Gilbert Arenas heard the shouts long before Tuesday night’s game started at the Wachovia Center. In town with the Washington Wizards (nee Bullets) to take on the Sixers in a matchup of struggling teams, Arenas took some of the friendly advice offered by the Philly fans literally.
“Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!”
So Arenas dished out a season-high 14 assists and came one short of tying his career record.
Don’t shoot? Don’t give him any ideas.
Arenas, the loquacious and sometimes controversial All-Star for the Wizards, showed up in Philadelphia for Tuesday night’s game a day after he met with law enforcement officials regarding the incident in the team locker room where Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton allegedly drew guns on one another.
You know, just a couple of guys horsing around with glocks.
But the word out of Washington is that a grand jury is about to convene and a possible season-long suspension from NBA commissioner David Stern could be levied. Needless to say, Arenas (and Crittenton) probably broke all sorts of rules and laws simply by keeping a gun (or guns) in the workplace. Moreover, if Arenas is convicted of a crime the Wizards could void the remainder of his contract.
That’s four years and $90 million wiped out for a little goofing off.
“I wanna say sorry if I pissed anybody off by us havin’ fun,” Arenas Tweeted after talking to the press following the Wizards victory over the Sixers. “I'm sorry for anything u need to blame me for right now.”
Certainly if Arenas is worried about going to jail, losing his job and a potential $90 million, he didn’t show it on Tuesday night. Along with his 14 assists, Arenas did shoot (the ball, that is) a bit, filling it up for 19 points on 6-for-15 shooting from the floor. He played especially well during the Wizards’ run in the second half where the team overcame an 18-point deficit to win going away.
What, Gilbert worry?
“It’s been easy for me,” he said. “If I believed all the stories, of course it would be hard. That’s why we’re so upbeat, because we know what’s out there is way far from the truth.”
Upbeat? How about giddy? After the pregame introductions, the Wizards’ circled around Arenas while he pretended to pick them off with his fingers mimicking six-shooters. He said his teammates asked him to do it.
After the game he apologized for that, too.
When asked if he had learned anything from the controversy, Arenas said that he had and that he doesn’t, “have any guns anymore.”
“I feel bad for the situation where I’ve taken them out of my house to get away from my kids, but I bring them to my locker and put all my teammates at risk, even though they weren’t loaded,” Arenas said. “That’s somebody’s kids, too. So I’m sorry for all the parents of my teammates.”
Nevertheless, while it might be fun and games for Arenas—at least externally—the Wizards’ star has been expected to contribute on the court. Just because his antics could lead to a grand jury hearing and a year-long suspension doesn’t mean that Arenas can just coast along on the court while his life is in disarray. And all this a day before his 28th birthday, too.
In fact, when coach Flip Saunders felt that Arenas was being too passive on offense he called a timeout and chewed him out.
“I thought he was very passive early in the first half,” Saunders said. “I called a quick timeout in the third quarter and told him I was sick and tired of looking at three-point shots off the dribble on transition. He apologized to the team and didn’t do it anymore.”
Again with the apology.
Though he looked like he was having fun with his teammates, the Philly fans and the media in Philly on Tuesday night, and has no worries about his interview with the police on Monday, Arenas is more than a little pensive about his upcoming showdown with Stern.
“He’s mean,” Arenas said, noting that the NBA’s commissioner is likely feeling pressure to hand out a suspension.
Oh, there are meaner people out there than David Stern. Arenas could meet a few of some real meanies if the grand jury decides his case should go to trial.
Mean and nasty. Like those Philly fans that heckled him all night.
Or maybe even his former coach. When asked about the mess that Arenas is in, former Wizards and current Sixers coach Eddie Jordan talked only about basketball.
"The impression I have him is he’s a heckuva three-point shooter, he drives to the basket and he hurt us a lot down there the last time we played them, and he’s an assassin on the floor—he’s a really good player and that’s what we have to prepare for," Jordan said.
As he walked away, Jordan thought for a quick second and said to no one in particular.
"I probably should have used another word than 'assassin.'