October 07, 2010
There is less here than meets the eye. Even if things are more serious than we've been led to believe.
If Gilbert Arenas(notes) is suffering with depression then this is understandable. It is a valid concern in the wake of him essentially losing three years of his prime, being hit with felony charges earlier this year and going from a hot-shot guard on one of his conference's better teams to a curio on one of the league's worst teams.
But something needs to be done with Gilbert, and quickly. Because in his attempts to make himself less of the story and a background figure, he's turning himself into the story, and putting himself out front and center. If his intentions are noble, fine, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. But he's going at this completely the wrong way.
Which is why it needs to be taken care of in the preseason. When you take care of things. Because mopey Gilbert can't be the focus of a Wizards team that is trying to turn the page. And trying, desperately, to get rid of the four years and $80 million (including this season) that is remaining on his contract.
Gilbert wasn't the biggest part of the story in Washington's win over the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night. The team -- showcasing quickness and touch from all over the court -- was the story. And yet following the game, Gilbert (in a misguided attempt to step aside) turned into the story. It's not his fault The Washington Post and its editors decided to lead with his comments above all others, but it is his fault his comments stuck out amongst the typical postgame pablum.
Afterward, the enigmatic Arenas offered a puzzling explanation of his new role with the Wizards. "I'm out there to hit open shots. Teach John the ins-and-outs of the game and eventually go on and move on. And I'm on my way," he said, hinting that he could be moved before his contract expires in 2014. "This is the NBA, there are few players that stay in the same city. Right now, the city is John's. I'm not here to fight anybody. I'm here to just play alongside of him. He's Batman and I'm Robin. I'm moving aside so he can become a star."
Later, Gilbert relayed that he "lost all feeling a long time ago."
This isn't us trumpeting nonsense up. This is news. When one of the game's more feeling-y players dips down into the ranks of the uninspired (in the NBA, as it is in any workplace, the number varies between a third and half of the workforce), then this is news.
And if he's lodging a pre-emptive complaint about being traded, well, why wouldn't the Wizards trade you? You're one of the highest-paid players in the NBA, and you've missed three years because of injury (not your fault), poor rehabilitation from the injury (your fault), and a childish attempt at humor that mixed with a shocking lack of perspective and maturity, and led to a more than half-season dismissal.
And when you played last season, you weren't that good. Put up numbers, but at the expense of good offensive basketball. Mixed with terrible, terrible defense.
Again, if this depression is real (and I suspect it is), then Gilbert needn't be working his way through it on a basketball court in public. Because the old ideal that a player will find his way back once he gets back to what he loves (playing the game) goes out the window when Gilbert tells us that he "lost all feeling a long time ago."
But if this is able to be overcome, I'm sorry, these reactions are just lame. It's a dye-job or moody music interest that results after a bad breakup. It's so obvious. The guy grew a nasty beard. Tell me you don't know people like that. We get it, Gilbert.
And if this is crippling, then Gilbert needs to take a break and figure out what's best for him. I'm in no hurry to see him get back to the happy-go-lucky guy we knew from four years ago, because I wasn't smitten with that character to begin with. But I do know the Wizards are trying to move forward, and their long-suffering fan base doesn't need a guy talking about playing without feeling so flippantly. If that is a show, then shame on him.
Depression is real, and it can lead to real bad things when the person stuck in a cloud he can't get rid of feels like he's run out of options. If Gilbert is suffering through this, it's quite understandable, and it shouldn't be treated with another preseason game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
If this is just a show, just the yin to the yang we've received from Gilbert for years, then it needs to stop.