Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Return of Gilbert Arenas

Gilbert Arenas is lucky to be back in the NBA, and the Grizzlies are just as lucky to have him.

Arenas was waived by the Orlando Magic on December 9, 2011 becoming free to sign with any NBA team. However, his status around the league was tenuous and the 6’3” guard failed to find a home through the first 45 games of a 66-game season.

On March 20th Memphis signed the three-time all star for the remainder of the season. Arenas is ready to prove that he has been wisened by his experiences over the past year-and-a-half: a time when he was a basketball outcast.

During a locker room dispute on Christmas Eve of 2009, Arenas and then-Wizards teammate Javaris Crittenton drew pistols on each other. The incident and subsequent fallout nearly ended Arenas’ career.

Instead, he was sentenced to two years probation and 30 days in a halfway house. His probation ended Monday, coinciding with his return to the NBA, and Arenas is happy to be playing basketball again and rebuilding his reputation.

Arenas told ESPN, “‘I’m just back to my old self — laid back, funny guy. I'm back to just loving the game of basketball. I'm about playing it the right way.”

If he’s serious about playing up to his potential, he could be a dynamic offensive option.

His scoring onslaughts during his peak include a 60 point outing against the Lakers in 2006, scoring 54 against the Suns in 2007 after D’Antoni cut Arenas from team USA the previous summer, and scoring 51 points capped off by a no-look, arms raised, game-winner in 2007 against the Jazz.

Simply put, when Arenas has a reason to believe, he’s a flat-out performer.

He’s also a lengendary performer off-court. Arenas once dubbed himself “the Black President” (pre-Obama, of course), launched a signature shoe line with 20 different autobiographical variations, pioneered the athlete blog, and gave away his personal shoe collection to his twitter followers.

Memphis fans are delighted to have such an accessible, personable player to cheer for.

Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said upon signing the 10-year veteran, “Gilbert desperately wants to get back in the NBA. He’s a legit card-caring basketball junkie. And he’s still 30 years old.”

A recognized gym rat, Arenas is famous for obsessing over specific locations on the court and taking thousands of jump shots from those spots to ensure he’ll have the muscle memory the next time he gets the opportunity in-game.

Of course, there’s the possibility that the Arenas experiment could go horribly awry. The Grizzlies attempted to bring Allen Iverson back to the NBA in September 2009 and it ended with AI walking out on the team. Or there’s the possibility that Arenas is still a loose cannon that could influence teammates negatively and disrupt team chemistry.

That, however, doesn’t seem to be the case. After an impressive first practice with the Grizzlies, a rejuvenated Arenas stayed late to fraternize with his new teammates and to partake in shooting challenges.

This version of Arenas can help bind a team, create unity, promote practice and hard work, bring levity to a locker room during the tense playoff run ahead, help mentor the younger players on the do’s and don’ts of the NBA, and perhaps make a clutch bucket or two.

Not only can Arenas play, he can entertain on and off the court while doing it. If he can stay grounded, Arenas will prove to be a valuable addition to the Memphis Grizzlies both immediately and in the future.

Welcome back.

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