A three-time NBA All-Star at the time, Gilbert Arenas catapulted into the national discourse for all the wrong reasons in December of 2009. He became infamous in an instant, the player who brought guns into the Washington Wizards locker room after a confrontation with a teammate.
"Someone said they were going to shoot me," Arenas told USA Today recently in his first extensive comments on the incident. "So since I'm one of those guys who says, 'I want to see this happen; I want to see you actually shoot me,' that's where that came from. I brought the four guns in and said [in a note], 'Pick one so the day you want to shoot me, let me know; I'll be ready to get shot.'
Convicted on gun charges, he spent 30 days in a halfway house, performed 400 hours of community service and paid a $5,000 fine. NBA Commissioner David Stern suspended him for 50 games without pay. Arenas became persona non grata in Washington and flamed out last season through a 49-game stint with the Orlando Magic. The team released him in December, though it still owed him the $62 million left on his contract.
But Arenas is resurrecting his career with the Memphis Grizzlies, whose general manager signed him last month after getting the idea from a fan's blog. Arenas is actually happy to come off the bench and was never known as a "bad guy." That what differentiates this signing from the Grizzles' failed experiment with Allen Iverson in 2009. Despite the gun episode, Arenas was never a thug, just wild and crazy in a harmless way.
"My image, I don't want to rebuild it," Arenas said in the USA Today story. "What was it before? If you really think about it, it was an erratic, eccentric player. The image I built was the image I was selling. I was selling the ‘Agent Zero' product."
The 30-year-old guard isn't the explosive scorer he used to be, partially because of two bad knees, but he doesn't have to carry the load with Memphis. Entering Saturday's contest against the Utah Jazz, Arenas is averaging 5.5 points in about 15 minutes per game with the Grizzlies. Most important, he has a coach in Lionel Hollins who is eager to utilize him and make him feel at home, unlike the situation that existed in Orlando with coach Stan Van Gundy: "He basically sat me in a corner," Arenas said.
He's out of the corner, but he isn't seeking the spotlight. All he wants to do is play ball and leave the rest behind — the nicknames, the goofy antics and the locker-room incident.
Thanks to small-market Memphis and the blue-collar Grizzlies, Arenas is well on his way.