Thread: He's Back
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Old 09-23-2009, 12:29 PM   #6
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Default Re: He's Back

Gil's message is clear: Grover has him back to 100 percent, all his muscles are firing, the rest of the league should beware. Yet the Times headline read: "Arenas criticizes team, is ready to play." That's not controversy-mongering, though. Based on Gil's sentiments, the small nugget of team criticism really was the most compelling bit of news from the piece.

If you remember, Arenas made two ill-fated comebacks at the end of the two previous seasons. He returned around playoff-time in '08, his contract year, and looked sluggish as the Cavs swept the Wiz out of the postseason. Washington signed him to a max contract that summer and last season, a virtually silent Agent Zero missed all but the final two games. When he returned, he was a slow, passive distributor. He definitely wasn't the Gil we remember, the dude that, for a good three seasons, was one of the three or four most dynamic players and personalities in the league.

Check out how Gil perceived the situation:

"If you have a kid that loves basketball, that eats, sleeps, drinks and thinks basketball and all he knows is basketball and he gets hurt and he's your franchise player, you need to hold him back from himself," said Arenas in the Times piece. "If I'm saying I feel good and you know it's supposed to take six months, instead of letting me at four months run ... they should have held me back. Rather than saying, 'Let's let this guy do what he wants and use him to sell tickets' -- sometimes you have to protect players from themselves. I don't feel like I got that type of protection. But, I don't judge them for that. Some things just happen. I told them I felt OK because I wanted to play, and they did what they did."

My first reaction was to dismiss Arenas' sentiments as whining. Gil called himself "a kid," but in '08, he was a 26-year-old, three-time All Star in his seventh season. That's not a kid. That's a veteran superstar that shouldn't need a team to protect him from himself.

But then I was reminded of that Pink song, "Don't Let Me Get Me." (Yeah, Pink, the one who had to be restrained from beating Kanye West to a pulp at this month's MTV VMAs.) When I think about some of those lyrics -- "I'm a hazard to myself" and "I'm my own worst enemy" -- Arenas seems like much more of a sympathetic figure. Players that love to play, as much as Arenas, will undoubtedly try to get on the court to their own detriment.

(In his Hall of Fame speech, when he recalled his dispute with Doug Collins about perilous summertime balling, MJ called his disregard "the Love of The Game clause." Call it an addiction, call it whatever -- players want to play.)

Still, Washington Post blogger (and old pal) Dan Steinberg, of D.C. Sports Bog fame, dug up one of Arenas' old blog posts, where Gil was recounting an exchange he had with a team doctor. The doctor wanted him to wait for a few weeks and a persistent Arenas was hitting the doc with retorts like, "Huh? Another week?! I was planning on playing today. My mind, my mental, is ready for right now!" and "Trust me, I'm mentally ready right now."

You can't push that hard and then blame the team a couple years later.

So there's this tango between player and team, which grows more tense when you have a superstar. The Wizards were under pressure to cave to Arenas' wishes and to the ticket-buying fans pining to see him on the court. Meanwhile, Arenas was, in effect, asking the team to take the decision out of his hands.
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