Gilbert Arenas spoke at length for the first time to the media last night following the Wizards' 97-94 victory over the Dallas Mavericks. Arenas was his usual forthright self, acknowledging that the Wizards were now John Wall's team and that his job was to act as a mentor and facilitator as Wall's star gains ascendance. Michael Lee of WaPo has the story:
"This is the NBA. There's few players that stay in the same city, so right now the city is John's. I'm not here to fight anybody. I'm here to play alongside of him. He's Batman, I'm Robin. When I came in, Larry [Hughes] moved aside for me to become a star and I'm moving aside for him to become a star."
While it is nice to see that Arenas understands the new reality of the Washington Wizards and his role as a second banana, it is still a bit sad to hear a player discuss how his time with a team might be growing short. While Arenas does not openly address the rumors that the Wizards will try to shop him before his contract expires, he sounds much like a contract employee winding up his time on assignment:
"Right now I'm out there to hit open shots, teach John the ins and the outs of the game, and then eventually go on and move on. I'm on my way."
The spirit of Arenas' comments is commendable, but one wonders if his taking a purely deferential role to Wall is what the Wizards need to remain competitive this year. Wall will spend most of his first year learning to run the point guard position in the NBA and will need Arenas to harness his scorer's mentality. Becoming deferential to Wall, and to a lesser extent Andray Blatche will only limit Arenas' effectiveness and decrease the likelihood that he will be traded down the road.
Perhaps the most concerning aspect of the interview is that the Agent Zero persona may be dead and buried forever. Arenas' quotes make him sound much less like a man excited to get back on the basketball court, and much more like a man who has been ground down by the game and the media attention from last year's suspension.
"I lost all feeling a long time ago. Basketball is basketball now, no matter what floor I'm on," Arenas said with a shrug. "It's just basketball. It's not rocket scientist. You go out there and you just play."
The new Debbie Downer Gilbert Arenas will take a bit for Washington Wizards fans to get used to this season. No more hibachi. No more long looks after long threes. No more phenomenal swag. It's all Agent Bummer all the time.
At least for this week.