Oct 7, 2010

Who's That in the Mirror?

Well it's early October, the preseason has begun, and the NBA is beginning its annual stroll back into the the collective sporting consciousness. Casual fan interest is at a high, thanks to the bold offseason moves of an organization in the Southeast Division that some think may now be the greatest basketball team ever assembled. Unfortunately, that team is not the Wizards (wait do they know we signed Kirk Hinrich? They do? Ok).

Nevertheless, the Wizards have received a good deal of publicity for a team that went 26-56 last year. Much of the buzz can be attributed to rookie John Wall, the lightning quick point guard who, at 20, has been given the keys to the franchise. The rest, predictably, is due to Gilbert Arenas.

The plot lines involving Arenas are numerous and tiresome, but to recap: there is his umpteenth comeback attempt, this time following felony gun charges that wiped out most of last season; the question of whether Arenas will ever regain his once astounding abilities following two major surgeries; the painful tension between a former favorite son and a franchise that turned its back on him; and the intrigue of how the new (Wall) will coexist with the old (Gil).

Gilbert addressed this last issue after the Wizard's first preseason game with candor and humility, saying, "Right now I'm out here to hit open shots, teach John the ins and outs of the game, and then eventually go on and move on... right now the city is John's. I'm not here to fight anybody. I'm here to play alongside him. He's Batman, I'm Robin."

A day later Arenas was forced to clarify that he was not demanding a trade or signaling his discontent. Local heavyweight Michael Wilbon ripped Arenas, asking, "How can Gilbert Arenas drama possibly start this early?" The hostile reaction to such gracious, professional comments highlights a complicated relationship between Arenas and the media.

Ages ago, when his star was still ascendant, Arenas was branded a clown who liked nothing more than to put on a show. And what a show it was. The media fell in love with Gilbert, the jokester who boasted of filling out 50,000 All Star ballots for himself (and receiving 52,000 votes total), the Hibachi who cooked Kobe for 61, the supernova who turned his back on his own game winning shot. But after consecutive knee surgeries (the second brought on by an overeager attempt to return from the first), after watching from the sidelines while his team forged a new identity without him, after losing three years from the absolute prime of a potentially transcendent basketball career, Arenas is irrevocably altered. At some point, Arenas lost the joyful certainty that made him so engaging on the court and off. It's doubtful he'll ever get it back.

The media doesn't like the new Arenas, so they've interpreted his comments as part of his latest act. All Arenas needs is a new team so he can go back to his old, zany ways and they can resume writing the stories they want to write. But that's not what Gilbert is trying to say. What he's saying is that he's accepted his mortality. He's not going to have the career that he dreamed of, the one we all hoped for. Sometimes, most of the time, that's the way life works. Zards Alards, the people of the District, the NBA - we all miss the old Gilbert. But if he's ready to move on, shouldn't you be too?

No comments:

Post a Comment