Mike Conley and Gilbert Arenas face off in 2011 (Joe Murphy/ Getty).
Few athletes' public images have changed as much over the past few years as combo guard Gilbert Arenas, the one-time Internet hero who has become an NBA pariah. Much of that sharp downturn in popularity can be explained by his controversial 2010 gun charge, but there's also been a growing sense that Arenas has limited use on the court. He's a big personality used to playing as a star, and it's not yet clear how well he can adjust to being a role player. His play with the Orlando Magic last season suggests that he still needs time to acclimate to his new status.
We should find out just how much he can help a contender soon enough. As reported by Ronald Tillery in The Commercial Appeal, the Memphis Grizzlies are prepared to offer Arenas a contract for the rest of this season:
Free agent guard Gilbert Arenas worked out for the Grizzlies this morning and the team is preparing to sign him to a deal for the rest of this season, according to sources close to the process.
Arenas appeared slender and shot the ball well during the workout. He is scheduled to take a physical this afternoon. All that would remain is for Arenas to pass the physical and agree to a prorated veteran's minimum contract requiring the Griz to pay about $300,000.
Nothing's official yet, so it's not quite right to discuss Arenas as a member of the Grizzlies. Their interest makes some sense, though, if only because they've struggled to find a steady backup point guard for Mike Conley and are exploring all possible avenues. Young, untested players like Jeremy Pargo and Josh Selby don't figure to cut it, although Memphis managed to get by with the since-departed Greivis Vasquez in 2011.
On the other hand, Arenas isn't exactly a pure point guard. He's about as much of a scorer as the position can possibly handle, and it's hard to imagine him playing the role of distributor on a team with a fair amount of scorers. If this is going to work, Arenas will need to play in lineups that can accomodate his tendency to shoot as much as he likes. At the very least, it should take some time to incorporate him into the rotation, which was already an issue with star Zach Randolph just returned from significant injury. Most teams gearing up for the playoffs have their rotations set — the Grizzlies, while very good in any incarnation, are still a work in progress.
Arenas is a strong personality, and it's easy to imagine that the biggest issue related to his arrival would come with regards to team chemistry. But the Grizzlies have shown a startling ability to handle similar players over the past two seasons: Randolph has been a noted problem child his whole career, and the team has somehow figured out how to stay cohesive after O.J. Mayo and Tony Allen fought on the team plane 15 months ago. The real questions about this signing have more to do with the lineup than the locker room.
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- Gilbert Arenas
- Memphis Grizzlies