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Agent Zero hour

Arenas sounds off on his critics and questions Kobe

Posted: Friday November 2, 2007 10:22AM; Updated: Friday November 2, 2007 11:07AM
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"Nobody realizes how valuable I really am to teams," Gilbert Arenas said.
Bill Frakes/SI

BOSTON -- Gilbert Arenas appears to be discovering his inner Charles Barkley. After years of deprecating himself as an underdog never expected to accomplish anything, Arenas has vaulted to the other end of the spectrum. Now his words are as loud as his game.

"If I'm doing what I do and I lead this team to 50-something wins, that's MVP,'' Arenas was saying after his Washington Wizards' practice Thursday. "Hands down.''

He believes his 28.9-point scoring average over the past two years qualifies him to say whatever he wants, which -- as of this moment, at least -- should make him the most provocative star in the league. When I mentioned the trade requests of Kobe Bryant, with whom Arenas was linked in a recently rumored proposal that was instantly shot down by the Wizards, he shut his eyes and shook his head, tsk, tsk.

"I don't understand that,'' Arenas said. "I don't understand a player like him sometimes.''

How so?

"One, you want to get traded because you don't like your team, you don't think your team's good enough,'' Arenas said. "But any team you go to, they're going to have to get rid of a whole bunch of players for you, which basically puts you back in the same situation -- just in a different city. I don't know how a player doesn't see that. If he just doesn't like the organization, then I understand that. But you hear the Chicago rumors: If they had to get rid of Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, [Andres] Nocioni -- that's your whole nucleus. Now you're stuck with Kirk Hinrich, you, Joe Smith, 'Kim Noah, Ben Wallace. That's great defense, but offensively you're going to be doing the same thing you were doing before.

"So it's like your situation is not changing. Unless somebody's going to trade you a one-for-one player, he's not going to be in a happy situation there either.

"I've never seen [Michael] Jordan act like that. I didn't even see AI [Allen Iverson], when he was going through them bad days, you know? They were always talking about trading him, and he was like, 'If they trade me, they trade me; if they don't, they don't; but this is my city.' And I don't understand how Kobe doesn't feel that about L.A. -- it's his city.''

According to a fellow All-Star, then, Bryant is wrong to think he would be better off elsewhere.

"With the Lakers, he's always going to have the opportunity to attract players. A free agent is willing to go to a Laker uniform. Everybody wants to go to L.A. -- KG would want to go there,'' Arenas said of Kevin Garnett. "Jason Kidd would want to go there. Jason Kidd is up next season, right? He's a free agent [in 2009]. Why don't you wait? Maybe he'll just come over there. You never know.''

Arenas is promising to opt out of his six-year, $65 million contract with the Wizards this summer. His intention is to sign a new six-year deal worth more than $90 million to remain in Washington. As the top free agent, he can't claim any longer that he's a zero (as his uniform number suggests) just trying to make it. Now he says that he's already there; it's just that the rest of us haven't noticed.

"This is what a lot of people don't realize about me,'' Arenas said. "They call me a shoot-first point guard. And honestly, OK.'' Which means he can't argue with that. "But no one's ever [been] a point guard that averages points like me and he had two other guys that average [19].''

He was referring to former All-Star Antawn Jamison, who averaged 19.8 points last year, and Caron Butler, who added 19.1 and made his first All-Star team. They did this while Arenas was going for 28.4 to finish third in league scoring behind Bryant and Carmelo Anthony.

"I've been doing it my whole career -- when I had Larry [Hughes, who averaged 22 points in 2004-05 alongside Jamison's 19.6); Antawn, Caron," Arenas said. "I don't see Dwyane [Wade] doing that. I don't see Kobe doing that. I didn't see AI doing that. I don't see LeBron [James] doing it -- there's not another scorer with him scoring 20.

"I mean, AI did it [last year with 24.8 points for Denver after his trade from Philadelphia] because Carmelo already was having 30, so they never started from the beginning where two other players were averaging [close to] 20 points. And the way I can do that is because I push the ball so much that we're getting opportunities. It's not like we're taking 60 shots and I'm taking 30 of them. I took 25 shots [in Wednesday's season-opening overtime loss at Indiana] and we had 99 attempts. Antawn had 25 shots. Caron had 19 shots. So your Big Three is still getting their opportunities.

"Nobody realizes how valuable I really am to teams. It's like, 'Oh, we don't know if he can be a point guard.' Well, every guard out there can't be me. But if I lose my speed, I can be them.''

He laughed at what he'd just said, then repeated it to show he was serious. "If I lose my speed getting to the basket, I can be them. I can be a spot-up shooter. I can come off a pick-and-roll and make passes. I can reach their peak; they can't be what I am.''

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