Gilbert Arenas sounded off against Coach Eddie Jordan following Sunday’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
What a year it has been for Gilbert Arenas. Sure, prior to this season he was a well-known player, an All-Star, and a must-start for any fantasy basketball team. This season; well, let’s just say Gilbert’s stock went up like Apple’s in the 80’s. Arenas shot into superstardom – becoming a household name, appearing in Adidas commercials alongside KG, T-Mac, and Duncan, dropping 60 points in Kobe’s face, and scorching the Suns and Steve Nash for 54 more (ending Phoenix’s 15-game winning streak). Gilbert also won Player of the Week honors three times this season and was named Player of the Month for December, where he averaged 34.1 points per game and led the Wizards to a 12-4 record. That success carried over into the New Year, as game-winning shots against the Bucks and Jazz plastered Arenas’ face all over ESPN and other media outlets throughout the world.
It was mid-January and Gilbert found himself at the forefront of the MVP race while leading his team to the top of the Eastern Conference standings. He was voted in as a starter for the All-Star Game and life was good. It seemed like nothing could go wrong until…it did.
Gilbert and the rest of the Wizards’ joy ride took a turn for the worse on January 30 in a home-game against the Pistons. Antawn Jamison injured his knee on a collision with teammate Deshawn Stevenson and was forced to leave the game. MRI results revealed a sprained knee – Jamison was out three to six weeks.
Coach Eddie Jordan knew it was going to be hard to maintain the same level of success without one of their “big three”, but he was confident that reserves like Jarvis Hayes, Andray Blatche, and Calvin Booth would be able to step in and fill the void left by the absence of their team’s captain.
Boy was he wrong.
In the five games without the injured Jamison, Washington has gone 1-4. Hayes, Blatche, Booth, and Darius Songaila have averaged a combined 16 points per game. Those anemic numbers from his frontcourt forced Jordan into the realization that his Jamison-less team was not going to score at the rate they did when Antawn was on the floor – even with Agent Zero locked and loaded at all times. It was time for the Wizards to focus on defense and that is what he was going to preach in practice day in and day out.
What Jordan did not know was that Arenas would have a big problem with this.
Following Sunday’s loss at home to the Trail Blazers, coach found out.
After Gilbert fell well short of the 50 points he vowed to put-up against Portland (he scored 9 on 3-15 shooting), Arenas went off on his coach – not to his face but through the reporters huddled around his corner locker.
“We were so focused on defense. Usually we’re ready to go out there and outscore a team, but we were in here focusing on what defensive strategy we had to do and we didn’t have that same spunk we usually do.”
Arenas went on to subtly bash Jordan’s new defensive philosophy when asked about his 50-point prediction, “I thought I was too (going to score 50) until the game plan changed a bit. I don’t know, I guess I gotta start predicting that I’ll get 10 steals (laughing). We still got one more game (until the break) and hopefully we get back to our old selves.”
“I look at our last three losses and they were against some tough teams. You know Phoenix, San Antonio, and the Lakers. We wasn’t losing to any scrubs but we still had to clean up our defense, and that’s what our whole mindset was today and it threw us off guard a little bit. At the end of the day we are who we are. We go out there and blow teams out. That’s what we do. You have defensive teams in this league and you have offensive teams in this league. I guess we’re one of those offensive teams that is trying to buckle down now.”
Gilbert’s sarcastic tirade went on until Jamison came over and pulled him away from the reporters that were still milling around his locker. Reporters that stood standing around, shocked by what they had just heard; Arenas blaming the loss on the fact that his coach stressed the importance of defense in practice.
I’m assuming Arenas left the arena shortly after throwing his couch under the bus, and it was a good thing he did because just down the hall, Eddie Jordan was about to hear what his star player had to say about his supposed over-emphasis on defense.
“My reaction to that? That I emphasized defense? No reaction” said Jordan. “It’s just plain stupid. The whole idea of us having to playing better defense – that being a problem – that’s ludicrous.”
You could literally see the blood boiling as he answered the reporter who had the courage to bring up Gilbert’s comments.
“We haven’t found the answer for missing Antawn. Our forwards aren’t ready to make the plays at the offensive end right now. What do we have to do to win if something happens to the big three? Certainly it has to be defense. Who else is going to score and do the things that Antawn does? Moving forward, the pattern for this team without Antawn is to continue to play defense.”
Coach Jordan was very firm in defending his game plan, and it was quite apparent that Arenas’ comments were not going to change the way he was going to approach upcoming games without Jamison. If anything, Gilbert’s comments are going to make Jordan more steadfast in focusing on defense.
I smell trouble.
For the time being, it doesn’t look like either one of these guys is going to budge on their beliefs for how this team should be playing. Gilbert wants to run and gun again, while Eddie wants to buckle down and D up.
As an outsider looking in, it’s hard to take sides. The numbers don’t lie – The Wizards are no doubt, an offensive team. They rank second in points scored per game (106.0), while also allowing the second most points per game (106.1).
Don’t forget though, Antawn Jamison was an active member of the team while the majority of those two stats were compiled. In the five games that Jamison has missed, the Wizards have averaged 97.0 points per game, but there defense has been even worse, allowing an average of 109.8 points in that span.
So what’s a team to do? You’d like to think that the coach would know what’s best in this situation but clearly the defense for the Wizards is still not there. Is Gilbert in the right? Should the Wizards throw defense out the window and focus on getting Agent Zero 50 shots a night?
I don’t think there is a right or a wrong here. If I had the answers, I’d be on the coaching staff. All I know is – Washington’s star player and coach need to find some common ground, otherwise this season could go down Hindenburg style – in flames.
So don’t choose sides here. Just root for the two to hug, make-up, and enjoy the All-Star Game together (it is Valentines Day after all).
The Wizards are not going to be the same until Jamison returns, and a petty feud between Arenas and Jordan will only make matters worse for the Wizards. Division in the locker room will cause a slide in the division. A cute play on words I know, but if it happens; the team and this city will lose what they have worked hard for all season – credibility in the NBA.
Let’s work together fellas.