- The Washington Times - Friday, March 26, 2004

LOS ANGELES — No big deal.

That was Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas’ take on what it will be like tonight when he makes his return to Golden State, which drafted him in the second round almost three years ago.

“I’ve already played against them one time,” said Arenas, who played in last night’s late game against the Clippers at Staples Center. Against the Warriors he scored nine points and dealt five assists in Washington’s 97-79 victory in January. “But I don’t have anything to prove to them. If you look at it, I’ve got three triple-doubles, second in the league, and I’m playing a lot better since I got healthy. I don’t need to prove anything.”

Drafted with the first pick in the second round of 2001 (31st overall), Arenas helped the Warriors improve their victory total by 17 games in his second season and was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player. But because he was a restricted free agent, the Warriors couldn’t offer him a large contract, opening the door for the Wizards to sign him to a seven-year, $64million deal.

Slowed by injury, Arenas this month finally started to flash the ability that the Wizards believed made him worth the huge contract, averaging 25.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.7 assists.

However — as the Wizards would learn and the Warriors already knew — Arenas, who returned to the lineup against the Los Angeles Clippers after missing a game with a sprained right ankle, does come with some quirks. One of them bubbled to the surface when he and teammate Kwame Brown had their brief spat in which Brown was critical of Arenas’ shot selection.

Golden State has made big changes since last season. Along with Arenas leaving, Antawn Jamison was shipped to Dallas for Nick Van Exel.

Although Golden State center Eric Dampier said Arenas was a very good basketball player, he conceded that he didn’t necessarily miss not playing alongside him.

“He makes a team better when he’s playing, when he’s into the game,” Dampier said. “When he’s not into the game, it could be a different story.”

What would it have been like had the Warriors returned this season with the same team it finished the season with?

“A lot of problems,” Dampier said. “Sharing the ball [would have been a problem]. I don’t think everyone on that team wanted to play with each other. It’s been like that the last two or three years — players not sharing the ball, players only looking to score, not really looking to make the team better. And we were still losing games.”

For his part, Arenas says he didn’t trust the ability of Warriors management to keep together the nucleus of the 2002-03 team — Troy Murphy, Jason Richardson, Mike Dunleavy and himself — for a long run.

“The future for the team that I came in with wasn’t there,” Arenas said. “Guys started saying that they wanted out because of that. I don’t think guys felt comfortable.”

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