Gilbert Arenas was a piece of work. He was also a hell of a player who got his start with the Golden State Warriors. Of all the players who came through the Warriors’ locker room over the years, few were as colorful, volatile, talented and immature as Arenas.
Arenas was gifted with immense ability and a gym-rat mentality. He wasn’t just athletic, he was explosive, with a quick first step and the dexterity with both hands to finish at the rim. He had a solid — sort-of set-shot — perimeter “jumper,” but it was what set up his offensive game.
At 6-foot-3, Arenas was considered a “tweener” back in the early 2000s — not all the way a point guard but not all the way a shooting guard, either. He was a second-round draft pick, didn’t play a ton as a rookie, then burst out in 2002-03.
Early that season was when I started to realize just how interesting and unusual Arenas was. The Warriors were in Dallas in early November, and Arenas committed two turnovers in three possessions midway through the first quarter. Coach Eric Musselman called a timeout and replaced Arenas with a player named Dean Oliver.
Arenas was irate.
The Warriors lost 107-100, and afterward I approached Arenas, who finished 6-for-16 from the field that night. I asked him a question that I can’t remember, but it doesn’t matter anyway because Arenas had his own thing to say.
“Take this down,” Arenas said to me. “We lost the game tonight because I was pissed off that the coach took me out in the first quarter after those turnovers. I was mad, because I thought that was bullshit, and I really didn’t feel like playing after that.”
Blown away, I wanted to make sure I heard him right. Arenas, 21-years-old at the time, repeated what he said about being mad at Musselman and not feeling like playing after that. Boy, did I have a hell of a quote.
The only problem was that Chris Mills, one of Arenas’ teammates, was nearby and said: “Do not put that in the paper!” I asked Mills why not, and he said Arenas was young, didn’t know any better and didn’t really mean what he was saying.
I shook my head, and began walking toward the locker room door. “Hey, don’t put that in the paper,” Mills said again. As I walked out, I really didn’t know what I was going to do. Mills was serious.
I was well down the hallway, when Arenas came sprinting after me. He stopped next to me and said: “OK, this is on the record. You have to write it when I say that, right? We lost the game tonight because I was mad at Musselman for taking me out, and didn’t feel like playing after that. Got it?”
I can’t remember if I used the quote or not, to be honest. If I didn’t, it was because I was scared of Mills, and it turns out I should have been. Google Chris Mills and Portland Trail Blazers bus and you’ll see why.
As for Arenas, in my book he’ll go down as one of the most notable Warriors of all-time.
Another great take.