Arenas Gets His Just Due
Even in the NBA, a slight is a slight. Last week, the Eastern Conference coaches overlooked Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas and his 28 points per game when they voted for the All-Star Game reserves.
"That's the NBA," Arenas said on Friday, a day before Commissioner David Stern rectified the coaches' mistake by adding Arenas to the team. The decision by Stern occurred several hours before the Wizards met the Cleveland Cavaliers (29-20) and their all-star superstar starter, LeBron James.
Such a matchup normally would fill MCI Center, but the buzz surrounding the Arenas controversy added to the excitement. Throw in Brian Lenair's stirring rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner" and a raucous crowd of 20,173, and you had the makings of a big night in the NBA.
"I felt a lot of emotion and excitement tonight," Arenas said after scoring 32 points to lead the Wizards (25-23) to a 101-89 victory, their fourth straight win and their fifth in six games.
How did Arenas find out that he'd been chosen by Stern to a second consecutive all-star team?
"Text message in my car," he replied with a twinkle in his eye.
In a moment of reflection, Arenas admitted: "I was hurt not to be included. I play with passion and I put a lot into the game. But there's a blessing to everything.
"Scottie Pippen once told me to enjoy the experience of being an all-star because you never know about the future. They don't promise you anything in this league."
Arenas, who had been bypassed because of the inclusion of four Detroit Pistons (41-8) to the East squad, even outplayed James (18 points) Friday night. That doesn't happen often.
Wizards Coach Eddie Jordan, asked why his coaching colleagues passed on voting Arenas onto the squad, said: "Maybe it was the Detroit phenomenon. Or maybe they think Gilbert takes a lot of shots. But he's matured in every phase of his life."
Most significant were the two standing ovations Arenas got from the home crowd -- one when he was introduced before the game and a second when he left the game with 1 minute 23 seconds left and the Wizards comfortably ahead.
An all-star performance.