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Mike Wise: As His Return Nears, Gilbert Arenas's Mouth Hits the Court Running
During his rehab period, Arenas was bothered by the notion that he was dogging it. "I heard, 'You don't want to play.' No, I had three surgeries. I'm not just sitting on the bench; I'm injured. It's wild how perceptions change so quickly.
"At one point, you're seen as the hardest-working player in the league. And in one moment, you're a thief. How does that work?"
As this dreadful Wizards' season draws to a close, I selfishly tried to enlist the three-time NBA all-star in some I-told-you-so vindication after he returned my call, get the franchise player to go off on the haters now in hiding. You know who his main target was?
That's right, Arenas pointed the finger at Agent Zero for not helping develop the young players on the team, for not getting Nick Young, Dominic McGuire, Javaris Crittenton, JaVale McGee or Andray Blatche to progress enough during an 82-game gift of an opportunity -- though he said McGuire worked for everything he got.
"Nick, Javaris, JaVale -- I felt personally that they didn't get better this season due to the fact I wasn't around," Arenas said. "All of us are at fault, but I blame myself for them three not getting better."
"We didn't realize what happened, how we got too young too early too fast," he said of the Wizards. "We got rid of veterans every year, and we're bringing in kids. We kept getting draft picks. We kept acquiring projects. Nick is a project. JaVale is a project. Javaris is a project. Eventually when you have enough projects, you live in the 'hood."
Seventeen and 56 is indeed the NBA's 'hood.
"At the end of the day, our problem is we don't have a veteran team," he said. "A team like Cleveland, they went to the finals and got rid of two veteran players and they brought in two veterans. It was hard to watch us fall off. We were right there with Cleveland. Orlando and Atlanta got older, better. Now they all surpassed us. Damn, look at Miami? They were above us, then we passed them and now they're ahead of us again."
Arenas said he has committed to spending most of the summer working out with Young, Crittenton and McGee, to "teach them what I know."
The hardest part of this season, Arenas said, was disconnecting from a team he felt helpless around. It got to the point where he begged team physicians three times to give him a clean bill of health so he could play -- in November, which he now realizes would have set back his recovery. He finally knew that focusing on his own recovery would be his greatest contribution.
"I was like: 'I can't watch this. This isn't basketball,' " he said. "Earlier in the season, I'm even cussing Antawn [Jamison] and Caron [Butler], telling them to get on the young players, 'Y'all need to do something, what the [expletive] are you doing?' But after a while when you don't play, everyone tunes you out. You can only get in their heads so much when you're not on the floor with them."