Hot Topic Wizards Insider
Arenas is rounding into form
Near the end of the first half of the Wizards' 105-94 loss in Miami on Monday, Gilbert Arenas pulled up from deep behind the three-point line to quickly drain a shot that silenced the crowd. It wasn't quite a 'Hibachi' moment, but it was a reminder of an earlier era when Arenas would routinely end or begin runs with a quick three-pointer.
And, it was a welcome sight for Heat all-star guard Dwyane Wade, who has noticed the change in Arenas's play in recent weeks. Wade spent some time with Arenas the past two summers in Chicago, where they both train with renowned trainer Tim Grover, and knows how hard he pushed himself to get healthy again. But Wade was understandably concerned when Arenas arrived at training camp looking despondent and distant.
"Gilbert's dealt with a lot of things on the basketball court, but off the court as well. You always like to see a guy who comes through adversity, especially when it looked like earlier in the year, he wasn't there mentally with the team," Wade said. "He decided to get into the fight and have some great games for them."
With his 23-point game on Monday, Arenas moved ahead of John Wall as the Wizards' new leading scorer at 18.1 points per game. Ever since he returned to Chicago on Nov. 13, Arenas has been playing at a different level, beginning with his 30-point outburst against the Bulls. In his past nine games, Arenas has averaged 21.6 points and 6.2 assists. He had a season-high 31 points in a loss to Orlando on Saturday and handed out a career-high 16 assists against Detroit.
"He's one of the best talents we have in the game," Wade said. "He's a guy that defenses fear, because you never know what you're going to get from him. He puts pressure on you all the time."
With Wall missing six of the past eight games, Arenas has been asked to take on a greater offensive load than either he or Coach Flip Saunders had expected, with him working his way back from a strained tendon in his right ankle.
"I think he's playing great this year," said Arenas's former teammate, Mike Miller. "It was tough for him, coming into a situation like that. He's used to being the man - I still think he is - but they are going to put the ball in John Wall's hands more, but I think he's playing great."
Arenas has been mostly a jump shooter as he continues to try to regain that burst. He also recently complained about trying to adjust to how officials are now allowing big men to jump straight up while contesting shots and not calling fouls on contact. He hasn't driven the ball as much, which is why he averages just 3.5 free throw attempts a game. But Arenas said he understands that he has to assume more responsibilities until Wall returns.
"Right now, I have to be aggressive," Arenas said. "I catch myself, like I did in the middle of the third and the beginning of the fourth [against Miami], just sitting there watching and I think that's when the game started slipping away and I think that's when I have to assert myself. When John comes back, I can go back to what I was before."
Arenas said he didn't get too caught up in his individual matchup with Wade. "It just feels good just playing in the NBA again," he said. "No matter who it is any night. When you're playing, you take it for granted that the game could be over any second. And I'm just happy to be out there to be part of it again."
And Wade is pleased to see Arenas looking more like the player he remembers. "More so, because I know Gil, I know some of the things he's been through, I'm just happy to see him play basketball and not be in the media about anything else, just basketball."