[Editor's Note: Yes, I am fully aware that this is the lamest, dumbest title in this blog's history. If you're concerned, I apologize, but don't worry, my cliche meter will be fixed by tomorrow.]
Thus far this season, the Wizards' year has been a microcosm of Gilbert Arenas. They stunk up the joint early on, were arguably the league's hottest team in December and January, and have stunk recently. Gilbert Arenas was on fire in December and January, but hasn't been very good in November or February.
This month has been particularly awful. Arenas is shooting 31 percent in February and 16 percent from three-point range. In the Wizards' last ten games, dating back to before Jamison got hurt, Arenas is shooting 37 percent from the field and 24 percent from three. Not surprisingly, the Wizards are a pedestrian 5-5 in those games.
There are myriad theories as to what's bothering Arenas. Some suggest the switch to the new ball in January as the main problem. Others point to the loss of Jamison, although Arenas' struggles started before that. Increased defensive attention may have something to do with it, but the rest of the Wizards haven't capitalized in the same way. Finally, some say that Arenas has lost his edge, because there really hasn't been any adversity or disrespect that he's needed to overcome.
It doesn't really seem like Arenas is shooting different shots than normal. His shot attempts, free throw attempts, and three-point attempts are surprisingly constant, and the nature of his shots seem to be the same, low-percentage, difficult ones. Even when he has open looks, as he did in the Philadelphia game, they just aren't falling.
There's really only one thing that jumps out at me recently, and it has nothing to do with scoring. Arenas' assists numbers, which were constant from November through January, have tumbled. Whereas before he was averaging nearly 6.5 assists per game, he's down to 5.4 in the last ten games. Some of that is due to the loss of Jamison, but it illustrates a greater problem. With Jamison out, Arenas is handling too big of a load; a load he himself can't carry.
Arenas' recent problems are more mental than anything. It just seems like he's pressing offensively. He's trying to do too much, and he's not doing a very good job of relying on his teammates. It's basically the exact same problem he was having earlier in the year. Arenas will always be a volume shooter, but the difference between November/February and December/January is that he never was playing like he had to be. If Arenas is playing more in the flow of the offense, everyone succeeds more.
Therefore, here's the one thing I'd really like to see more, especially with Jamison out for a couple more weeks.
Play Arenas off the ball.
Allow DeShawn Stevenson or Antonio Daniels to do most of the ball-handling. Get Arenas his points coming off screens and designated plays. I'd like to see Jordan run that one play where Arenas passes to the wing, receives a backscreen, and pops out for three. You'll still see a lot of shots, but they're more of the catch-and-shoot/catch-and-one-dribble variety.
Think about it. Allen Iverson was most successful when Eric Snow was handling the ball. When the Sixers put the ball in his hands, he was more prone to inconsistency.
Unfortunately, and this is Ernie Grunfeld's biggest blunder, they don't really have the personnel to do this. Daniels is more of a combo guard like Arenas, and Stevenson has never been an offensive facilitator. Ernie Grunfeld declined to address this problem in the offseason, choosing instead to draft and sign two power forwards who do the exact same thing (Oleisky Pecherov and Darius Songaila). With the 18th pick last year, Grunfeld passed over Marcus Williams, Rajon Rondo, Kyle Lowry, and Jordan Farmar in order to select Oleisky Pecherov. If Marcus Williams is here, we don't have this problem. And who knows? Maybe Etan Thomas will turn into a point guard in the Chris Duhon mold. But either way, the Wizards could use a pure point guard to take pressure off Arenas.
Even without one, Daniels and Stevenson are capable of giving Arenas the chance to play off the ball for extended periods. I'd like to see more of that in the second half. Because if December and January are any indication, when Arenas is flourishing, the rest of the team flourishes as well.
How would you get Arenas going?