You are currently viewing the printable version of this article, to return to the normal page, please click here.

Shaky start

- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 30, 2006

Clearly, everything was not right with Gilbert Arenas.

The outcome of Tuesday night's game between the Washington Wizards and Atlanta Hawks was in doubt late in the fourth quarter, and Arenas had committed yet another turnover after getting called for charging.

The rest of the Wizards headed back down the court, but Arenas, encouraged by the loudly booing crowd at Verizon Center, lingered to argue some more with the officials -- something coach Eddie Jordan has begged his players not to do during their miserable 5-9 start to the season.

The Wizards managed to hang on for a 96-95 victory that ended a four-game losing streak, but Arenas had plenty of reason to remain frustrated.

The star guard scored 21 points against the Hawks, but he also committed a season-high nine turnovers. The shooting stroke that helped Arenas score 40 or more points in three games this season remains absent. Arenas has shot an awful 34-for-102 from the field (33.3 percent) in his last five games -- a span in which the Wizards have won only once.

Arenas made more field goals (58-for-108) in the Wizards' five wins this season than he did in their nine losses (53-for-177).

Jordan indicated yesterday Arenas must win the mental battles he is waging -- with himself over his shooting and with officials -- and return to his old self.

"You have to have the proper behavior and not react to an official's call or noncall," Jordan said. "But that's only part of it. We'll see after Friday if he can get back to normal. He's not normal right now."

When the Wizards play host to the Charlotte Bobcats tomorrow, Jordan wants to see Arenas play a complete game, one in which he is aggressive, takes wise shots, defends and doesn't get into any prolonged arguments with officials, who have been given the green light to call technical fouls for what they deem as poor reactions.

"You have to abide by the rules," Jordan continued. "He's gotten some calls against him that maybe should have gone his way, and he's verbalized it. He's come close to getting a tech or maybe even getting thrown out. But that's just part of it. He has to come around and be more composed and have a clearer head."

Although Arenas was tied up with marketing obligations and was unable to speak with media yesterday, he has indicated he is having some trouble with the officiating.

"At the end of the day I don't think they are calling the game the way they did last year," Arenas said. "They are just real inconsistent this year, and I'm trying to figure out the angle early in the season. It's like they are looking at the wrong things now."

Arenas' 3.7 turnovers a game rank sixth in the league, but that can an overrated statistic; the best players in the league tend to commit the most turnovers. For instance, last year's NBA Finals MVP Dwyane Wade leads the league (4.6 a game) this season, He is followed by Denver's Carmelo Anthony (4.5) and Philadelphia's Allen Iverson (4.3).

Arenas ranks 14th in the league in assists at 6.5 and has a 1.75 assists-to-turnover ratio.

When the subject of turnovers is brought up, Arenas -- thinking back to the charging call Tuesday -- lets on that he is still fighting a tug-of-war with the referees.

"If you are going through the lane and people are moving and people are calling charges on you, that does have an effect on you," Arenas said.

Jordan hasn't called a powwow with Arenas or any of his players. He believes Arenas will work through the slump. Arenas has at times allowed his loss of focus to carry over to the defensive end, something Jordan admits has raised concern.

"I always talk to them in terms of, 'Look, if you don't like what happened at the offensive end, don't let it affect you at the defensive end.' You have to come down and still play defense, and somewhere along the line we suffer with him at that."

Teammate Caron Butler recognized Arenas' struggles Tuesday. But he also believes the slump will end soon.

"As a star player he's got to understand that he has to stay aggressive and stay positive and continue to do what he does, you know?" Butler said. "I mean, he's a star in this league. He earns everything he gets. He's just got to play through the adversity now, and I think everything will turn back in his favor."