(Washington Times photo by Rodney Lamkey Jr.)
By now you’ve read the news both in this space and others of Flip Saunders’ report on a healthy Gilbert Arenas doing his thing in Chicago while training with Tim Grover. Andre Iguodala tweeted that Arenas was “back like he left his black card!”, Quentin Richardson seconded the news with a tweet reply “he aint lyin yall!! Thats real!”
And now I’ve seen a sneak peak myself, catching Gil in Barry Farms action in Southeast this evening. Agent Zero on Friday afternoon jumped on a plane from Chicago, touched down in the District and came straight to “The Farms” to play in Goodman League action for the first time since having to have a third knee surgery roughly a year ago.
He didn’t disappoint, displaying great explosiveness and impressive leaping ability en route to a 35-point, seven assist night. Arenas’ team fell 110-101, and Baltimore’s Gerald Brown — just back from a year of pro ball in Turkey — finished as high scorer with 41 points. But Arenas fans on hand left the courts with satisfaction, and while flocking to Agent Zero for photos and autographs, they reminded him “you’re back now, we need you to get us out of the first round of the playoffs!”
Arenas took the court to a warm reception, and rode off in his black Ferrari to even more grateful response. (A big reason for this had a lot to do with his taking time for anyone — adult or child who requested a photo or autograph — while James earlier in the day while in town for his Nike Tour refused to shake hands with fans or sign autographs, something that was repeatedly pointed out by Goodman League commissioner Miles Rawls).
But anyway… back to how Arenas looked.
During pregame warmups, he went up so effortlessly for a dunk that a man standing next to me asked if the rims were really set at 10 feet.
Arenas scored his team’s first two points, a step-back jumper off the glass. Later he went between his legs then spun into the lane, shaking his defender and going up for a one-handed jam. He took, and missed, another jumper. Then went back to attacking the hole. The exclamation point of the first half was when Arenas got an outlet pass with time running out and went up for a Karl Malone-style pose dunk.
The second half was more of Arenas attacking the basket seemingly effortlessly. At one point, he shook his man on the perimeter and went baseline for a reverse layup to bring his scoring total to 25 points and draw the fans to their feet and prompted Rawls (courtside announcer) to boom into the mic, “If there were any doubts about the knee, they have been laid to rest this evening.”
There were times where Arenas’ handle didn’t look quite as sharp as other times, and there was a spin-move-turned baseline jam that ended up failing with the ball clanking off the front of the rim, but Gil never favored his knee, and wasn’t even wearing a brace. The agression with which Arenas played made it clear that he’s feeling back to his old self and even better. Following his third surgery, he said he wasn’t worried about his game being diminished when he made his comeback because jumping and dunking wasn’t really part of his game. But judging by Friday night, those eliments have been added. There was a tomahawk dunk, two two-handed dunks, and he even dunked on an opponent.
Arenas didn’t display his Hibachi shooting touch, but I’m told that was because, ever the crowd-pleasing showman, he wanted to give the fans what they wanted to see: dizzying ball-handling displays finished off by high-flying takes to the basket.
You have to take the level of competion into account, but one thing’s for sure, the Gilbert Arenas on the Barry Farms courts Friday night was much stronger, more aggressive and more explosive than the version of him we saw for those two games late last season.
We had photographer Rod Lamkey with me tonight, so you can get a peak at what I saw tonight. I also took two video clips and loaded them below. As you’ll see, I’m a writer not a photographer, but Gil, wearing No. 21, can be seen making a few plays.
- Mike Jones