By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 10, 2006
Gilbert Arenas has made a career out of turning slights, whether real or perceived, into fuel for his high-scoring performances on the court.
So it should come as no surprise that the Washington Wizards guard plans to draw motivation from the fact that the NBA's Eastern Conference coaches did not select him as a reserve for the Feb. 19 All-Star Game in Houston.
The seven reserves were officially announced last night, but word that Arenas would not be included leaked Wednesday.
Arenas, an all-star reserve last season and the NBA's fourth-leading scorer this year, could be added to the 12-man squad by NBA Commissioner David Stern as a replacement for injured Indiana Pacers forward Jermaine O'Neal, but the sting of being left out by the fan voting process and then by the coaches in his own conference isn't going away any time soon.
Arenas has never gotten over falling out of the first round of the 2001 NBA draft, and he chose the uniform number zero because some critics believed that would be the number of minutes he would play at the University of Arizona.
"That chip was falling off from the 2001 draft and now another chip goes on," said Arenas, who is averaging 28.2 points and 5.9 assists per game this season. "You've just got to go out there and play. You can't let something like this hurt you. You know, 2001, I used that to get to this point and I'll use this to get further."
The Eastern Conference reserves are guards Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton, and forwards Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace of the Detroit Pistons; New Jersey guard Vince Carter; Boston forward Paul Pierce; and Toronto forward Chris Bosh.
Those players will join the game's starters, who were selected in fan voting: Miami center Shaquille O'Neal and guard Dwyane Wade, Cleveland forward LeBron James, Philadelphia guard Allen Iverson and Indiana's O'Neal, who is out with a groin tear.
Stern is going through a list of possible replacements for Jermaine O'Neal and is expected to make his decision this weekend with an official announcement to come as soon as Monday.
Candidates include Arenas, Detroit forward Tayshaun Prince, New Jersey point guard Jason Kidd, Milwaukee shooting guard Michael Redd, Orlando power forward Dwight Howard and Cleveland center Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Wizards forward Antawn Jamison, who made the squad last season as a reserve and is averaging 19.3 points and 9.9 rebounds this season, also was not chosen by the coaches.
"I think I have 400 players I would consider," Stern joked when asked about Arenas yesterday. "I haven't done my deep dive into the issue but I know I have a little bit of work to do. I don't want to make any statements or prejudgments."
Arenas said he would happily accept an invitation to participate in his second consecutive All-Star Game should Stern select him, but he is also preparing himself for the worst.
"It's the NBA," Arenas said. "It happens. There are politics involved in the NBA. There is someone every year. I remember LeBron's first year, it went like this and he was averaging [26 points and six assists]. I just have to look at it like 'Okay, it happened to me and now I have to go forward.' "
In the history of the league, only two players have entered the all-star break averaging more than 28 points per game and not made an all-star team: Dick Barnett of the New York Knicks in 1965-66 and World B. Free of the San Diego Clippers in 1978-79.
Arenas is one of four players ranked in the top 20 in points and assists per game and the other three -- James, Iverson and Wade -- will start for the East.
"There is no explanation whatsoever for Gilbert not to be participating," Jamison said. "I know there's an opportunity for Jermaine O'Neal's spot, but, to be honest, I don't understand the point of view of the coaches leaving off a guy who is the fourth-leading scorer in the league plus his team is above .500. It's not right."
Arenas said he did not intend to watch last night's official announcement of the all-star reserves on TNT, planning instead to watch the movie "Bambi II," which was just released on DVD.
"'Bambi" "was my favorite movie as a kid," Arenas explained. "I can't believe it took them so long to make the second one."
As for tonight's game against James and the Cavaliers, Arenas said his main focus will be on helping the Wizards earn a fourth consecutive victory.
"It's about winning and I'm going to do everything I can do to help us win that game," Arenas said. "But I am going to be in attack mode."
Staff writer Michael Lee contributed to this report.