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The Death and Rebirth of Agent Zero

One of the major storylines of the early season has been the "new" Gilbert Arenas.  The wacky, controversial shooter was apparently being replaced with a more subdued Gilbert Arenas who just wanted to get his teammates involved and become a pure point guard.  On the media end, he was doing a good job for most of the season, only generating controversy when he didn't talk. 

The results were more mixed on the court.  At times this season, he's shown that he can be an elite passer.  He's also shown that he can still score with the best of them when he gets (or gives himself) the green light.  What he's struggled with this season is balancing between initiating the offense and knowing when to take over. Granted, it's a tricky line to walk, but rarely do you see someone fluctuate so wildly between being a scorer and a passer.

This back and forth between opposite ends of the offensive spectrum is a microcosm of Gilbert's career.  He can play to any extreme that you want him to be (remember, he claims to be a Republican even though he has an Obama tattoo) but he can't fall in the middle.  Look at his interactions with the media.  He could have very easily decided to just stick with the same general jocktalk that every other athlete uses and avoid all the controversy that came along with speaking his mind 100% of the time.  Instead, he decided to go all the way to the opposite end of the interaction spectrum and avoid controversy by not talking at all.  Staying medium hasn't worked well for Jim Zorn and it certainly won't work with Gilbert Arenas, that's just not who he is.


So at some point, the battle between Gilbert Arenas: Point Guard and Agent Zero: Shooter extraordinaire was going to have to be resolved.  Based on what was said after the Pistons game last night, it looks like Agent Zero is winning:

Gilbert Arenas had an announcement to make as walked through the locker room on Saturday. Arenas lifted his headphones from his ears, smiled and proclaimed, "I'm Zero. I'm not Gilbert no more." "Gilbert's not working out," said Arenas, who claimed that he retired his Agent Zero and Hibachi personas on media day. Asked why he decided to go back to Agent Zero, Arenas said, "It ain't working if we lost five in a row. Coach told me he didn't want the angry man no more. So, he's back."

Of course, if you've been checking out Gilbert Arenas' website, you probably already knew this was bound to happen.

(HT: Gilbertology)

Given how quickly the "new" Gilbert Arenas seems to have reverted back to Agent Zero, it has to make you wonder how committed Gilbert was to turning a new leaf.  My theory: this whole facade was part of a "New Coke" strategy from Gilbert.  He knew that people were fed up with his Gilbert's persona, so he came out with a new personality that no one in the media or the locker room liked.  Once everyone started to realize how good they had it with the old product, they begged Gilbert to bring back Agent Zero, just like everyone begged Coca-Cola to bring back the original Coca-Cola after they had a taste of New Coke.

If you think I'm spewing nonsense, remember what Mark Cuban said before the first game of the season about Gilbert's media blackout:

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban calls Arenas's move from being one of the most open and talkative athletes to going silent is an excellent way of promoting himself.

"What a better marketing route could he have made? He started a blog and he started talking, and when you talk a lot and you shut up, people [media] want to know, 'Ok, Am I going to be the guy who makes him talk?' I'll ask him all these questions and I'll write all about the questions I asked and how he refused to answer, and I'll write three stories a day on when Gilbert Arenas will talk and what I think he should be saying and what he's thinking. You guys will do all the talking for him and he'll save all his breath."

"He's recognized by having dealt with the media so much and playing the media to his advantage that the best way to get media attention is to have gone from talking a lot to not saying a word," Cuban said. "I never thought that about Dennis Rodman until I talked to him a bunch of times and realized the guy was just a master media player. The guy knew what he was doing . . . He's obviously doing it the right way."

Contrary to what Gilbert's sometimes unpredictable game would have you believe, there is, and always has been a method to his madness.  His latest masterstroke of killing off his Agent Zero persona, just to bring it back at a time where his team needs it most, demonstrates how well Gilbert understands the game of putting out a good public image and branding your identity.