Gilbert Arenas settled one part of a grudge from last summer with a 54-point performance in December. He’s predicting the next part of his settling of a score will go just as well as the first.
Arenas made his prediction in an entry on NBA.com entitled “Time to Get my 50 Points vs. Portland.” The desire to score 50 against the Blazers isn’t random, as Arenas sees it as payback for anyone who might have had anything to do with his not making the U.S. national team for the world championships last summer.
Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni and Portland coach Nate McMillan served as assistants on that team, and Arenas unleashed his frustrations against D’Antoni on Dec. 23, scoring 54 points as the Wizards snapped the Suns’ 15-game winning streak with a 144-139 overtime victory.
Arenas pounded his chest in that game and appeared to stare into the stands at Suns chairman Jerry Colangelo, the head of USA Basketball, and at D’Antoni several times during the contest.
Arenas said afterward that he wasn’t staring at D’Antoni and didn’t know Colangelo was there, but his blog post seems to indicate that last summer’s snub is definitely on his mind.
“Even if you don’t watch the game, you’re going to look at the box score to see what happened,” wrote Arenas, second in the league with 29.4 points per game. “My last one o’clock game was 51 against Utah. So I’m feeling pretty frisky.”
D’Antoni’s joked after Arenas’ spectacular performance against the Suns that “He’s gonna kill Duke,” a reference to Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski, who as head coach of the U.S. national team cut Arenas. The Wizards guard reacted by saying he’d ‘score 84 or 85’ against Duke.
All three of Arenas’ 50-point games have come this season, and he had a personal-best 60 in an overtime win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Dec. 17.
Arenas’ coach and teammates didn’t seem too thrilled by the prediction following Washington’s 110-83 loss to San Antonio on Wednesday, which matched its largest margin of defeat of the season.
“I’m not going to comment on that,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said of the blog entry. “He talked about that. That’s for him. I’m concerned about how we should perform as a team.”
Washington looked listless in suffering its third loss in four games without starting forward Antawn Jamison, who’s sidelined for three-to-six weeks with a knee injury. The Wizards had won seven of eight.
“We’re going to have no distractions,” forward Caron Butler said. “We just want to play basketball and win the game. Obviously, (Arenas) made statements, and it is what it is.
“Coach is just saying the main thing is to win games—we’re not going to feed into an extra hype.”
Arenas had 29 points against the Spurs, but Butler was the only other Wizards player in double figures with 15.
“That was just a flat-out, 48-minute, thorough beating—right from the beginning to the end,” Jordan said.
While Butler and the Wizards would like to avoid distractions, they added one more to Arenas’ prediction and Jameson’s absence Saturday. Etan Thomas was suspended two games by the team for throwing a punch at Brendan Haywood in practice Friday, the latest clash between two players competing for time at center.
With Jameson already out, the suspension leaves Washington even more thin in the frontcourt, and Jordan admitted after Saturday’s practice that the feud is one more thing for his team to deal with.
“For the moment, yes. But after everything is said and done and everything is taken care of, no,” he said. “We had a morning meeting, watched film, moved on to practice and we had a very good practice today. We addressed various things at the meeting.”
Forward Michael Ruffin, who has played only 10 games this season because of a foot injury, could return to help Washington in a limited role Sunday.
Like Washington’s best player, Portland star Zach Randolph may also be using a snub to motivate him.
The power forward, who averages 24.3 points per game, had 40 points and nine rebounds Friday to lead the Blazers (21-30) past Charlotte 108-100 in overtime in the opener of a four-game road trip.
“I feel like I’m up there with the best players in the league,” said Randolph, who was left off the Western Conference All-Star team.
“I guess I just get no respect doing the same thing other guys are doing. They’re on winning teams and I understand that. But we’re going to continue to get better and I’ll get the respect I deserve.”
Randolph has struggled against Washington in his career, managing only 12.3 points per game in eight meetings—his second-lowest average against any team.
The Blazers and Wizards split their series in 2005-06, with each club winning at home.