks. He is just shaking his head, ‘Sometimes, I don’t know if I am a coach or a babysitter.’ That was life with Gilbert. But at the same time, he had to give him freedom to be the kind of player he was. Eddie’s hybrid Princeton system was perfect for a combo guard like Gilbert.”
Arenas’ explanation for a bad game against the Bulls is classic Gil:
“It was never a dull moment with Gilbert. We are in Chicago one time. It was me and John Mitchell, who was with the Washington Times. We are interviewing Gilbert, he had a bad night. He went like 5-for-22. He was like ‘Yeah, man, my legs were cold.’ What are you talking about? They have the ice underneath the floor there? [The United Center] is where the Blackhawks play. ‘Yeah, man, I hate playing in arenas where there is a hockey team, my legs were cold.’ What? OK, dude. It was March, like 60 degrees outside. That was life with Gilbert. You never knew, as a reporter, what was going to come out of his mouth … but it was going to be entertaining.”
Carter explained how knowledgable Arenas was about the refs:
“He was acutely, supremely intelligent about how referees called different games. He knew that this referee was going to call the contact whereas that other referee was going to let it go—his high basketball IQ, I don’t think he ever got a lot of credit for. I think he was probably too smart. Sometimes he over thought it, got himself in trouble. Just come off the screen and shoot the ball. Instead he would think, ‘If I come off the screen and draw contact, I can get a free throw,’ as opposed to sometimes, just playing.”
Agent Zero in his healthy prime was a treat:
“For a year there, he was a terror, as good a scorer as there ever has been in the NBA. The guy could get by anybody. His shooting range was unlimited. He didn’t use his legs that much in his jump shot, so he didn’t waste much energy. He kind of had that flat-footed shot. He could shoot from any distance and get it off quickly. And he could get by you and get to the rim. Man, he was fun to watch.”
Gilbert’s tremendous work ethic was prevalent:
“He wasn’t a big drinker. He would go out but was not a big boozer or into drugs. He liked the ladies, that is obvious. And the ladies liked Gilbert. He was in the gym. The first to show up and the last to leave. He put his work in. He was a gym rat.”
The end of the Arenas era in D.C. was bizarre:
“It was the weirdest thing. The whole Crittenton thing. Javaris Crittenton was the nicest kid you would ever sit down and talk to. If you would have told me that he was a guy that would shoot someone, I would have laughed in your face—there was no way. But yet, I totally believe that Gilbert had the capability to pushing someone’s buttons that far with how he interacted with some of his teammates. He was brutal. I mean he pooped in Andray Blatche’s shoe, dude. He would push your buttons to the brink.”
 The relationship between Arenas and Butler:
“Him (Caron) and Gilbert had a weird rivalry relationship. Publicly, they would say that they were cool, but privately, there was a bit of rivalry there. I think Gilbert resented that Caron was an All-Star. He was getting attention that he thought he should be getting. That was always a weird relationship. Antawn Jamison was always the older brother in that situation.”
On Jamison:
“One of the best as well. We called him ‘Off Day’ Antawn, because if you don’t have a story, just go to Antawn, he will talk. He was the best. I love Antawn. Funny to hear him talk about playing better defense…
“I told Antawn a couple of times that I could have gotten 14 against him. He would laugh. He had a lot of pride but he struggled at the defensive end. He was a good defensive rebounder but, boy, his legs were like pogo sticks. He couldn’t bend his knees, so guys would just dribble right around him. But he would always talk about the Wizards needing to play better defense, which I always thought was hilarious. Um, Antawn, you are struggling with that. But no one was better with that off-the-wrong-leg, one-handed flip shot though. I called him ‘Uncle Unorthodox.’ “

The podcast is broken up into two parts:

Part 1 includes:
Steph Curry, the Golden State Warriors, the 76ers, the mess in Houston, Minnesota’s young studs, the Lakers and the Kobe debacle, and the current state of the Wizards.

Part 2 includes:

Eddie Jordan’s frustrations with coaching Glibert-ology, the Haywood-Thomas feud, and the tragic fall of Agent Zero. Carter also provides take on the possibility of Kevin Durant ever playing for the Wizards, the passing of Flip Saunders, the D.C. sports media landscape, and if Washington will ever be a true basketball city. The Arenas discussion begins at 10:30 mark.

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Adam McGinnis
Reporter / Writer / Media at TAI
Adam is a bro from the Midwest who's been bopping around the District of Columbia for years. He's down with a range of sports, etc. and has covered the Washington Wizards for TAI since 2010.