Quietly, Arenas Pays His Respects

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By Mike Wise
Thursday, May 4, 2006

CLEVELAND

It was late, going on 12:30 a.m., so late that LeBron James had already showered and was putting baby powder on his big toes. The Cleveland Cavaliers' locker room was emptying out when one of the most unlikely people walked in.

Gilbert Arenas.

Past midnight, past overtime.

He had come to see Larry Hughes, his former teammate and one of his best friends in the league. But he also couldn't escape the gaze of the 21-year-old who shot him and his team down in a Game 5 heirloom late Wednesday night.

"Yo, that was my Game 5," Arenas said to James. "You took my Game 5. I had my speech prepared and everything after the game. And you done messed up everything."

James kept his head down, smiling to himself. He and Arenas had combined for 89 points, and Arenas had indeed done everything superhumanly possible to ensure the Wizards were going home to close out Game 6 on Friday night instead of playing for their season, including hitting two clutch free throws with 3.6 seconds left.

But this was one of those impossible-stakes, Texas hold 'em showdowns Arenas dreams of playing in, and James raised him considerably, knifing down the baseline and dumping in a picturesque layup just before the buzzer to send the arena called the Q into a state of delirium.

Now Arenas was in his locker room?

Fraternization is nothing new in the NBA between visiting players and teams, but this was after the wildest night of James's young career. He seemed stunned that Arenas would come over to affectionately badger him after such a rough loss -- a loss that left Washington one game from elimination.

Arenas wouldn't let the ribbing go as he waited for Hughes to dress.

"I was going to be Mr. Game 5, I was going to be perfect in Game 5s," said Arenas, who deadened the United Center a year ago in Game 5 with a last-second jump shot that all but ended Chicago's season. "You took that game from me. That was my game."


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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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