For anyone that's followed the Washington Wizards over the past few years, you know there have been several false starts in the rejuvenation of Gilbert Arenas' career, and by extension, the Wizards' claims to legitimacy. On several occasions over the past two seasons, we've watched Arenas return to much fanfare, only to hobble around for a few games, and return to the injured list. Something was seriously wrong, and it was unclear whether it'd ever get better.
Last night, though, proved heartening for Wizards fans, everywhere. From SB Nation's Bullets Forever:
I'm absolutely floored by how well we played tonight. Never in a million years would I have thought we would play this well on opening night, without Antawn Jamison, with our rotation barely settled, on the road against a really, really good Dallas Mavericks team. I was excited before the season, but now, I can barely contain myself. That was such a great performance.
So many things went well, but here's what stood out.
Gilbert Arenas was aggressive, and the proof is in the pudding. 29 points, 9 assists. Gilbert Arenas is officially back.
It was a great night all around for the Wizards, but like the old days, it all began with the success of Gilbert Arenas. And it wasn't just that he scored 29 points and had 9 assists--even in some of his prior returns, he'd managed to score well. But it was how he did it--slicing to the basket, absorbing contact, using his explosion and strength to get wherever he needed to on the court. He was Gilbert again--a true weapon.
After the game, Arenas spoke to the media. From the Washington Post:
"I did fine," Arenas said. "Coach told me to be myself. Don't let the outside world dictate how I play. So, I did me."
And for the first time in a few years, he finally looked like himself, the NBA superstar that at times, can put a team on his back and carry them. It was one game--and the Wizards will face considerable tests in the coming weeks without Antawn Jamison and facing a schedule that pits them against 9 playoff teams in their first 16 games--but after one night, Arenas and the Wizards are looking better than they have in years.