Gilbert Arenas: Still faking it when it's time to get real

The Washington Wizards' Gilbert Arenas talks about the reason he faked a sore knee in Tuesday's preseason win against the Atlanta Hawks.
By Tracee Hamilton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 15, 2010; 12:31 AM

There are still people willing to make excuses for Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas, to forgive his disrespect of his coach, his teammates, his fans, even his own talent.

Anyone who thought the beard and the morose face and the Batman-and-Robin comparisons signaled a new, more introspective Arenas, well, you were wrong. This is the same old Arenas, and people are already mouthing the same old excuses. Aren't you tired of "That's just Gil being Gil"?

Gil was being Gil on Tuesday night when he faked an injury because, as he tells it, he wanted teammate Nick Young to get a chance to start. He was doing something nice, something unselfish, for a teammate. And like most people who perform unselfish acts for others, he couldn't wait to tell his new mortal enemy, the media, all about it when the game was over.

Surprisingly, that didn't go over well with his coach or general manager. I can't imagine it went over real well with some of his supporters. The crowd at Verizon Center that night was sparse, but surely it included some of Arenas's many boosters. On Thursday, the fans welcomed Arenas back with a nice ovation, three minutes before he left the game with a mild strain in his right groin.

Some will probably shrug off Tuesday's episode, as well. It was only a preseason game. He was trying to do something nice. The media blew it out of proportion. And so on.

It's no big deal because it's a preseason game? Really? This is a guy who hasn't played a regular season game since Jan. 5. This is a guy coming off a guilty plea on felony gun charges and a month in a halfway house. This is a guy who played 32 games last season, two the season before, 13 games the season before that.

This is a guy who shouldn't be giving up court time to anyone right now.

And this is a team that doesn't know itself yet. Nearly every player who was with the team a year ago is gone. Overall, this is a young, inexperienced team whose leader is 20 years old. And who, so far, has conducted himself with far more maturity than Arenas has shown.

Coach Flip Saunders could use a focused, healthy Arenas this year. Clearly, he's not going to get that Arenas. He's going to get the same old Arenas.

"I said to him that I'm most disappointed personally because I believe in him," Saunders said. "There's been a trust factor. I told him, 'You're going to have to be honest with me.' It's just like dealing with your kids. Your kids make mistakes, and you deal with them. It doesn't mean you love them any less."

Saunders is half right. Trust is a big issue between a coach and a player. But it's not just like dealing with your kids, because Arenas isn't a kid.

Saunders is falling into the same mistake many people make: When Arenas behaves like a child, they treat him like one - with little expectation that he'll learn anything from the experience. But Arenas isn't a naughty boy; he's a 28-year-old father of three and a three-time NBA all-star. He is not, by any definition except his own behavior, a child.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company