WASHINGTON (AP)—Gilbert Arenas staged another shooting boycott, and it once again came at the end of a five-game losing streak.
Two nights after scoring a career-high 44 points and declaring “I’m not Steve Nash,” Arenas did his best impersonation of the Phoenix Suns guard Monday night, dishing out a season-high 13 assists while passing up shots in the Washington Wizards’ 119-112 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks.
“That’s Gilbert-ology, we call it,” Washington coach Eddie Jordan said. “It’s not ideology or anything. It’s his way of doing things, and I’m trusting Gil more and more each and every day.”
Antawn Jamison scored 32 points to help the Wizards end a five-game skid and re-establish some momentum as they anticipate their first playoff berth since 1997. Washington (42-35) also clinched its first winning season since 1998 and gave Jordan his 100th NBA coaching victory.
But the story of the game was Arenas’ strange behavior. He took just two shots in the first three quarters and finished with just eight points—all in the fourth quarter—as for the third time in his career he opted not to shoot for long stretches of a game. He failed to score in double figures for the first time since Jan. 17.
What spurred the abrupt change? Well, it’s worth noting that after Arenas scored 44 in Saturday’s loss to Philadelphia, he was asked about the fact that he had only three assists. Arenas’ response was defensive and his voice rose as he said: “I’m not Steve Nash and I never will be. I’m not going to get you 22 assists.”
Whether that was the motivation remains a mystery. After letting his teammates take all the shots, the usually verbose Arenas also let them do all the talking by making a quick exit from the locker room following the game.
Jordan said he did not know why Arenas wasn’t shooting. While the coach praised Arenas for managing the game well, Jordan said he had not asked Arenas to take fewer shots—and Arenas had not given the coach any indication of what was in store.
Teammates didn’t seem to have a clue, either.
“He’s talented enough to lead a team in different ways than shooting and scoring: rebounding the ball, assisting, playing solid defense,” Larry Hughes said. “And that’s what he decided to do tonight.”
After taking two shots early in the game, Arenas didn’t shoot at all in the second or third quarters. He finally uncorked a wayward baseline jumper in the first minute of the fourth quarter, then scored his first points of the game with a drive to the basket that turned into a three-point play with 10:47 to play. He then made a 3-pointer on the Wizards’ next possession.
Arenas pulled a similar stunt last season against Toronto after Kwame Brown accused an unspecified teammate of being selfish with the ball—a vaguely disguised attack on Arenas. Arenas responded by not attempting a shot until 5:30 remained in the game in a 76-74 victory over Toronto—which also ended a five-game losing streak.
Arenas also declined to shoot for much of a game against the New York Knicks when he was with Golden State during the 2002-03 season, following comments from Warriors teammates about the need to spread the ball more.
Arenas’ actions made for an unusual Wizards box score. Brown, booed for ineffective play at the last two home games, drew cheers as he took advantage of Arenas’ feeds and scored a season-high 17 points. Hughes had 23 points, Etan Thomas 17, and Juan Dixon, who has struggled recently coming back from an injury, added 12. The 62 points in the paint was a season-high.
Michael Redd scored 35 points, and Erick Strickland added a season-high 22 for the Bucks, who fell behind in the first quarter and trailed the rest of the game in their 12th consecutive road loss. Joe Smith missed his second straight game with an injured left pinkie that needed four stitches after it was cut in a win over Charlotte on Friday.
The Bucks also noticed Arenas’ unusual game.
“He was being more point-guard oriented tonight and just getting everybody else the ball,” Redd said. “He had a great game regardless, without scoring the basketball.”
The Wizards signed forward Damone Brown for the rest of the season. Brown had been playing on the second of two 10-day contracts. … Jordan said center Brendan Haywood (broken thumb) might return early next week. … Jordan’s overall record is 100-156 in parts of four seasons with Sacramento and Washington. … Milwaukee’s last road win was a 112-102 victory at Charlotte on Feb. 22. … Milwaukee’s Desmond Mason scored 18 points, putting him over the 5,000 mark for this career.