- The Washington Times - Friday, February 10, 2006

Gilbert Arenas became the leading victim of the Eastern Conference coaches yesterday, when it was confirmed he was not made of All-Star material.

A drug-testing initiative involving the coaches possibly could determine the cause of the gross omission. Enough of them voted in favor of those other than Arenas that it indicates an inability on their part to assimilate basic information.

They could be charged with voting while intoxicated or voting while brain dead, either condition self-explanatory.

It has become routine to condemn the fans who vote two or three suspects to starting positions each year. The coaches are supposed to be more astute than the average knucklehead in the selecting of the reserves. Now we know otherwise.

Arenas was a third-team all-NBA member last season — and deservingly so — and he has evolved in a pronounced manner from there this season. He is among the elite players, as far as his on-court production goes.

Arenas just lacks the highly subjective perceptions that enhance a player’s reputation.

Vince Carter always has been an All-Star favorite because of his capacity to dunk the ball in a compelling fashion. His failures to overcome terminal hangnails and terminal paper cuts have not been held against him.

Even Carter’s decision to quit in Toronto has been stored in the NBA attic, almost forgotten, because his dunks show up on the radar screens of air traffic controllers.

Arenas actually has matured into a high-quality professional and person in Tony Cheng’s neighborhood. He is approachable, gracious and committed to the game.

When he showed up early to the gym to work on his shot yesterday, it was 6:30 in the morning. He embodies what the NBA should be marketing.

There is nothing edgy about him, which could be part of the perception problem. Perhaps he needs to start mooning opposing coaches after he dumps 40 points on them.

This, of course, would lead to an exhaustive amount of commentary among the hyperventilating screamers on ESPN, which in turn would increase his national following and love at the ballot box.

Or perhaps Arenas could smash a television monitor after a tough loss.

There is a misguided sentiment around the NBA that Arenas does whatever he wants whenever he wants, expressed no doubt by those who might watch a game involving the Wizards once a month.

Slights are inevitable in the picking of an All-Star team. Yet the slight to Arenas is historic, as he became the first player since World B. Free in 1978-79 not to make the team while averaging 28.0 points a game.

The voluminous numbers of Arenas extend beyond scoring. His name also is among the NBA leaders in assists, steals, 3-point shooting, minutes and free throws.

The All-Star Game is said to be about the best players, not the best team, although it became fashionable to push the inclusion of the starting lineup of the Pistons, including E.T., the alien known as Tayshaun Prince.

Arenas was condemned with the Wizards’ 24-23 record, unfair as that is, considering the team’s shaky quality is the product of the large who play tiny. No ode can be penned in honor of Brendan Haywood and the Poet.

Let’s see how Dwyane Wade would fare with those two in power positions instead of Shaquille O’Neal.

As assistant coach Tom Young wondered to Dave Johnson following the Wizards-Warriors game: “Can Michael Ruffin play 30 minutes?”

A 30-minute Ruffin is preferable to coach Eddie Jordan taking out a stethoscope and measuring the heart of his post players before each game.

The team’s heart problems do not involve Arenas, or Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, Antonio Daniels and Ruffin, for that matter.

Arenas is down to a final chance: the almighty word of David Stern necessitated by the injury to Jermaine O’Neal.

Stern could send a message, as he likes to do, which is: Good guys can finish first.

Right the wrong, commissioner. Send Arenas to Houston.


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