The Orlando Magic took a big risk in December when they acquired mercurial point guard Gilbert Arenas from the Washington Wizards for slumping combo forward Rashard Lewis. Arenas, who had appeared in just 44 games over the three seasons prior to this one, struggled upon his arrival, shooting 34.4 percent from the field and not representing a significant upgrade over incumbent backup point guard Chris Duhon.
But given Arenas' body of work to date--he's a three-time All-Star with the 10th-highest career scoring average among active players--and his sharply reduced role with Orlando, some fans and analysts have argued Magic coach Stan Van Gundy didn't make the most of Arenas' talents, a claim Magic cornerstone Dwight Howard echoed earlier this summer. And Arenas tends to agree, posting this message on his Twitter account early Friday morning:
yes as of now i am [overpaid] but i work hard everyday to try to prove it i just didnt get a fair shot this year but hoping for one next year
He explained that point in another message moments later:
i had 100 percent freedom [earlier in my career]..i had 0 last year so the only way u see my old ways is if i get to play my way which wont happen
But lest you think Arenas is simply whining, he also said, "i hav a job..its to get in shape and be ready to play when its time to go." And I believe him.
I believe Arenas recognizes he had a bad year, and blames at least part of it on the way Van Gundy used him. But I also believe he understands the key to more playing time, and more freedom, is to get in shape, and I believe he takes that task seriously. Rag on him for his Twitter antics--which include posting photos of him "planking"--if you must, but Arenas is nothing if not earnest on that account.
Otis Smith, Orlando's President of Basketball Operations and perhaps Arenas' closest friend, traded for him with the expectation that he might one day challenge Jameer Nelson for Orlando's starting point guard gig. "I'm OK with having a controversy with players fighting for a job," Smith told Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel in late March. He later added, "Gilbert is still adjusting. We might not see the fruits of this one this season... hopefully, in the postseason."
Though Arenas had one brilliant game in the Magic's first-round loss to the Atlanta Hawks, scoring 20 points (albeit on 18 shooting possessions) in 22 minutes in Orlando's Game 4 defeat, he also didn't play at all in their Game 3 win.