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Agent Zero is back — and so is poor defense

In the world according to Gilbert Arenas, it is his way or no way.

That is in part what this season has been about — the refusal of Arenas to listen to anyone about his training regimen in the offseason.

So he overdid it, and you know the rest.

He had to undergo a second surgery, which possibly would have been avoided if only he had followed the instructions of those urging caution.

That is Arenas. He is stubborn to a fault.

To be fair, his stubbornness has worked in his favor at times.

He is where he is in part because of people telling him what he could not be as a basketball player. Arenas used those slights as motivation and became a workout fanatic. He showed the skeptics in his midst. Now he must show that his stubbornness is not a liability.

Take the last play against the Bucks. It was typical Arenas.

Arenas felt compelled to drift over to Andrew Bogut, which left Ramon Sessions free to receive a pass from Bogut and shoot a 19-footer from the left baseline as time expired.

It was hardly a surprise. Arenas is forever chasing the ball, even if the percentages are against him, as they were on the last play. The calculations should have been obvious to him.

He should have wanted Bogut to shoot a turnaround jumper with Brendan Haywood in his face. What would have been the probability of Bogut sinking that shot? Maybe one out of five. But nearly every perimeter player in the NBA can make an open jumper, even one just up from the developmental league.

Why, high school players can sink uncontested 19-footers, although Arenas did manage to stick a late hand in the face of Sessions.

Alas, the last play symbolized the team's change in attitude.

With Arenas back in the lineup, the Wizards reverted to their matador defensive mentality and lost a game they otherwise would have won if they had not followed the shoot-first, play-no-defense lead of their diva.

And they lost in the worst way, as if they had been punched in the gut.

Arenas has reached a crossroads in his career if he covets a legacy beyond being a wonderful talent on offense.

For all his gifts, Arenas remains an indifferent defender, still throws the 1 mph pass to the wing and sometimes, without prodding, will commit a turnover that leaves him and everyone else scratching their heads.

Randy Ayers, who was hired in the offseason, has received a good amount of credit for improving the Wizards' defense. But perhaps the best thing that ever happened to the Wizards defensively was the shelving of Arenas.

In his absence, the Wizards adopted the tough-guy personality of Caron Butler, who will stick his nose anywhere in pursuit of the ball. That was Butler going to the floor to cause the jump ball in the waning seconds.

Yet as soon as Arenas walked onto the floor, it was as if something clicked in the heads of the Wizards and they channeled the team that is always looking to outscore opponents.

You know the team. Score 109 points. Surrender 110. Lose to a team going nowhere.

It undoubtedly is fun to race up and down the court. With the Wizards, it is good for fortysomething wins a season. But in the playoffs, it is a style that leads to disappointment.

Perhaps Arenas truly wants to play defense but just cannot do it physically. If so, it would be a first. As it is, his capacity to move laterally appears limited and he serves no grand purpose other than as a glorified spot-up shooter.

It also is long past time for the Wizards to drop the Gilbert-being-Gilbert line because until he does something in the playoffs besides defeat the Bulls in one playoff series, he is more World B. Free than Walt Frazier and does not merit unlimited latitude.

Yes, Arenas is a fun-loving guy with a generally upbeat personality. But he has certain obligations to the organization, starting with letting the coaches know he was planning to play against the Bucks.

What kind of message does that send to the rest of the players?

Oh, forgot. That is merely Gilbert being Gilbert.

He wanted his return to be a big secret. He wanted to make a grand entrance.

So as he made his way to the bench in the first quarter, he was Moses parting the Red Sea. Forget the game in progress. The franchise savior was back, only the savior could not prevent the Wizards from being embarrassed at home.

Worse, Arenas contributed to the loss in a big way, with a mental error that defied explanation, which perhaps explains why he has not spoken to the media since the blunder.

One of the wags in Tony Cheng's neighborhood yesterday took to imagining how Jerry Sloan might have responded to a player's lack of communication.

At a minimum, Sloan would have cussed out the player and sent him back to the locker room. Maybe Sloan would have challenged the player to a fight. Either way, it would not have been pretty.

The tough-love approach is often beneficial to players. With taskmaster Sloan raging in his ear, Deron Williams has developed into one of the top point guards in the NBA.

It is no secret the organization has made a habit out of coddling Arenas, even to the point of undercutting Eddie Jordan's authority, because it might not be wise to offend the three-time All-Star.

Arenas is the face of the franchise, he puts fannies in the seats and he is opting out of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. It promises to be fraught with intrigue and big, bold headlines, if only because Arenas would have it no other way.

He will be signing with Mars one day and offering to play for free the next.

None of it will mean a thing until an announcement is made.

Otherwise, no one with the organization is inclined to address the sideshow that is Arenas.

Mike O'Koren, who ran practice yesterday because of Jordan's sinus infection, dismissed the suggestion of Arenas being a distraction to the team in the last game.

DeShawn Stevenson did the same.

"I think everyone expects that from him," Stevenson said.

Everyone expects it, and Arenas does his best not to disappoint, even if it is counterproductive to the team's cause.

You desperately crave the spotlight?

It really is as simple as Al Davis once said: Just win, baby.

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