NBA / Nov 23, 2010 / 2:45 pm

The Wizards will be rewarded for sticking by Gilbert Arenas

Gilbert Arenas (photo. Tim Tadder)

The transition from most-loved to most-hated isn’t a rare sight to see for today’s athletes. The old adage “First they hate you then they love you then they hate you again” has become somewhat of a defining statement for some players’ careers, from Michael Jordan to Kobe Bryant to LeBron James.

Resilience and the ability to block everything out is what helps the great players succeed despite the criticism, and that’s what Gilbert Arenas has. So it’s only a matter of time before he bounces back as well.

Gilbert has put Washington Wizards fans through a lot, and he knows it. He was definitely not in many peoples good graces following the Javaris Crittenton incident that earned him a weapons charge and a stint in a halfway house. By missing most of the season (again) due to an NBA suspension, Arenas became a scapegoat for the Wizards’ fall from a borderline Eastern Conference contender just a few years ago to a Lottery team.

Luckily, Washington won the Lottery last spring and landed John Wall, but Arenas still has some making up to do. At first it was widely assumed Arenas would be traded during the offseason, but the organization stuck by their All-Star guard, and he’s been working slowly but surely on earning his fans back.

There were some missteps along the way — like when he admitted pretending to be hurt during the preseason in order to miss a game and let Nick Young have his playing time — but on the court, Arenas has been solid. He dropped 30 points and 7 three-pointers against the Bulls on the road, and in his first start of the season (when Wall was out injured), Arenas had 20 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists in a win over Toronto.

In an interview after that Raptors game, Arenas was asked about the positive ovation he received from the D.C. fans when his name was announced in the starting lineup.

“It surprised me, especially when I had a rough summer,” Arenas said. “All the stuff I’m reading, I thought the fans were just going to murder me”.

Where he was once marketed as the League’s most likable comedian, after the gun incident, the media turned Gilbert into one of the NBA’s bad guys. But it’s clear to see that he feeds off the hate — everyone knows where he got the nickname “Agent Zero” from — so don’t expect Gilbert’s game to be affected by the outside negativity.

Though questioned at the time, holding on to Gilbert may have been one of the better decisions in franchise history for the Wizards. He has a track record of individual success in the postseason and a resume full of clutch daggers and buzzer-beaters. He averaged 34 points per game in the ’06 playoffs, and handed Kobe 60 points in one game in L.A. later that calendar year. There was a time not too long ago when Gilbert was perhaps the most exciting player in the League and one of its Top 10 or 15 players overall. He has led the Wizards to success before, and he can do it again alongside Wall if he stays healthy.

Winning the John Wall sweepstakes was exactly what the franchise needed. Some believe a starting backcourt of Wall and Arenas can’t work because they’re too small, but at 6-4, Gilbert has been going head-to-head with elite shooting guards for years, and Wall has good size for a point guard. (Not to mention, Washington has Kirk Hinrich and Nick Young coming off the bench.) And whatever the two lack in size, they can make up for in quickness and tenacity. Or in Gilbert’s case, resiliency.

Assuming Gilbert can stay on the court and Wall blasts through the rookie wall, the Wizards will be a dangerous team as the season progresses. Wall and Arenas are one of the most explosive backcourts in the League, competing with the likes of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry in Golden State, and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili in San Antonio. It’s going to take a lot more cohesiveness within the offense and consistency in terms of shot distribution, but all of that will come with time for two players that are willing passers and effective scorers.

Believe it or not, Gilbert survived the rebuilding process for a reason. Some still believe the Wizards made the wrong move in sticking with Gilbert, but he will prove them wrong and the fans are happy to have him back. It goes to show that you shouldn’t always give up on a player when he’s going through a rough time. I know I sure wish my hometown Atlanta Falcons would’ve stood by Mike Vick.

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  • neoy

    um.. we shall see if youre article stands when we’re 60 games into the season

  • http://freshouttatime.blogspot.com freshouttatime

    i think its clear gil is high caliber talent and can help a franchise.
    i agree that the wizards holding him was a smart move for them, they just have to bear with the off the court drama (still) until arenas’ productivity starts making people forget.

    and i’ve said this before get arenas to the knicks and then entice melo (might take less money to be in ny and actually have a shot for success) hopefully anthony randolph will amount to a respectable big and then we have a respectable nysquad

  • karizmatic

    I don’t know I still think the Wizards are just waiting for a semi decent deal to ger Arenas out of there, and I watched the last game against the Bulls, even though he played well it seemed like he was hanging his head an awful lot. I don’t know, he just doesn’t seem to have the same Arenas swag.

  • http://www.haywoodplanning.com D.H.

    I don;t know about in real life, but I love playing with Wall and Gil in 2K11…

  • stefan

    he is in 30% shape than in 2006. I hope he gets to 70%-80%…
    he was not top 10-15, he was top 5 and best closer.
    wizards never had good defense, that was the problem! if mcgee and blatch mature their games on defense the wizards can make the playoffs

  • http://mail.google.com Jayson

    They’ll be rewarded when his contract expires!!

  • Joe’s Momma

    They will be rewarded when the are able to void his contract after he does something else stupid.

  • raffi

    “first they hate you then they love you then they hate you again, wtf does it take for a gangsta to win”

    dont need your love – the game

  • http://facebook.com Chicagorilla

    I understand you are trying to make a point, but MJ was never hated by the general public EVER. Even when he retired abruptly in 93, ppl still had love. Kobe had the Rape charge, Bron has the Decision. I hate writers and bloggers lumping MJs career with these two as if he was a product of the media like those two have been.

  • me

    gorilla- u don’t remember the gambling accusations?

    I admit he was universally loved in the CHI, but relatively speaking it did fluctuate somewhat. I wouldn’t have called it hate, but there were small spots where it wasn’t universal love.

    And we know gil stuck around only because no one else offered the wiz anything they felt was worthwhile.

  • tha sickness

    Fuck Mike Vick.

  • Promoman

    @ Chicagorilla

    Kobe was hated even before Colorado. No matter how much he wins, he’ll never get a pass.

  • Tha Boddy “Stand By Arenas”

    Thank you Jamie this is the article i’ve been waiting for.Arenas was a solid top 7 talent in the League b4 the unfortunate times came.Everyone knows Arenas is a combo guard the same size as D-Wade 6’4 he just isn’t as athletic.If you ranked Arenas with some of the best scorers in the league he would have been top 7 easy all while giving 6assists per game.Most SG’s are supposed to give 3-5apg and most starting PG’s should give 7-9 he was right between them with about 6 all while blowing your face off for 25+ pts.Give the guy a break he has helped out the DMV way more than he hurt it.He scored for schools and helped out the children is that someone who you really wanna hate on???