BOSTON – Gilbert Arenas was once one of the most prolific scorers and entertainers in the NBA. On Sunday, he missed all seven of his shots from the field and all of his explanations in the locker room afterward, too.
Maybe that’s because the entertainer formerly known as Agent Zero really has zero feel for how he’s supposed to fit in with the Orlando Magic.
“I expected to struggle a little bit because I have to learn how everyone plays,” Arenas said after going scoreless in a 91-80 loss to the Celtics. “I’m the point guard. I’ve got to learn where everybody wants the ball, how they move, where they like it, where they dislike it. So I can’t be as aggressive as I want to. I can’t just go down there and play my basketball. That’s not what we do here.
“I’m so focused on trying to get people the ball that when I do have open shots, it’s like, ‘Oh, open shot,’ and then I shoot it,” Arenas said. “Instead of saying, ‘I’m going to shoot, if I see somebody, I‘ll pass it.’ When you’re a scorer and you think about scoring, everything comes easy. If you think about any scorer that’s in this league, scoring is so easy. But when you have to make plays, it’s just weird. I catch myself not being aggressive, so when I do turn it on, I don’t have a rhythm.”
Arenas said he was not affected by the turmoil from two nights ago, when he was served with child-support papers at halftime of a game in Washington against his former team.
“I don’t actually pay attention to it because I have my lawyers that deal with it,” Arenas said. “… That’s what humans decide to do these days because it is a media world now. They use media to get their points across. I’m not going to go back and forth. My kids have to read this one day.”
But Arenas did offer an explanation – a peculiar one at that – for his offensive struggles. Aside from adjusting to Stan Van Gundy’s structured offensive style, Arenas also is dealing with pain in his surgically repaired knees – but only in cold weather cities. Arenas asserted that an arthritic condition causes his left knee in particular to stiffen up in cold weather.
“Cities that are high on the map, I have trouble with,” Arenas said. “Like this city during the winter. But as soon as February shows up – that’s why they call me Mr. February, because I’ll be dunking and jumping around in practice. I’m glad we’re about to have a month basically at home so I can just get my rhythm and be in the warm weather where my knee is going to feel a lot better. It’s like day and night. It’s weird.”
Asked when it will feel better, Arenas said, “As soon as we land in Orlando. When it’s cold, the coldness swells in my joints and puts moisture in my joints and that’s what makes it stiff. So once I get to a warm city, or any city that has high humidity, I’m fine.”
The crisis of health and identity that Arenas is enduring couldn’t be playing out at a worse time for the Magic, who fell to 16-10 since the trades with Phoenix and Washington that reshaped their roster.
“Everyone always talks about the injury, but last year when I was playing I was averaging 22, seven (assists) and four (rebounds),” Arenas said. “And then I missed 50 games.”
Given the suspension for bringing guns to the Wizards’ locker room last season, on top of the knee issues and the change of system and city, it’s no wonder Arenas is having trouble figuring out who he is.
“Let’s go back a year ago with everything he went through and then let’s go back a year earlier to where he was and how we beat him down to zero,” Magic GM Otis Smith said. “And then let’s change his job, change his boss and say, ‘OK, now go be the same.’ Could you do it? And at the same time, you’ve got to read about it every day. I’m not sure anybody could do it and come out on the other end.”