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At the start of this millennium, the NBA had its fair share of cocky players. Gunners who wanted the ball in their hands as much as possible. Yet, if you can back your words with your play, it’s anything but criticism. It’s not a secret that Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson were among the league leaders in points per game in part because they had the belief they could score every time they were on offence. Yet, one player may have topped even their level of cockiness. Enter Gilbert Arenas. What up everybody my name is Stefan and this is Heat Check. Let’s get into it.
The 2012 NBA draft wasn’t the first time that the Golden State Warriors managed to find a player in the second round that would prove at least a better fit and, at most, a better player than the player in the first round. Taking Draymond Green with the 35th selection in 2012 after Harrison Barnes had come seventh and Festus Ezeli 30th can be considered the younger cousin of what transpired in 2001.
In that year’s draft, the Dubs, who had finished 17-65, took Jason Richardson with the seventh pick. Don’t get me wrong, Richardson had a more than solid stint in the Bay Area, averaging more than 18.5 points per game there five and a half seasons.
Yet, at the start of the second round, the Warriors took Gilbert Arenas, who had averaged 15.8 points at the university of Arizona.
Agent Zero had decided on that jersey number in college because, as he said, “zero is the number of minutes people predicted I would play my freshman year in college.”
Entering the league Arenas had a solid first season statistically, especially by second-round rookie standards. With averages of 10.9 points, 3.7 assists, and 1.5 steals, while hitting 34.5% of his three-point attempts. His 32 points against the Los Angeles Clippers on March 21 2002 didn’t make many headlines, mostly because the Dubs lost that game and because the team was once again awful, ending that season with a 21-61 record. However it did show that Gilbert had potential.
Arenas’ rookie campaign showed a lot of promise. So, when new Head Coach Eric Musselman came in the summer of 2002, he made the guard a starter, a decision that would have major consequences.
Agent Zero justified the Coach’s trust in the best way possible. Starting all 82 games, the guard’s production increased so much that even the casual NBA fan now knew his name. Arenas averaged 18.3 points, 6.3 assists, and 4.7 boards per game, and even slightly improved his three-point accuracy despite attempting almost 4 threes per contest.
Somewhat ironically, his best game that year may have come against the Washington Wizards, which included Michael Jordan in his final year. Arenas gave Jordan’s team all they could handle, scoring 41, including 4 three pointers, in a Warriors victory, while adding 6 boards and five assists. And that’s not by accident. Check out the interaction that MJ and Gilbert had, that he still remembers to this day.
Knowing what we know now, you can see why Arenas was particularly motivated against MJ.
Back to the 2002-2003 season. Though the Warriors had a solid, by their standards at the time, 38-44 record, they once again missed the playoffs. Arenas, however, at an individual level, was starting to live the dream. He received the NBA Most Improved Player Award and had several months prior been named Most Valuable Player of the Rookie-Sophomore game during All-Star Weekend.
Because he was a second-round pick, the capped-out Warriors were unable to match Washington’s six-year, $64 million offer to Arenas, who had completed his two-year rookie contract.
The so-called Gilbert Arenas rule would be introduced several years later to prevent such situations in the future.
Agent Zero, for his part, had decided on heading to Washington after he’d reportedly flipped a coin to determine whether he would join the Wizards or Clippers.
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