In looking at the comments string from this FanShot, I realize I might be defending Gilbert Arenas' recent comments a little too heavily. I'm certainly a little bothered about why he would even mention that he's going to move on to another team "eventually," even if it's surely true. I wish he didn't give these comments in front of a national media audience that's sure to run with them instead of a local media audience that knows better than anyone that he speaks without a filter. FInally, I wish we didn't have to talk about this on a night where John Wall looked great.
But I do genuinely think a lot of folks are overreacting to what he said. A few quick reasons why:
- He said he's "eventually" going elsewhere: I think we're glossing over the word in quotes a bit. Arenas knows that he's not the future of the organization. He knows that it's emphasizing it's young talent, and he knows he doesn't fit the timeline. So for him to say he'll eventually play for another team doesn't strike me as a huge revelation. Sure, it would have been nice if he didn't even say anything, or if he gave a platitude-filled quote like Jamal Crawford did, but it's not like he's saying he wants to be traded right now. He just sees the reality that, by 2014, he probably won't be here, and is acknowledging it. (Also, the Hawks merely didn't offer Crawford an extension -- the Wizards tore down Arenas' nameplate and stopped selling his jerseys. Justifiable, but still, big difference).
- This isn't exactly anything new: No matter what the organization does publicly, we know that Gilbert Arenas is not the future of this team. If they could have traded him by now, they would have. So while this is a bit of a PR nightmare, I don't think Arenas is saying anything that people in the organization, from the top down to the players, don't know already. Remember: if Arenas has no filter with media, it's pretty easy to guess that he has no filter internally either.
- We don't know what the question was: Keep in mind that this was many national reporters' first chance to ask Arenas about his future with the team with John Wall in town. If Arenas was directly asked about his role and his future here, which is reasonable, at least then we could say he's simply answering the question.
- He's publicly saying his goal is to help John Wall: Sure, it's just words, and sure, a perfect "mentor" wouldn't talk about how his job is to be a mentor, but if you're concerned about Arenas stepping on Wall's turn publicly, then these quotes should actually be encouraging. He makes a lot of good points about how much Larry Hughes stepping aside meant for him and how he's going to try to do the same for Wall. For his part, Wall has said publicly and imitated privately that he appreciates Arenas' wisdom, and they seem to get along pretty well. Considering Wall is the future, that's good to know and hear.
- For one game at least, his actions spoke louder than his words: For all this talk about Arenas' words, let's give him this: he did a great job blending in last night. He did a lot of catching and shooting, didn't take too many shots, had only one clear heat check and even showed a little more effort (if not execution) on defense. He had 12 points on nine shots in 26 minutes, and generally moved the ball and made quick decisions so that Wall and Andray Blatche could shine. I'll take that (with more minutes and more points of course) over the shoot-all-the-time Arenas we saw for stretches last season.
- I don't really mind how much joy he plays with: If he's truly depressed, that's concerning, but again, if he plays well without smiling, so be it. I don't really harbor any hopes that the old happy-go-lucky Arenas is returning, so I just want him to be effective. If being depressed on the court makes him effective, that's fine by me.
- He had to talk and say something: Arenas went so long without saying anything that it was becoming a big story that he said nothing. If he continued that, it's very possible the story would have still centered on him not talking at all, regardless of what he said. And again, taking away those four or eight words about how he doesn't expect to be here long term, I'm happy that, publicly, he's taking his "mentor" role seriously.