With Gilbert Arenas gone, Wizards begin rebuilding (again) around John Wall

As the Wizards begin the rebuilding process (again), Gilbert Arenas hopes they do it right. (Photo: Associated Press)

McGee shows signs of the Knucklehead Gene, too, but this is pro basketball we're talking about, and while McGee has flaky ideas of what a low-post move is, he can jump from Chinatown to Lanham, and his defensive wingspan makes him a must-keep. Tuesday in Houston, he leapt like a praying mantis from the paint to block a three-point shot by the Rockets' Aaron Brooks. It was an absurd display of athletic ability. People thought Tyson Chandler was a head case, too, until he got around better players in New Orleans and Charlotte and Miami. Now he's a top-10 center in terms of impact. McGee could be on a similar career arc. Or not. But the Wizards should spend the next five or so years finding out for sure.


Long story short

Now Smilin' Gil in Orlando, Arenas talks about Wall, the Wizards, and life in Washington.


Young has shown encouraging signs this season of at least trying at both ends. Arenas insists that Young will become a star now that he's out of town, and that that potential was one reason he hoped the Wizards would move him sooner rather than later -- as well as why Arenas says he made up an injury during the preseason.

"So you watch and you see, 'well, I'm going to get traded by February,'" Arenas said. "And that's when I said, you know -- because my good friend on the team is Nick -- and I said, he's one of the most talented players in this league. He can really go. And it's just been sad that he's been sitting behind me, and he hasn't got that shot. So all the drama of me missing (the preseason game), it was for his confidence. Because he needs the confidence to play. I'm looking at it as, I'm not going to be here soon. So if I can get your confidence level up, get you seen, get you playing, so when I do leave, you can play. Because you're going to be the future two. I'm not going to be the future two. I'm too old. You know, Wall is 20 and (Young is) 24. That makes a lot more sense."

The Former Franchise Player thinks the right way to build around the New Franchise Player is to give him a lot of targets.

"I'm putting all shooters around him," Arenas said. "He basically needs a team like this (the Magic). If he has a team like this, that kid would be unstoppable. Right now, he knows how to play the game...he knows how to make things happen. He just needs a team. He just needs players who know how to play the game. ... I hope they go out and go find players who want to play there."

Just a few years ago, that was Arenas. It sure looked like he and Butler and Jamison were the core of something special in D.C. But it went away the second Arenas thought it would be funny to bring unloaded guns into the District.

He says he understands why Leonsis had to trade him. ("If I didn't get in trouble, I would have been there," he says. "But I think it was just too much. And for an owner, a new owner, that's too much negativity coming in. I knew at some point he had to let me go.") He says he kept it professional with team president Ernie Grunfeld and Coach Flip Saunders, even though he didn't think the team supported him as strongly as it could have in the wake of the gun incident. But the last few weeks were difficult for everyone, as the trade rumors grew.

"And so there it started getting on me, like, 'I did my debt. Just let me play basketball," he said. "And that's all I really wanted. I just wanted to get a fair shot at playing basketball. You don't need to put me on the building. I don't need to be your poster child. I just want to play. I can help this team win.' ... [T]he last couple of weeks, it reminded me of my second year at Golden State, where they kept benching me. Because I guess I was playing well and they wanted to put me on the shelf so they could afford me back. And it felt like that, like this is not about basketball any more.

"And I just had to apologize to the players, like, these last two weeks have been difficult. I love the game so much, but I'm not giving you guys my heart. Because (of) everything I'm witnessing out there. And I just want to say, sorry. Because I never thought I will be out there playing and just going through the motions on you guys. And I hope you guys can forgive me.' And they all said 'We've been there, and we understand. We just thank you for being a man about it.'"

One minute, Arenas was jumping off a trampoline and dunking during a break in the All-Star Game -- a game his coach, Eddie Jordan, was coaching, because the Wizards had the best record in the Eastern Conference. That wasn't a thousand years ago; that was 2007. But that's how fast NBA milk can curdle. Jordan is long gone -- he's been fired from another team since being fired by the Wizards -- and Arenas is shooting open threes as opponents send waves of defenders at Dwight Howard, and he's Smilin' Gil again, and the promise of NBA playoff games in May and June in D.C. seems again as far away as another lunar eclipse.

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