- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 13, 2003

Gilbert Arenas can score in bunches, pass with the best and pursue vigilante-style justice against the opposition’s 6-foot-11, 250-pound center.

The 21-year-old point guard is a multi-dimensional threat, with conviction.

As he puts it, in so many words, no justice, no peace.

Arenas has sent a message to the rest of the NBA following his postgame meltdown, which is: If you elbow him in the mouth, as Samuel Dalembert did, he is liable to break your legs.

Arenas is an old-school sort, out of touch in these increasingly enlightened times.

All we are saying is give peace a chance.

To which Arenas says: Try a knuckle sandwich instead.

Or as Steve Buckhantz says: “How do you like that?”

Arenas is prepared to work in a steel cage, if necessary.

Dave Johnson, with gusto, could make the call, as follows: “Body slam, Arenas.”

Arenas is on a roll, as it is said in the NBA.

He has moved from taunting the Raptors, to throwing the ball in the stands against the Cavaliers, to seeking an unscheduled showdown with a member of the 76ers.

His deportment has resulted in one benching from the coach and one mental health report from the owner.

Arenas is incredibly competitive, talented and young, a “combustible” mix at times, Abe Pollin says.

Arenas embodies the team’s “Pure Energy” marketing campaign. He is interested in at least two sports, basketball and boxing, or three if you count his interest in guns. He is everything Americans used to be with the First and Second Amendments.

Let’s be clear: This kid can play. He is better than advertised. He has a feel for the game that belies his tender years.

In seven games, Arenas has shown this could be his franchise for years to come, and no disrespect to Jerry Stackhouse.

Arenas is not all the way there, of course, not close. His interpersonal skills could be better. His fearless manner needs tweaking, as Pollin notes. He also needs to accept one of the fundamental laws of nature, such as: He is 6-11. You are 6-3. That is a very bad matchup unless you are armed with one of Jerry Springer’s chairs.

Arenas was correct in saying how his benching in the third quarter in Cleveland possibly undermined his team’s chances of winning the game.

There was a more compelling issue than winning in Cleveland, however, and coach Eddie Jordan made the proper determination.

They do not call it tough love for nothing.

Pollin, Jordan and Ernie Grunfeld recognize that Arenas has the physical tools to be one of the essential parts that leads the franchise back to its glory years of the ‘70s. They also recognize that he needs to develop, in a year or three, the mental discipline that goes with leading a team.

The mental aspect of the game is inevitably one of those unanswerable questions with the NBA’s peach fuzz brigade.

The personnel gurus can measure a player’s height, jumping ability and quickness. They can do a background check on a player that would impress the FBI. But try as they might, they can’t look inside a player’s head and predict, with certainty, where that head will be in five or six years.

All kinds of talented players in the NBA fail to maximize their abilities because of this or that character flaw, whether it is sloppy work habits, a problem with alcohol or the hemp plant, or seven children by six women.

Arenas came into the NBA looking to mock the skeptics after slipping to the second round of the 2001 draft. He already has achieved that after being selected the NBA’s Most Improved Player last season, only his second in the league.

His next adjustment is between his ears.

The best players in the NBA learn to carry themselves with a certain style, to be above most of the nonsense. This is not to suggest the best ones always have been successful at this. Who can forget Larry Bird and Julius Erving, part of the NBA’s royalty, going after one another in a game?

Arenas, though, has to learn that he is too good to be taunting players from a bench, hurling a basketball into the stands and seeking an audience with a 6-11 center in successive games.

That stuff is for scrubs, malcontents and players who never get all the way there.

Arenas has the opportunity to be so much more than that.


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