At one point, you would think it blasphemous to think Gilbert Arenas would not be on a roster in 2012. Arenas was one of the most explosive and dynamic scorers in the league. Sure his high usage and shot-heavy style would get panned by those that follow advanced statistics, but when would the NBA ever not want one of those. There are still plenty of general managers who see points per game as a relatively accurate measure of a player’s offensive worth.
Arenas has gone through a lot in the last few years.
Knee injuries sapped his explosiveness and much of his scoring ability. He still could average 17.3 points per game on a 46.3 percent effective field goal percentage in 21 games with the Wizards last year. Then there was the gun incident in the Wizards locker room that cost him most of his 2010 season.
Orlando was supposed to be a new start when he was traded to be under the wing of his mentor, Magic general manager Otis Smith. It was hardly that. Arenas admitted he had let himself get out of shape after his suspension and it showed as he struggled to find his fit with the Magic. Arenas averaged only 8.0 points per game and never seemed comfortable with his role coming off the bench.
With the amnesty provision giving Orlando a chance to erase the final three years of his contract — and more than $60 million with it — Arenas has found himself without a job. Even after two weeks of training camp and the first couple weeks of the season and promises that he is back in shape and ready to prove he can be a good part of the player he once was, Arenas has not signed anywhere and there is hardly a whisper of where he might end up — if anywhere.
The only whisper is that Arenas wants to play wherever Dwight Howard wants to play. And there are also rumors that one of Howard’s complaints with Magic management was that they did not give Arenas his chance to prove himself to the team this year.
Gilbert Arenas’ two most immediate former coaches both recognized the difficult situation Arenas was in and the difficulty he has been having trying to find a team to stick to. It is just the unfortunate reality of Arenas’ circumstances.
“First of all, he didn’t have time. That was the big thing,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said of Arenas. “He came in at mid-season, it was a tough situation. We had Jameer still here and J-Rich here, so you ask a guy who had been an All Star and one of the big scorers in the league to come off the bench. A tough role and he wasn’t here very long either. There was not time to adjust or anything else.
“I don’t think it’s fair to judge Gilbert’s time here. If anything, if people are unhappy with the way Gilbert performed here, I think you have to lay that on me and the role I gave him and everything else. I don’t think you can lay that on Gilbert. I don’t think Gilbert really had much of a chance to play well consistently here with what happened.”
Van Gundy struggled to find a spot for Arenas as Arenas, slowed by the cumbersome knee, became too much of a spot-up shooter. And he was not hitting his shot. The albatross that his contract became — the one the Magic elected to acquire — seemed to overshadow any of his play.
Van Gundy said the decision to let Arenas walk was a purely business decision and not one based on any dissatisfaction with Arenas’ play.
that does not help Arenas much. He would not be eligible to rejoin Howard and the Magic until March according to the rules in the collective bargaining agreement. He is eligible to join any other team in the league. But no one seems to be calling. If Arenas is really in the shape he claims he is, he could be a key cog to a contending team looking for some scoring punch. Think of him like the Rasheed Wallace to the 2003 Detroit Pistons.
“I would think eventually, as you see people get hurt, someone is going to give him an opportunity,” Wizards coach Flip Saunders said. “I don’t think it is going to be an opportunity as far as the financial situation he was at in the past, or anywhere close. But I think if he wants to play, he will have an opportunity somewhere.”
The question for Arenas is when will that call come.