HoopsHype.com Interviews

Gilbert Arenas: "Making the All-Star team would mean a lot to me"
by Gery Woelfel / January 15, 2005

It's hard to imagine any NBA guard playing better than you these days. You've averaged 25 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists in the last six games. In your opinion, is there a better guard in the NBA at this juncture?

Gilbert Arenas: There's plenty of guards who are doing their jobs. Steve Nash is out there. I'm just doing what I've always done. But my team is winning and I think that's why I'm getting the recognition now.

Have you ever had a better stretch since coming into the NBA?

GA: Yeah, I have. Last year, I was averaging like 32 points at one point and I thought I was going to get
NBA Player of the Month. But we weren't winning games, so I didn't get it. It's hard to get recognition when
your team is losing.

You have a well-deserved rep of being a scorer, but this season you're averaging 1.8 steals a game
(sixth-best in the NBA). Are you a better defender than people are giving you credit for?

GA: I'm out there playing the passing lanes. My problem is I like to follow the ball so, if my man back cuts me, he's always open because I'm always looking at the ball the whole time. I defend when I have to. I'm more of a gambler.

You have three guys on this team who are averaging more than 20 points a game: Larry Hughes, Antawn Jamison and yourself. The last NBA team to have three 20-plus points per game scorers was Golden State with Chris Mullin, Mitch Richmond and Tim Hardaway during the 1990-91 season. Do you guys talk about that much?

GA: No, I didn't know that. But we're doing this because of the rest of the team. They know we're the main scorers, so they really don't demand the ball. They aren't selfish. They aren't complaining. They do their jobs, and they let us do ours.

Some NBA officials contend you and Larry Hughes have become the premier backcourt in the NBA. Do agree with their assessment?

GA: Yeah. Why not? We're not going to second-guess ourselves and say we're the second-best. We're the
best until someone proves us wrong.

Larry becomes a free agent after the season. Do you expect him to stay with the Wizards?

GA: Of course. He knows what we have here. He's not going anywhere. We're the best backcourt. We both have
the same thing here. He's the one and sometimes I'm the one, so we're both ones and both twos. We play off each other. He don't want to play with another guard, and I don't want to play with another guard.

When you go to the free-throw line, you do something unique, something I've never seen any other NBA player do and that's move the ball around your body three times before shooting. What prompted you to do this?

GA: I just needed a new rhythm. Before this season, I was shooting about 70-some percent from the free-throw
line. Now I have the confidence. It just gives me time and makes me be patient thinking about the shot.

The Wizards are 21-13 and off to the best start in two decades. Are you surprised by that?

GA: No. We came came into the preseason with confidence. After the first game, you knew there was something special: you're missing six players, four of them are starters, and we put out a win against a playoff team from last year.

What's been the biggest reason for this team's improvement from a year ago?

GA: Everyone is healthy. People say it's the Big Three scoring all the points, but it's all 12 guys. They're all buying into what we want to do. If any of these other players start complaining about shots, and saying the Big Three is getting all this, that's when you have problem. They had the Big Three here (in Milwaukee with Sam Cassell, Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson), but they didn't get along. We get along.

The consensus is Miami, Detroit and Indiana are primary contenders for the Eastern Conference championship, but only one team has more wins than the Wizards and that's Miami with 28. Are the Wizards being overlooked?

GA: People are still in shock that we have this good of a record. They're shocked. Just like Phoenix. People say they're going to fall off. Teams do. We're going to go through a stretch where we'll lose four games or so. That's what happens in the NBA. But we're a good team.

One team that seems to have the Wizards' number is Miami. You've lost to the Heat four times this season? What gives?

GA: One game Dwyane Wade killed us, and another game Shaq killed us. We're kind of mad about that. But if
we make the playoffs, maybe we'll see each other again. They got us early, so they'll be confident and overlook us like everybody else is.

Is this the season the Wizards finally make the playoffs after a seven-year drought?

GA: If we play the way we should and if we keep our head on, yes. We're going in the right direction now. We're happy. We don't feel like anyone can beat us in the last six minutes of a game, so if we're close in the last six minutes, we know we're going to win that game. But if we get a distraction, if outside people interrupt what we got going, then we could have turmoil. We can't let that happen.

Is this the year Gilbert Arenas makes an All-Star team?

GA: I don't know, but I do know it would mean a lot to me.

Gery Woelfel covers the Milwaukee Bucks and the NBA for The Racine (Wis.) Journal Times

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