Aldridge: Gilbert Arenas is back . . . now what?
- the biggest issue for the Wizards is not how Arenas plays in a vacuum, but how he and John Wall mesh (or don't) in the backcourt. (Photo: Associated Press)
It must be NBA season again in Washington.
Surly Gil is back!
We missed you!
In what is becoming a tradition during training camp, Gilbert Arenas was barely communicative with reporters on Media Day -- his first and only on-the-record discussion since his 50-game suspension by the league last spring. By my iPod voice recorder, Arenas spoke for three minutes, 13 seconds on Monday, with the cries of "last question" by a Wizards PR person coming approximately 90 seconds into the exchange.
Arenas shed no light on how he felt about the suspension, or what he may have learned, or how he's changed, or what he did in the halfway house other than play hoops in the backyard, or whether he agreed with David Stern's decision, or whether he's spoken with Javaris Crittenton, or . . . anything, really. Well, he did sort of say he sort of understood why the Wizards removed his three-stories high likeness from the side of Verizon Center, and his jerseys from the team store, after the gun incident came to light.
"It's still a business," he said. "Any product you own, if something happens to it, you got to do what you've got to do to save your company, so I understand it. Now, we've just got to move forward."
Arenas has the green light from the NBA to proceed this way, having gotten the go-ahead to say nothing about the unpleasantness of last December by Stern -- who publicly said last week that everyone should move right along, nothing to see here. He said it so strongly it certainly sounded as if he was threatening to fine Arenas and the team if they uttered a peep about the suspension. (The league walked that perception back the next day, saying Stern had only told Arenas he didn't have to talk about it if he didn't want to.)
Arenas's monotone was a repeat of last year's camp, when he also had next to nothing to say, peeved then by criticism he received for not living up to his $111 million contract, having undergone yet another knee operation. Then, as now, some of my media brethren got their knickers in a twist, wondering why Arenas seemed so angry and withdrawn. Then, as now, I could care less how Arenas speaks, or doesn't speak, to we ink and/or HD-stained wretches. He can't win. When he's happy-go-lucky Gil, talking about his phenomenal swag and throwing birthday parties for himself, we accuse him of not being serious enough, like Kobe; when he's serious, like Kobe, we ask why he isn't smiling and goofing around, the phony. I'm sure that Arenas is just as goofy as ever with his teammates when the cameras and digital recorders are off.
All that matters is that Arenas is now two years removed from that last operation, on his left knee, on Sept. 18, 2008. Whatever is left in his 28-year-old body will come out this season; microfracture surgeries like the one he had usually take between 18 and 24 months to fully heal. The three months off after the suspension may wind up being a blessing, giving him even more time to rehab.
Everyone at Attack Athletics in Chicago, the gym owned by elite trainer Tim Grover where Arenas played against fellow pros this summer, said he looked incredible. (He was working on some kind of insane stepback move where he winds up shooting off a jump to the side. We'll all have to see it, I guess.) The explosion is back in his legs; we will not see him as he looked last season, unable to finish plays at the rim. The quickness and handle that made him a three-time All-Star are back. His speed is back; he finished Flip Saunders's conditioning drill before camp began in 46 seconds.
"His first time, he did it in like 42, which is almost, world-class speed," Saunders said.
But the biggest issue for the Wizards is not how Arenas plays in a vacuum, but how he and John Wall mesh (or don't) in the backcourt. And the only way they'll mesh is if Arenas allows it to happen.
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