Gilbert Arenas Sought Charley Rosen's Advice--but Did not Follow ItCharley Rosen recently wrote an interesting account of how Gilbert Arenas responded to some of Rosen's critiques of Arenas' game:
A couple of years back, one of the Wizards public relations staff called in response to my pointing out that Gilbert Arenas tended to turn his head on defense and was burned by two or three backdoor plays every game. Arenas wanted to know, the PR guy said, what he could do to prevent this, and what other pieces of his game I thought could be improved.
Although this was the provenance of his coaches, the PR guy diligently took notes as I discussed how to avoid being back-doored. Actually, it's just by adhering to a fundamental defensive principle--open up until you can see both the ball and your man. If the specific angles prohibit this, then watch the ball while keeping some physical connection--a hand on the nearest hip will do--with your man.
I talked about Arenas' shot selection, and his frequent domination of the ball.
Yes. I wasn't particularly fond of the way Arenas spun the basketball prior to releasing his free throws. Remembering how Arenas had botched a pair of last-second free throws that cost the Wiz a playoff game against the Cavs back in 2006, the PR person was eager to relay my advice to Arenas.
The problem with spinning the ball the way Arenas does is that he doesn't end up with the same grip as he prepares to shoot. Sometimes his fingers are aligned with the seams and sometimes not. And shooting free throws is all about duplicating the same pre-shot posture and preparation, the same grip, the same rhythm, and the same stroke on every shot. Even the slightest variation requires a slight adjustment that destroys the groove the shooter seeks to maintain.
As good a natural shooter as he is, Arenas should also be at least five percentage points higher than his lifetime free-throw accuracy of 80.9 percent--77.3 percent in the playoffs. Paying more attention to being consistent rather than flashy was the answer.
OK! Arenas would be thrilled to hear all of this. Thanks.
Glad to be of help.
The next time the Wizards played, I zeroed in on Arenas' defense.
Nope, he still lost visual and physical contact with his man in order to follow the bouncing ball.
Nope, he still massaged the ball too much and took bad shots.
Ah, but on his first trip to the stripe, he avoided circling the ball around his waist and made sure that his hands were in optimum position on the ball before releasing his shot--which hit the rim softly, made two complete circles, and then dropped off.
On his second free throw, Arenas was back to his great-circle routine. The shot was good.
The experiment was over forever.
So far this season, he's shooting 72.9 percent from the stripe.
The Sporting News--and others--declared that Arenas' healthy return would transform the Washington Wizards into serious Eastern Conference contenders; I predicted that the Wizards would merely go back to being what they have always been when Arenas was healthy: a lower level playoff team. So far, the Wizards have not even met my expectations, compiling a 3-7 record that places them six games behind the Southeast Division-leading Atlanta Hawks in the Southeast Division and just a half game ahead of the cellar dwelling Charlotte Bobcats (who have performed worse than I expected and have already significantly changed their roster by acquiring the volatile Stephen Jackson). There is apparently a mainstream media rule against criticizing the popular Arenas, so his defenders are quick to assert that Arenas is not really himself yet and that he has not fully recovered from the knee injuries/surgeries that cost him the better part of the past two seasons. I agree that the "eyeball test" shows that Arenas does not have quite the same explosiveness that he did a couple years ago--but the numbers show that he is essentially the same player that he has always been. Here are his averages this season after 10 games, with his career averages listed in parentheses:
36.8 mpg (37.3), 22.9 ppg (22.8), 7.6 FGM/g (7.3), 19.3 FGA/g (17.2), .394 FG% (.426), 2.1 3FGM/g (2.1), 5.3 3FGA/g (5.8), .396 3FG% (.359), 5.6 FTM/g (6.0), 7.6 FTA/g (7.4), .737 FT% (.807), 3.8 rpg (4.2), 6.5 apg (5.5 apg), 1.2 spg (1.7), 4.2 TO/g (3.3).
The main difference in Arenas' game so far is that his reaction to his lower field goal percentage is to jack up a couple more shots per game. He has always been an erratic, inefficient player; that has not changed and it is not likely to change. Arenas is not entirely to blame for Washington's disappointing start; the Wizards missed the contributions of Antawn Jamison, who just scored 31 points in his season debut--a victory over Cleveland--after sitting out the first nine games because of a shoulder injury. Assuming that Jamison stays healthy, the Wizards will likely rally to finish above .500, some fools will say that Arenas deserves All-NBA (or even MVP) consideration and then the Wizards will get blasted in the first round and we will not have to hear about them until next fall.
posted by David Friedman @ 4:01 PM