It appears Gilbert Arenas’ two-month hiatus from the NBA could be coming to an end.
Reports say the Los Angeles Lakers, a team desperate for a scoring spark off their bench, recently attended a workout of the University of Arizona alum.
It’s been a quick fall from hoops grace for the three-time All-NBA team honoree and player who once commanded a six-year, $111 million contract on the open market.
It’s hard imaging that a player with the talent of Arenas’ caliber is washed up.
So how did it come to be that a man with as many nicknames (Agent Zero, the Hibachi, and the Black President) as All-Star appearances is slapped with the “unemployed” label?
At 30, he’s nine years younger than the league’s eldest statesmen Kurt Thomas of the Portland Trailblazers and the Phoenix Suns’ Grant Hill.
(Thomas is one day older)
That a basement-threatening team such as the Charlotte Bobcats, New Jersey Nets or even the pre-Jeremy Lin New York Knicks couldn’t benefit from a guy who averaged 29.3 points-per game at his peak a mere five years ago is absurd.
Arenas averaged 22.6 PPG as recently as the 2009-10 season before his production dropped off, thanks in part to a lengthy suspension and a rash of injuries.
Before being traded by the Wizards last season, he was posting a 17.3 PPG average. Those numbers dropped to 8.0 with Orlando.
Even Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy admits that Arenas may not have gotten a fair shake upon joining Orlando last season after a trade with Washington.
Said Van Gundy via Michael Lee of the Washington Post:
“I don’t think it’s fair to judge Gilbert’s time here. If anything, if people are unhappy with the way Gilbert performed here, you got to lay that on me and the role I gave him. I don’t think you can lay that on Gilbert. I don’t think Gilbert really had much of a chance to play well consistently, with what happened.”
So why won’t a team take a flier on Arenas now? Especially if his reconstructed knee has had plenty of time to heal and his overfed ostrich of a contract is no longer an issue?
The longer he sits after the Magic used their “amnesty” clause to cut him and his bloated salary before the start of the season, the lower a price a team can get away paying him.
If he implodes or badly under-performs, you simply toss him back on the free agent scrap heap.
If the Gilbert of old emerges, you get a former NBA Most-Improved-Player Award winner (2003) and a guy who once led the league in three-pointers made (205 in 2006-07), minutes played (3,384 in 2005-06) and — to a lesser extent, <cough, cough> turnovers.
One has to wonder if Arenas’ off-the-court antics have finally led to a collusive blackballing of the eccentric shooting guard.