Fans of mercurial shooting guard Gilbert Arenas have had February 4, 2011, circled on their calendars for weeks now. That date represented the first time in nearly eight NBA seasons that Arenas has played at the Verizon Center without a Wizards’ uniform. In fact, he hadn’t played in DC since being traded by the Wizards to division-rival Orlando Magic on December 18, 2010, in exchange for Rashard Lewis.
Although known for his prolific scoring, it was almost surreal to witness his assignment for the game against his former teammates. Instead of the volume shots that we were accustomed to from Arenas, he played the role of defensive stopper when he entered the game.
Yes, you read that right - Gilbert Jay Arenas, Jr., formerly known as “Agent Zero,” was given the task of slowing down Wizards’ leading scorer Nick Young. And believe it or not (I still don’t believe it) but Arenas performed respectively on the defensive end. Although Young scored his season average of 17 points, he only shot 7 of 20 (35%) in 36 minutes of game action and had to work for every shot.
After the game, Gilbert admitted that he knew he was up to the challenge of keeping Young in check. He wasn’t at all surprised with the outcome of the confrontation between former teacher and student.
“I’m in his head,” said Arenas with good humor. “I was playing defense against somebody I taught every move to. I got in Nick’s head last week. He never scores on me and he already knew what was going to happen.”
For his part, Young admitted that Gilbert was being “Gilbert.” And yes, there was plenty of trash-talking. But, to his credit, Nick took it all in stride.
“He [Arenas] was talking to me throughout the game but I really didn’t hear too much; I was keeping my focus,” Young said after the game. “He came in as regular Gil, doing what he does best with us and the bench. But we tried to look past it.”
And that’s exactly what Nick Young will have to do - put the game against the Magic in the rearview mirror and move on. However, he should take the lessons to heart and stop pressing so much when he plays against someone he respects. It’s only natural to press the issue more when you’re properly motivated - like showing up your mentor - but you can’t press too hard. Young doesn’t have to change his game, he only has to play his game.
Everything else will take care of itself.