The "Boy Wonder” is carrying out just what he assured he would during "The Takeover” — serving up one scorching hot "Hibachi” after another as retribution to all his doubters and their disrespect — "Agent Zero” style.
Confused? Welcome to "Gilbertology.” Meet Gilbert Arenas, the quirky point guard for the Washington Wizards who's renowned as much for his wacky persona as he is for his ability to wow NBA crowds. Arenas, the NBA's second-leading scorer, guides his Wizards into the Ford Center for the only time this season tonight at 7 to face the Hornets. And it's a good thing Arenas said none of the Hornets are on his hit list. There's no telling how much punishment he could dole out on the injury-plagued bunch in front of tonight's nationally televised ESPN audience. We're talking about a guy, who three weeks ago today, went into Phoenix and burned the Suns for 54 points to end their franchise-record, 15-game winning streak. Then, during an on-court interview with ESPN immediately after the game, had the nerve to announce: "One down, one to go.” The comment was in reference to his vow to torch both Suns coach Mike D'Antoni and Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan for 100 points in two games apiece for their roles in cutting him from last summer's Team USA roster. D'Antoni and McMillan were only assistant coaches in the World Championships. But that's Arenas, fueled by the slightest of slights, whether real or perceived, and itching to use them as motivation to destroy opponents each night. Been like that since Day One for Arenas, who wears jersey No. 0 because he says he came from nothing and that's how many points naysayers told him he would score in college at Arizona and in the NBA. "That's one thing about Gil,” said teammate Antawn Jamison, "he always finds something to motivate him.”
Draft-day snubWhen Arenas declared for the 2001 NBA Draft after his sophomore season at Arizona, he did so under the impression that he would be a first-round pick. But he fell to the Golden State Warriors in the second round largely because coaches and general managers were unsure whether the 6-foot-3 Arenas was a point guard or shooting guard. The draft-day snub is one Arenas still hasn't forgotten and used as incentive to win the league's Most Improved Player Award in his second season. "It's so satisfying for me,” said Arenas of his current success. "Being a second-round pick, no one believed in me.” Those days are long gone. To make sure of it, Arenas was hell bent on disproving his remaining doubters this season, one he dubbed "The Takeover” because he wanted to take over everything from the NBA to endorsements deals to the entire city of Washington D.C. Arenas enters the Ford Center tonight carrying a 30.2-point scoring average, second only to suspended Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony. He ranks fifth in steals per game, seventh in player efficiency and 13th in assists per game. Arenas has won Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors twice this season and recently was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for December. Just five days before his brash performance in Phoenix, he thumped Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers for a career-high 60 points. Most importantly, Arenas has led the Wizards to a 20-14 record and 11 wins in their past 14 games. "He's on an unbelievable tear,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "Obviously, we're going to have to do some different things against him.” "You just can't allow him to play one-on-one against your guys because he's going to eat us up. He's that good.”
Going against the grainBefore Arenas garnered respect throughout the league for his basketball skills, his antics earned him a reputation for simply being a juvenile "Boy Wonder,” a nickname he's favored since his Golden State days. Arenas became infamous for deciding between multi-million dollar free-agent contract offers from the Wizards and Los Angeles Clippers by flipping a coin. As the story goes, he assigned the Clippers "heads” and the Wizards "tails.” He flipped the coin 10 times and heads came up eight times.
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Washington's Gilbert Arenas is averaging 30.2 points per game for the 20-14 Wizards. Associated Press
Wizards at Hornets•When: 7 tonight •Where: Ford Center •Television: ESPN (Cox channel 29) •Radio: KHBZ-FM 94.7 Probable starters