Wizards point guard Gilbert Arenas has maintained a low profile this summer while working out with Tim Grover in Chicago, but every report that comes from someone close to the guard sounds like a glowing review.
Wizards coach Flip Saunders last week went up to Chicago to watch Arenas work out and play and recounted yet another positive report.
"He's worked really hard. His strength in that left leg is off the charts. When he went down there, he could do reverse leg press -- you know, his left leg laying down -- 75 pounds. Now he's pressing 315. His left leg has improved that much. He looks good, he's getting to the basket well on the court. His quickness is back. He's getting his confidence back."
Arenas, according to Saunders, is playing in a ProAm league in Chicago and the coach said "he told me he's averaging like 44 points a game."
While training in Chicago, Arenas also regularly plays five-on-five games, often doing head to head with fellow Grover clients Dwyane Wade, O.J. Mayo and Will Bynum.
Flip said the Wizards have no concerns about Arenas risking further injury or setback while playing in the ProAm or Grover client pickup games.
"No," the coach said. "Tim is doing a good job keeping control of not letting him do too much. Gil's the type of person if you say take two asprin, to him, six is great," Saunders said with a laugh. "He has to watch not wanting to do too much, but Tim's in control, and when I had gotten down there, he had played five straight days. So at this point, everything's going as well as things were expected to have progressed."
Saunders said he also talks with Arenas almost daily about his coaching philosophies, and what is expected of the guard once the Wizards get back to work. In his words, Arenas is "anxious" to start the season and "he feels like he has things to prove." In talking with people close to Arenas, he has hit it off with the coach and is excited about proving himself to be the dazzling player he once was. So far, sounds like the start of a beautiful relationship.
New Washington Wizards coach Flip Saunders says Gilbert Arenas looks fast on the court.
Saunders travelled to Chicago last week and watched Arenas work out and play. Saunders says Arenas' surgically repaired left leg is about four times as strong as it's been.
Says Saunders: "He gets to wherever he wants to get on the court. His quickness is back. If you walked into the gym, you wouldn't know he was hurt."
Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld says he expects Arenas to be ready from Game 1 this season.
Coming off three operations in 1 1/2 years, Arenas played in only two games late last season. He is a three-time all-star.
Saunders and Grunfeld spoke at Wednesday's news conference to introduce new centre-forward Fabricio Oberto.
"Nobody could guard me before, and can't nobody guard me now," Arenas told the newspaper. "If I hadn't come up here, I'd be starting off the season with a 95 percent chance that I'd be sitting out more games. ... [Tim Grover] saved my career."
Arenas said his goal isn't to be an All-Star player this season. Instead, he has loftier goals.
"All-Star's not my goal. I never wanted to be an All-Star. All-Star is the 24 hottest players at that time. All-League? That's my goal," Arenas told the newspaper. "All-League is only 15 players. So All-League and to play as many games as possible. That's it."
That's some good shit.
Last edited by Agent_Zero : 09-17-2009 at 05:43 PM.
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.
He added that he slimmed down to 209 pounds after weighing 234 during the two games he played last season, which should take some of the pressure off of his limbs. "I'm lighter than I've been since my rookie year," Arenas said on Monday.
Antawn Jamison said this week that Arenas has a "bounce in his step" and explained the importance of a healthy Arenas for the success of the Wizards.
"Let's be honest, he's the best player on this team. If we're talking about contending for a championship, he's the guy that's going to put us over the edge and take us to the next level," said Jamison, who has teamed with Arenas for seven of Arenas's eight seasons in the league. "We have so many expectations the last couple seasons, but we didn't have him. It's like having the Lakers without Kobe, or Cleveland without LeBron. He's one of those guys. And I expect that to happen from Day One. I don't expect him to gradually get into his role 15, 20 games into the season. Knowing Gilbert, he's going to be out there proving to everybody he hasn't lost a step at all."
Arenas has accepted Saunders's challenge to be a leader this season. He has been the first player to arrive for each practice, often several hours before they begin.
"It's too early to say he looks like the same Gilbert Arenas, but I'm happy with what he's done," Brendan Haywood said. "He's being a leader on and off the court and that's something we need more than his 30 points a game. That leadership is key."
Saunders was asked if he was concerned about evaluating the team and who best complements Arenas with his star sitting out of the past two days of scrimmages. "No," he said. "We did a controlled-type scrimmage and we did up and down. He was playing with those guys. He's had repetitions with those guys on a daily basis."
Arenas participated in scrimmages on Tuesday and Saunders said, "When we had our meeting afterward, a lot of our coaches weren't aware of how well he sees the floor, how well he can get rid of the ball and push it up the floor and do some of those things. He's trying to understand what we're trying to do and be a leader as far as running the show."
Arenas has carried a serious demeanor through training camp, but he helped lighten the mood after practice on Thursday, engaging Randy Foye in a three-point shooting contest. He exchanged some trash talk with Foye, leaning low to make sure Foye's feet were behind the arc.
At one point, Foye argued that Arenas wasn't keeping a fair count. "Everybody is going to co-sign for Gil," Foye said, shaking his head. "I ain't going to say who won. Ask him. He'll tell you."
When told that Arenas isn't talking to reporters, Foye smiled and said, "Well I won't tell you, either."