When Gilbert Arenas was traded from Washington to Orlando last December, he hoped for a fresh start. He hoped some new scenery with a familiar and influential friend as general manager would help him put behind two years of uncertainty for him on the court.
It is well chronicled what happened to Arenas the last two years from the knee injury to the suspension for bringing guns into the locker room to getting buried on Stan Van Gundy’s bench.
When the amnesty clause came up, even Arenas knew his name was going to be called. It was a purely business decision and Arenas knew his time in Orlando was coming up. He would not make his comeback too quickly. When Arenas came back, he vowed, he would be ready to contribute.
That time finally came Thursday night when “Agent 1-Zero” made his debut with the Grizzlies. He scored two points on one-for-four shooting in 12 minutes in Portland. Hardly the Hibachi of old, but for a first NBA game in nearly a year and a long summer and fall (and winter) of rehabbing and getting his mind right to return.
It was a very long process for Arenas. When Memphis finally called, Arenas felt he was finally ready to come back.
And now he is hoping just to fit in. Gone is the Arenas that would rattle cages with off-the-wall Twitter comments and antics. At least, for now.
“To get better, have fun and enjoy it [are Arenas' expectations],” Arenas told Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. “You know, I don’t expect to take over. This team is well built. If I get some time, I get some time. But I also want to help Josh (Selby) and (Jeremy) Pargo learn the game a little better so when their careers take off they’ve gotten some good advice from a veteran.
“Basic basketball [motivates Arenas today]. When I look back on my career, besides a championship, I’ve done more than what people expected of me. When I sit down and think about basketball, I’m back to just loving the game of basketball. I’m about playing it the right way.”
It would not be an Arenas story if there were not some levity to it. That part of Arenas’ personality is not going away.
Arenas engaged in a shooting contest, something he is widely known throughout the league for, and showed that he can still make shots at an incredibly high rate. At least in practice. Arenas, after all, dubbed himself the “best white player in the league” last season for his proficiency at making shots in practice. Of course, Arenas also shot 34.4 percent from the floor and 27.5 percent from beyond the arc with Orlando last year.
And, of course, the story of Memphis’ interest in Arenas is a little interesting. Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace admitted that he got the idea to approach and sign Arenas from a blog post. Nothing is ever normal with Arenas.
But that is what Arenas is looking for. Normal.
He is trying to fit in with the Grizzlies and not rattle too many cages while still playing his game. He said the reasons he picked Memphis was because everyone in the organization was “on board.” Certainly a chance at getting back to the postseason.
This seems to be the fresh start Arenas needs. Now all he has to do is take advantage of the opportunity before him.