Gilbert Arenas says he is 'glad on got cheered' in return to D.C.
Saturday, February 5, 2011; 1:00 AM
When Gilbert Arenas was the main attraction for the Washington Wizards, the adulation surrounding him in these parts was such that even before he stepped onto the court, there was the sense the spectacular wasn't far behind. Pre-introduction applause reaching rollicking levels at Verizon Center confirmed that, and Arenas frequently would respond in kind with a scoring exhibition or, on his best "Hibachi" days, making the improbable appear routine.
Then injuries began to mount, and his standing as the franchise's centerpiece further deteriorated following a much-publicized incident involving Arenas bringing guns into the Verizon Center locker room.
So when Arenas came back to his former home court for the first time on Friday night as a member of the Orlando Magic, there was no telling what type of reception to anticipate.
Arenas entered with a minute and a half left in the first quarter of a 110-92 Magic win, mostly to cheers but a smattering of disapproval from the crowd of 18,940. Many spectators in the lower bowl even greeted Arenas, traded to Orlando on Dec. 18 for Rashard Lewis, with a standing ovation.
"I expected to get booed some," said Arenas, who finished with 10 points on 4-for-12 shooting with six assists and six rebounds in 24-plus minutes. "Glad I got cheered. It just shows that people understand it was one year, one bad mistake, and it can't erase seven great years I had here."
Since joining the Magic, Arenas has been somewhat of an afterthought for a club with NBA Finals aspirations. He was averaging 8.7 points in 23 games with Orlando entering Friday and has just one game with more than 15 points with his new club. Legal issues continue to follow him as well.
During halftime of Thursday's 104-100 loss to visiting Miami, Arenas was served with child support and custody papers in a petition filed in California by Laura Mendoza Govan, who identified herself as an ex-girlfriend. The petition seeks custody and child support for three children Govan alleges Arenas fathered and for whom he has discontinued financial support.
Arenas had six points and two rebounds during nine minutes in the first half on Friday, but those early contributions hardly invoked the aura of "Agent Zero," when he would delight with showmanship that made him a regular on the highlight reels. Among his most noteworthy moments included beating the host Chicago Bulls at the buzzer, 112-110, in Game 5 of the 2004-05 playoffs and hanging 60 points on the Los Angeles Lakers in a 147-141 overtime road win on Dec. 16, 2006.
But Arenas compensated for a poor shooting night at Verizon Center by helping to limit Wizards leading scorer Nick Young to 7 of 20 from the field. Arenas even prodded his former protege afterward, saying: "He never scores on me. He already knew what was going to happen."
"Gilbert defensively was fabulous," Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said. "I don't know how many a coach has stood here and said that with him. Really, he was the guy.
"I mean we stuck him on Nick Young, and I thought he did a hell of a job of making it tough on Nick Young. I thought his effort was tremendous."