Here’s Part II of my interview (click here for Part I) with Kyle Weidie of Truth About It, who covers the Washington Wizards for the TrueHoop Network. In this segment, Kyle offers his own opinion on Gilbert Arenas.
Will Gilbert Arenas’ knees hold up?
I think they’ll “hold up” … just how effective will they be in allowing him to do what he wants to do. Maybe Tim Grover isn’t the injury medicine man everyone lauds him to be, maybe it will just take more time with Arenas. Grover is pretty proven, so I’d side with the latter. But thinking of two of the more famous micro-fracture knee surgery comebacks — Jason Kidd and Amar’e Stoudemire — I feel that Kidd hasn’t really had to regain “lift” as it was never really part of his game and Amar’e is less dependent on it as a big man. No, Arenas was never a high flier, but that lift was very important not only to his jump shot, but also in his forays to the hoop where he’d use his quickness to blast past a defender, hang in the air, draw a foul and finish the shot.
Right now, I’d say give it some time and evaluate later, especially since Arenas appeared to gain weight during his “downtime” this past summer (earlier this season, I poked fun at Arenas “roundness,” if you will, likening him to Ledell Eackles). Of course, at one point before being traded Arenas expressed how he didn’t think he was overweight, even though he previously said something contrary to that. Who knows. But he was out for so long, I’m thinking it will take longer than the 27 games he’s played thus far this season for him to reach what’s now considered his top level, whatever that may be at this point (turning 29 on January 6 ain’t helping things).
Can Arenas draw fouls at a higher rate playing in a different system on offense and with new teammates?
Well first, I’d say Arenas needs to stop playing mind games with himself and completely separate his game from influence of the referees. Last year, in his brief 32 games, Arenas would often try to drive to the hoop, but would worry more about drawing contact than trying to make the shot. This would lead to misses with no whistles being blown. Arenas became frustrated and even once told me that he felt profiled by the refs (surprised he didn’t get fined for that). This season, as a Wizard, he seemed to be more concerned with finishing than getting the call … but he still wasn’t really getting the calls — if he thought he was being profiled by the refs before the gun thing, well …. As above, I’d give it more time to see what he can show, but I’m not so sure a change in systems will necessarily affect his effectiveness, but better personnel (shooters, big man, etc.) will certainly have an influence.
What will Arenas’ individual and team defense be like?
Arenas seems to have improved his communication skills and defensive positioning over the years, so maybe he’ll be okay with team defense, especially with Howard behind him. But he’s always been pretty inept at pick-and-roll defense — I really can’t get the countless times I’ve seen slowly trail the ball handler or lazily try to contort his body to avoid a screen out of my mental pictures. Maybe he just doesn’t have (or has never had) great lateral movement. And I’d be weary of him becoming complacent with his defense in this regard knowing the safety blanket of Howard is behind him … the team is trying to keep Dwight out of foul trouble, right? Uh oh.
Is head coach Stan Van Gundy the person that can get the most out of Arenas? Or does that ultimately fall on Arenas himself?
Well, Eddie Jordan didn’t really want to take Arenas’ mess, but he had to because Abe Pollin was his protector … which was finally evidenced by that Q&A Arenas did with ESPN.com’s Michael Wallace. And Flip Saunders, well, he’s pretty non-confrontational … so there’s that. Not sure if [Stan] Van Gundy is the “guy” to get the most out of Arenas, but he certainly seems like a vastly better option than circumstance of the past, especially with Gilbert’s mentor/father figure serving as Magic GM. Sure, it ultimately falls on Arenas’ shoulders, but I think that the fact that Otis Smith put his butt on the line by trading for Arenas certainly helps the cause of Van Gundy.
With a new team, is Arenas capable of being a more efficient player offensively?
Sure, he’ll create some assists (up to 7.7 per 36 minutes in Orlando from 5.8 in D.C.), and he’ll create some turnovers too (up to 4.1 per 36 minutes in Orlando from 3.5 in D.C.), but ultimately, his efficiency will be determined by his ability to knock down shots. He was shooting a bad FG% in Washington (.394), and now it’s worse in Orlando (.359). His three-point shooting with the Magic has gotten better, but overall, his eFG% has gone from .465 with his old team to .438 with his new team. Again, let’s give it some time — going 8-15 from the field and 5-8 from deep last night against Cleveland helps. Most of all, keep an eye on the progression of his lift on jumpers and the arc of his shot. If he keeps his feet under him, I think he’ll get better at knocking down shots. If Arenas goes back to trying off-balanced maneuvers that he found some success with in the past, you’ll be disappointed.
I like to thank Mike and Kyle for taking the time to answer my questions.