During my years as a radio reporter in Cleveland covering the Cavaliers which lasted through the 2007 NBA Finals; I always enjoyed interviewing Gilbert Arenas who at the time was a star for the Washington Wizards. He always answered every question and made for a great soundbite as we say in the industry. Even after losses he handled himself professionally even when a reporter threw an absolutely inane question his way. Throughout the many interviews I had over the years with the former Wizards All-Star guard; he came off as a genuinely good guy who seemed to realize that he was blessed to be playing in the NBA.
Although injuries kept him on the sidelines for close to two full seasons, the guard was beloved in the nation’s capital by fans who saw the talent and the enthusiasm he had whenever he took to the hardwood. If the guard was not the favorite athlete of every sports fan in Washington D.C. then he most certainly was near the top.
His image would be forever tarnished after Arenas brought a gun into his team’s locker room in December of 2009. Commissioner David Stern would suspend the player in January for the balance of the campaign and the club’s brain trust decided to go into rebuild mode as they traded forward Antawn Jamison to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Caron Butler to the Dallas Mavericks.
One of the reasons that Stern suspended Arenas as quickly as he did was that the Commissioner was mortified at the lack of remorse that the guard displayed after committing the crime. The last straw was when the Wizards played in Philadelphia and Arenas pretended he was shooting his teammates during the introductions. That was enough to show Stern that the veteran was not taking the incident seriously and the suspension came down soon there after.
Arenas began last season with the Wizards but he would be traded to the Orlando Magic in mid-season for forward Rashard Lewis. It would not be a smooth transition for the veteran as he came off the bench for Orlando and averaged just 8.0 points, 3.2 assists and 2.4 rebounds in 49 games for the team. He was waived by the Magic in December as the club used their “NBA Amnesty Clause” to release him and get his salary off the books. Arenas has been without a team so far in this campaign.
The 30-year-old former All-Star has been the subject of speculation over the past few days and according to reports from the “Los Angeles Times” as well as “ESPN.com” his name has been bandied about as a possible person of interest for the Los Angeles Lakers. Head coach Mike Brown told reporters “We’ve made a call on (him), yes. We’ve called to see what his status is. That’s it. I have not talked to him, I have not watched any tape on him. It’s really just conversation. We’ve had conversation about a lot of players. There are a ton of players out there that we’ve had conversation about.”
Brown said that he has had conversations with Los Angeles General Manager Mitch Kupchak about the makeup of the club’s roster. He told members of the media “I asked if he had any thoughts on our games in the past week. He told me what he thought about our games. He told me what’s the status on anyone that’s available out there. He updated me on a few players. I’m sure Mitch is doing what he can to help this team get better.”
If the Lakers are seriously considering adding Arenas to the roster; the question then becomes can he be an asset for the squad or will he be a cancer in the locker room? Even though he had bad numbers last season, if the veteran is healthy at his age his skills should still be intact, if perhaps rusty.
However if Arenas is made a member of the team does he come in humbly realizing this may be his last shot at playing in the Association; or will he act like Allen Iverson did in his aborted effort with the Memphis Grizzlies a couple of years ago? The Iverson incident was a bad experience for all involved, and most assuredly Kupchak and Brown do not want their team to go through similar circumstances. If Arenas comes to Los Angeles with an attitude; it will just breed dissension throughout the roster with team leader Kobe Bryant right at the head of the line.
Kupchak has been putting the pieces together for quite a while now and he certainly has a higher ratio of success than failure during his watch. Mike Brown is a good judge of character and I believe he can tell whether he is being snowed or if a player is leveling with him. Although the team has come out of the gate with a 13-9 mark, it is unlike Kupchak to make a panic move (well perhaps the Lamar Odom situation but that was caused by the Association vetoing the Chris Paul trade.) The odds are pretty great that if Gilbert Arenas does wear a Lakers uniform this season it will be after he understands exactly what is expected of him on and off the court.