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This is his team, for better or worse
It is not about the questionable defense of the Wizards.
It is not about their sometimes allergic reaction to rebounding the ball.
The 5-9 record of the Wizards is all about Gilbert Arenas, the team’s two-time All-Star who is mired in a funk. He is not even the leading player on the team at the moment. That distinction belongs to Caron Butler.
Eddie Jordan believes Arenas has become too worried with the officiating, which in turn has undermined his overall floor game. And that could be so. Jordan certainly knows the emotional makeup of his players better than anyone.
Yet Arenas is hardly the only elite player in the NBA to wonder about the inconsistency of the officiating and to respond demonstratively on occasion.
And he was inclined to have a word or three with the referees the last two seasons, and it did not result in a protracted series of disappointments: the nine-turnover game following the seven-turnover game, the 2-for-12 shooting game and the three-point game, to cite a few of this season’s lowlights.
Arenas is not in a good place mentally. This is obvious.
The cause of his psychological free-fall can be left to the self-appointed shrinks of the sports world. All you can say with certainty is that it happens, that players fall into slumps.
If you recall, Antawn Jamison might as well have shot the ball blindfolded last December, so abysmal was his shooting percentage. Then, inexplicably, for whatever reasons, Jamison morphed into one of the top 3-point shooters in the NBA in January.
What prompted his about-face? Who knows? He found a rhythm, as it is said. Maybe he stopped worrying about missing shots, which only contributed to his propensity to miss shots.
Sometimes it takes only a couple of baskets to release the stress in a player.
Sometimes a player makes several shots in a row, and suddenly, he is not worried about the prospect of a miss because he already has several shots in the field goal column.
Arenas came into the season carrying a certain amount of self-induced pressure.
This was supposed to be his coming-out season as a superstar, as one of the top 10 players in the NBA, no questions asked. He was featured in a good number of national publications and finally began to appear in shoe commercials.
This was his time, and it still can be. Fourteen games do not have to be indicative of anything in an 82-game season. It merely reflects where Arenas and the Wizards are now.
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Memories of a long brotherhood tempered in common struggle
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