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Will Gilbert Arenas Ever Grow Up?

Submitted by on October 15, 2010 – 11:58 am2 Comments

I like Gilbert Arenas. I really do.

I’ve liked him for the better part of his NBA career. In fact, I’ll take it back even further. Though I’m a Duke University basketball fan, I remember watching Arenas all the way back in 2001 when Duke beat his Arizona Wildcats in the NCAA Final Four. He was young and not nearly as outlandish as he has been during his NBA career, but you could tell he was a pretty special player. On a team full of guys that would eventually fizzle out once they got to the NBA, he seemed to be just on the cusp of turning himself into the kind of player people get really excited when they talk about.

That’s exactly what Arenas did once he got to the NBA, too. He got people talking. After landing in the second round of the 2001 NBA Draft, Arenas joined a Golden State Warriors squad that wasn’t very good. But after a few years of development, he turned himself into one of the team’s leading scorers and the guy I’m sure the Warriors were hoping he’d turn into when they drafted him.

But he left the team in 2003 through free agency and joined the Washington Wizards—which turned into one of the biggest gifts and curses that the District of Columbia ever received. On the one hand, Arenas is a good, sometimes even great, player. He’s also incredibly entertaining both on and off the court and the type of guy who makes watching an NBA game fun. Over the course of his career, he’s come up with a variety of different nicknames for himself (from “Hibachi!” to “Agent Zero“) and he even launched an NBA.com blog several years back that helped him become a household name.

On the other hand, Arenas has also been a perennial pain in the ass for Wizards’ management because he’s become increasingly more immature in his off-the-court behavior. His playful nature has become a burden to the team. Just last year, he had a little too much fun after an incident which involved him bringing four unloaded guns into the Wizards’ locker room. One night before a game—with Arenas facing a possible suspension and a legal battle due to the incident—Arenas pointed his hands as if they were guns as many of his teammates looked on and chuckled. But the joke was on him—NBA Commissioner David Stern suspended him for the rest of the season shortly after that.

After everything he’s gone through, you’d think Arenas would be ready to move past the awkward growing pains he’s endured in the league and do what he came into the league to do: play basketball. At the start of NBA training camp this year, it seemed like that’s what he was ready to do, too. He vowed to not smile as much and seemed to be taking his job much more seriously than ever before.

But, just like that, Arenas recently struck again. Earlier this week, he faked an injury—telling Wizards head coach Flip Saunders that his knee, the same one he’s had surgically repaired in the past, was bothering him—in an effort to get teammate Nick Young some extra playing time. Saunders believed him and gave him the night off and that would have been that, if Arenas hadn’t told reporters about his little ploy. He was fined by the team the next day.

All of that leads to one simple question: When is Gilbert Arenas going to grow up? When is he going to realize he’s wasting valuable years of his career by doing some of the things he’s doing? When is he going to start taking himself and his profession more seriously? There are guys who would kill to be in his position right now. (If you don’t believe me, ask Allen Iverson if he’d trade shoes with Arenas right now…) When is he going to start acting like it?

If I was a betting man (and, for the record, I am—but I’m not sure Vegas has a line set on this, ha!), I’d bet Arenas never stops behaving the way he does. That’s great for the fans out there who like to laugh at his expense and who get a chuckle out of Gilbert being Gilbert. But if he continues to act the way he does, Gilbert Arenas is going to waste every last ounce of talent left in him.

You’re a basketball player, Gilbert. Not a comedian. Not an actor. Not a prankster. A basketball player. And I’m pretty sure Washington Wizards fans would appreciate it if you started acting like it.

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