Gilbert Arenas recently broke his self-imposed moratorium on speaking to reporters after a 22-point loss to San Antonio on Saturday. The loss followed another embarrassing 20-point loss to Oklahoma City the night before. Arenas used the opportunity to drop these gems on why his Washington Wizards have started the season 3-9 (they are 4-9 now after last night's win against Philly):
“Most of us feel confident in each other on the floor, and there are a few that don’t. For the most part we all get along. There are, what, 15 players on the team? 14 do."
When asked whose responsibility it was to get all the players on the same page, Agent Zero responded:
"Me and Antawn. That's our jobs. But at the end of the day, if 15 players don't want to go, and it's only 14—you've seen Remember the Titans—it's the same thing, we've just got to play."
So we know the one person he is talking about, because Caron Butler is also one of the team captains and he specifically leaves him out of the response.
Now, I understand why your first reaction would be to criticize Gil. He hasn't played in two years and is being paid rather handsomely by the franchise for the next six. Caron, while missing some games here and there, has been on the court for the most part and has produced.
But let's look at what Brendon Haywood had to say on Friday night after the OKC loss.
"It’s very frustrating because our talent is not winning out over our egos. If you want to win, you have to check your ego at the door. Bottom line. If you normally score 20 and you don’t get your 20 but the team is winning, who cares?”
Originally, many took that to be a swipe at Arenas. But Mike Jones, the Wizards beat writer for the Washington Times, was on the local sports-radio program The Locker Room and had a different take on the situation.
"The 20 point comment was not about Gilbert," said Jones during the interview. "He [Haywood] might have been talking about he same person Arenas was talking about."
I love Caron Butler's game. But they may be right. Butler is having a down season this year. His field goal percentage is down to 40 percent, the lowest it has been since his second season in the league. While his rebounds are up, his points per game currently stands at 16.8—down four points from last season.
I recently went to a Wizards game at the Verizon Center when they played the Cavaliers, and I must say Caron did look kind of lost on the floor at times. Flip Saunders' offense has wing players coming off screens and catching and shooting. Caron would come off the screens and catch and hold, trying to decide how to attack the defense.
Which brings me to the question that I originally asked. Is Gilbert right? Well, yes and no. He is correct in his assessment of Caron. Caron acknowledged that it took him some time to learn Eddie Jordan's system in a Philadelphia Inquirer story on Tuesday.
"It takes a while," said Washington's Caron Butler, a two-time All-Star under Jordan. "It took me like 40 games in it to get accustomed to the system."
So yes, Gil is right about what Caron needs to do. But what does Gil need to do? A leader on a team does not call out one of the other stars on the team in public like he did. Especially when he hadn't talked to Caron about his feelings previously. So he is also wrong.
Winning cures everything, including internal bickering. So unless the Wizards start playing with some heart—and start playing some D—this could turn out to be another very long season.