Who Is Henry Winkler?

I need some help from those assembled. Since that Gilbert Arenas SI article hit yesterday, I've been dismayed in all walks of my life. Last night I nodded off several times in a movie theater, just because it felt better that way. I would stop myself and wonder if I care too much about the NBA, but then I recollect Philly after an Eagles loss. I'm the same as everyone else, but different, so that means denial isn't an option.

I'll take it objectively first: If you didn't know, in the piece Gilbert pulls no punches about Kobe, LeBron, Wade, and Isiah Thomas, the player. I can deal with the Kobe stuff, since from a logical standpoint it is stupid for Bryant to think he'll end up in a better situation. I'll take Arenas at his word that he wouldn't ask out of Washington, and acknowledge that Iverson toughed out the Sixers for a hell of a long time (albeit partly to prove that he would and could do so). Not so sure, though, if his "I have 20ppg scorers" boast fares so well. That team lives to put up points, and the offense is perilously low on method.

The Caron Butler comparison is a valid one, and it might be worth inserting Lamar Odom into that discussion, too. But the bottom line is that Arenas is in a system that allows for firepower, a fact that he can't exactly take credit for himself. What's more, he's a point guard, while those other three are not. If their role players aren't getting points, you also have to examine their team's distributors.

I can't find as much support for his contention that the Cavs system makes LeBron look better than he is. That team is stagnant and cursed; LeBron might get to shoot a lot, and operate like he's the only Cavalier on the floor. But with zero relief from the opposing team's full defensive focus, isn't it also forcing him to work harder? I guess the added drama helps LeBron's cause, as it probably should Kobe's. Still, this presumes that success in those cases is a given, that a star living in isolation (yes, grasp that double meaning) might not be in a deeply ambivalent featured role.

And then, there's the "I'm stronger and a better shooter than Isiah" quip. As The Recluse put it, Arenas is right, but that doesn't mean he's better than Zeke, which is the definite implication. That's part of what bugs me so much about his criticism of his fellow All-Stars: While I'm as high on Arenas as anyone wandering these waters, I keep his game in perspective. He can take over games, lead his team, and impact the action like few players can. But LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Dwyane Wade aren't just elites in their day, they're 50 Greatest material. Sure, none of them are perfect, but point out flaws or shortcomings there is a little myopic or forest/trees-y. We could start that with Arenas and it would go on for days; he's still a serious force on the court, just a tier below those other three.

What stings most about this article, though, is what it says to me about today's Gilbert Arenas. I've always prized the way his idiosyncrasy lead to interesting basketball. Some could call him sloppy, rash, or sans conscience, but they'd be missing the positives that come with this "imperfect" approach. I'd take it a step further, and claim that almost every moving player is in some way imperfect; that's the price of honing a recognizable, focused style. If you want basketball perfection, look to Tim Duncan, or the implausible horizon that is LeBron's eternal potential. You'd think that Arenas, of all people, would refrain from holding up some absolute standard of evaulation--like it or not, here he's crafting his own, on-the-fly version of The Right Way.

Furthermore, this is all too indicative of Arenas's descent into. . . I don't know, disagreeableness? I liked him more when I realized that he wasn't some lovable, cuddly savant—this was a cocky, cold-blooded motherfucker whose ego had to compensate for neglect. Who played not just to prove himself, but to exact revenge on all those who'd doubted. Even once he'd blown up, I was fine with his boasting and bragging; Arenas's self-confidence bordered on parody, and very rarely seemed malicious, or even aware of the fact that there was someone else in the room. It was more silly than anything else, as seen in his ability to shrug off false predictions.

I don't like what I hear in this interview, though. It's like Arenas has decided that if he's underrated, the way to stake his claim is to prove others are overrated. Not to toss out a gratuitous pop reference, but it's a lot like what's happened to Kanye, one of the few music/ball parallels I can get behind. That, in my opinion, he's wrong is secondary to the fact that he's gone this route. Maybe a couple of seasons ago, when he'd been this relatively unknown upstart, this would've been plucky and admirable. But getting more bitter and resentful the more he blows up, that's hard to love. While Gilbert Arenas isn't yet a household name, he's close enough to royalty that this griping comes off as paranoid and petty. The last thing Arenas, or his fans, should want is to see him transformed into an indie Kobe Bryant.


At 11/03/2007 7:01 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i'll beat you all to it: i know this makes two long posts in a row that i've called into question a favorite of mine. don't draw too many conclusions from that.

At 11/03/2007 7:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope this blog exists for a long time. I'd like to recall comments that were 10 years old from some of our memorable characters.

Dwayne Wade will have his career limited by injury far more than people seem to expect. He won't come close to the holiest 50 ever.

See you in 10 years.

At 11/03/2007 7:54 PM, Anonymous db said...

Lots to digest here.

I think the difference between Kanye and Gil, and which I think is at the heart of your disappointment, is exemplified in the way they deal with their relationships to those leading the game and setting the contextual agenda. On "Big Brother", Kanye surfaces his own conflicted feelings around Jay, aware that there is a pecking order / kinship which kind of seems unfair to the cocky upstart, but is somehow central to the social order, and analogizes to the big brother/little brother relationships which, as we know, are maintained through time and circumstance. The youngest has a specific role as "the tension-breaker" (as Chappelle puts it), always in antagonism to the agenda set by the elders, but impossible to actually institute as its own reality.

Gil doesn't seem to have this kind of awareness of his own position, and so he's stepped out of his role as the upstart to - as you suggest - get into the "defining game" role, even though he has yet to place himself into the appropriate role in the symbolic order to do this. It's the difference between self-belief and being a try-hard, and even though I've never been as enamoured with Gil myself, I also feel that his voice has somehow become lost through these recent comments, as if he drank from the cup of moral power that he seemed to be always in opposition to.

At 11/03/2007 9:19 PM, Blogger Brickowski said...

See, I thought these comments sounded less like Marion-esque insecurity and more like a man who’s always thrived on being doubted. Like, now that The Takeover has occurred what are you going to do next? I realize that it’s probably poor form to mention the Bowen-Arenas friendship in this space, but you’ve said before that the players in this league are generally close with each other regardless of whatever rivalries and plotlines we fans might imagine for them--Basketball is Brotherhood and whatnot. I imagine that most here read Mike Wise’s Arenas manifesto at the beginning of the season that featured this bit of Bowen wisdom: "In this game, so many guys want their credit, respect, their street cred. For people like me and Gil, it goes deeper than that. We want people to recognize us for what we've overcome. We carry that around. When what you've been taught is what you won't be, what you won't achieve, that you weren't good enough, your whole work ethic becomes about proving people wrong. Which is great -- until you don't have anybody to prove wrong anymore. When people start treating him great, I wonder how he'll deal with that." I think we’re now seeing how Gilbert has chosen to deal with his new status.

By criticizing the only guards in the game who are perceived to be better than him, Gilbert invites people to say how much better Kobe and Bron and Wade are, thereby giving Gil the motivation that he needs. And lo and behold, you, original President of the Black President’s fan club, are now doing just that. Frankly, I’m pretty surprised, since it doesn’t seem that clean cut to me, at least not in terms of Wade. They’ve each made 3 All-Star teams (in the same years, no less), and while Wade does have that ring, he also had Shaq to help him get it (and who are you to care about rings, anyways?). I’ll admit that it’s possible that Arenas’ game wouldn’t blend as well next to a dominant big as Wade’s, but who knows? Gilbert’s ridiculous shooting range would certainly create acres of space in which a big man could operate, and I wouldn’t put it past him to figure out the rest.

Also, doesn’t a Devin comparison imply that Gilbert was already something of an indie Kobe Bryant?

At 11/03/2007 11:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

38 from Al "TMNT" Harrington, and the Warriors got absolutely MUTILATED.

And in contrast to that:

Juan Jose Barea (5' 10" AT BEST):
9-11 from the floor, 4-4 from 3, 25pts, 5ast.

Also: 27/8/4 from *gulp* M. Dunleavy. For another Pacer win. To put their record at 3-0. Still 0-4 from 3 thank god.

At 11/03/2007 11:43 PM, Anonymous neck of eackles said...

This has been developing for a while, unfortunately; you could flag the birthday party last year as an symbolic start. And then Steinz -- certainly no enemy of gilbertology -- noted feeling queasy about Gil's comments post-injury, pre-playoffs, especially in contrast to Caron's grown-man behavior. And now this, and everything else pre-season.

It once all seemed like refreshing honesty, speaking his mind without the cliches, but now it feels like "wait, that's all that's in your mind? your shoes and your mvp campaign?" I mean, not to get all Carlesimo, but even if he's just speaking his mind, shouldn't defense at least come up? Or, like, winning?

I hate to validate any old-man right-way grouchiness, but there does seem to be still a fundamental difference between Wade and Arenas, somewhere in the department of Getting the Job Done.

Maybe I'm too gloomy. Maybe it's just the 0-3 talking.

At 11/04/2007 12:03 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

people know who gilbert arenas is now. at least those who would be swayed by the kind of arguments he's making. at what point does he put any credence in the public's opinion?

gil is on the same level as amare or melo, and right now, he's probably better than iverson. but that's not enough, and he seems even more insane about this last, possibly unreasonable, leap in status. hence the back-biting, which we never saw when he was trying to get acknowledged as a star.

lebron is a better playmaker than gil. wade is a far more consistently unstoppable scorer. kobe is kobe. i hope gil proves me wrong, but i just don't see how much better or more complete he's going to get. it's like he's resting on his laurels and telling the fans and media they're wrong, instead of upping his game and rattling off game-winners.

At 11/04/2007 1:48 AM, Blogger Ian said...

I really don't think Gil will be playing in the NBA much longer. This "Gazo the Pranksta" thing will probably take up most of his time.

At 11/04/2007 1:52 AM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

David Stern: "And the 2008 MVP award goes to LeBron James..."

Gilbert crashes stage: "Ahhhh hell no! How you gonna say Gilbert Arenas ain't the MVP?!? I dropped 60 points on the Cavs, fam!"

At 11/04/2007 10:27 AM, Anonymous hilario said...

It seems pretty clear that he's worried about his knee, which from anything I've read isn't healing as quickly as he'd like. Anyway, yall have gotten more refined over the years, more serious maybe, but what the hell happened to this?


Being a fan means elaborate excuses, self-deception, and devotion. If you're gonna throw people under the bus the moment they do something stupid, I gotta wonder...

At 11/04/2007 11:28 AM, Anonymous carey said...

Gil looked awful last night vs. Orlando. His performance was obviously subpar, but to me it was overshadowed by his terrible body language. He looked like a beaten man, and possessed no swag whatsoever. It makes me wonder just how healthy he really is. The SI article couldn't have dropped at a worse time for Gil.

However, the one positive I did take from the SI piece was that Arenas had this to say regarding his play during a contract year:

"I don't ever want to hear somebody say he's playing better because it's his contract year, I mean, I did make three All-Stars and All-NBA three times, so I guess that counts for nothing. But it's just about getting better as a player each year."

"If you have a player who plays dead for five years of his contract, and then he has a blow-up year, that's called false advertisement. I don't think you should pay him. Because you pay him, what do you think he's going to do? He's going to go back into hibernation."

Those quotes remind me of why people love Arenas in the first place, and lead me to belived that everything's gonna be alright. All of his eccentricities are great, but it's always been his tireless work ethic, late game dagger threes and phenonenal swag that have drawn me to Gil. I just don't see any of those things disappearing any time soon.

At 11/04/2007 12:06 PM, Blogger Martin said...

Brickowski, surely you cannot be insinuating that one can argue that Gil is better than Wade. Did not see the stretch of games last season when Wade was simply winning games all by himself before he got hurt? Did you not see Wade's playoff run? When it comes to scoring Wade is probably more efficient than both Lebron and Kobe. Although Wade does not have the astonishing brilliance to replicate Lebron's Game 5 against Detroit or Kobe's 81pts, on the other hand it is virtually impossible for Wade to have a bad game. Put the ball in Wade's hands in the 4th and he is good for 2pts or 2 free throws. We are not yet at the point that we can say the same thing about Gil. Please spare me a "ref's made Wade" rant. Tell it to someone who shares the same paranoid delusional conspiracy theories.

At 11/04/2007 12:41 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Being a fan means elaborate excuses, self-deception, and devotion. If you're gonna throw people under the bus the moment they do something stupid, I gotta wonder...

this hasn't come out of nowhere with arenas. as n.o.e says, it's been building. and i finally decided kobe was off-putting. . . yeah, that really speaks to a lack of devotion on my part.

these are difficult, unstable players. i am a difficult, unstable person. deal with it.

i was advocating for arenas back in his rookie year. i've held kobe in high esteem no matter what happened. i think i've earned the right to finally feel ambivalent if i want to.

At 11/04/2007 1:10 PM, Blogger rebar said...

two options:

1. gilbert is indie kobe, fuck him and the horse he rode in on, let's get a new hero/mascot, this one has obviously sold out. how indie of us.

2. gilbert is a fucking commando, y'all. infiltrate the halls of arrogance and damon jones level absurdity, but be better at it, more absurd, and deconstruct the whole thing from the inside out. Gil is just warming us up to hate him so that everyone can love him even more when he averages 41 for a whole month or hits 8 consecutive gamewinners in the playoffs. i pray for his soul half-ironically, always wary that the man in gold lame may be pulling one over on us. one need look no further than his recent blog posts about paintball and shit to know that gil-nasty is still in the fucking spot. HATERS STEP OFF, G[IL]'S UP, HOE'S DOWN.

PS: perhaps gilly gill needs to join baron's book club and learn to be a TRUWARRIER all over again.

At 11/04/2007 1:16 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i don't think you understand what i meant by "indie kobe," but whatever.

At 11/04/2007 3:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When DW is healthy, he the THE premier "attack the basket guard" in the league. End of story. SO many flip moves, changed shots, spins, foul calls, easy dishes.

That said, it doesn't look like he's going to live up to his potential. Something LeBron has done so far, and Kobe definitely did. Gilbert is in the same space. The potential remains unfulfilled.

Also: Baron's book club is the most moronic player tidbit pumped up by blogs lately. There's no nice way to say it (without sounding racist/insufferable) but Stephen Jackson ain't exactly worded, Matt Barnes ain't much fer readin', and Al Harrington, ahem, is pretty damn dumb.

At 11/04/2007 5:41 PM, Anonymous hilario said...

Hey man, you do what you want, but don't be surprised if people think it's bad form when something like this


was clearly gonna drop any minute.

At 11/04/2007 6:39 PM, Anonymous djslickwatts said...

You're right, dude: you didn't manage to say it without sounding racist/insufferable.

At 11/04/2007 7:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only Wizard I love right now is Brendan Haywood, which is bad news

At 11/04/2007 8:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's safe to say Adrian Peterson may be FD. Even on this here blog. Dude will be wearing the cross-hairs now.

At 11/04/2007 8:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sjslickwatts: So clearly, the intelligence of semi- or fully brown skinned athletes cannot be called into question. How's THAT for racist?

At 11/04/2007 8:38 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

definitely on AP. expect more on that shortly.

At 11/04/2007 9:02 PM, Anonymous djslickwatts said...

Anon 8:08: No. (And it's been awhile since I've been accused of reverse racism, or political correctness--big fun.) But all the original poster (on the off chance you're two different guys) says is, I don't want to sound racist but those three black ballplayers sure are dumb. If he'd offered as evidence that Harrington never went to college, it'd be specious but it'd be something. If he pointed out that they seem to gather in a group to discuss self-help books and that those books are, as a rule, for idiots, it'd be something else.

He didn't, though; he just takes for granted, presumably from the way they come across on his tv screen (i.e. they come from a different culture than most of the people who read this blog, or blogs, and who preface the racist shit they say with stuff about how they don't like to sound racist), that they're illiterate. Which is racist.

How's that?

At 11/04/2007 9:14 PM, Blogger T. said...

I don't think having a book club is any sort of intellectual achievement - I mean Toby, Oscar and Pam have one. Oprah's audience has one. Phil Jackson always gave his players something to read.

One thing you do need to understand is that pro ball players have a lot of downtime. A LOT of DOWNTIME. There's only so many games of guts you can play in the back of the plane.

At 11/04/2007 9:16 PM, Blogger rebar said...

shit, i misinterpreted divine scripture? i meant no violence to your text.

stephen jackson is a professor of clinical gerontology you pre-supposing schmendrick. check yourself forst you wreck yourself, but then again, i was never one for the serious analysis of language.

watching boston vs toronto, thought i'd be rooting against the disgusting green uniforms, but somehow that team manages to transcend their milieu and be mad likable. whoever said that the knicks make the perfect bad guys are right, stephon grinning after passes to eddy curry is definitely evil. tj ford should be added to that list, dude decked him a celtic and grinned about it while the bench cried like the KG-Ray-Px2 minions that they are.

At 11/04/2007 9:56 PM, Blogger Mr. Six said...

Of course, one's entitled to feel a bit ambivalent after such comments.

But shouldn't this newly revealed aspect of the psychology of Gilbert Arenas be as much a cause for drawing near as it is for pushing away? Clearly there are new things to learn about the man. Perhaps we'll like them, and maybe we won't, but this new streak of brittleness means there's more to know.

At 11/04/2007 10:17 PM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

My favorite thing about Peterson is that, while most running backs look like they're powering through people or making them miss, he just looks like he's running, and the defenders happen to be in his way.

T's right, the existence of a book club does not guarantee rigorous analysis, but there's no reason to make fun of anyone who engages in organized discussion of any kind. The fact that Baron continued the deal after Adonal left means that everyone probably got something out of it. It shouldn't matter if they're reading Sue Grafton or fucking Alain Robbe-Grillet -- that type of group is useful.

At 11/05/2007 2:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Baron's lackadaisical, inconsistent "meetings" (which apparently have yet to happen) won't compare to Adonal's actual club.

Also: It's not that hard to find online video and interviews of Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington saying things which would make your eyes roll HARD. A tad ignorant even.

At 11/05/2007 5:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn, Devis looks just like Marcus Camby in that picture.

At 11/06/2007 10:53 AM, Blogger lost said...

and that narco looks like Craig Kilborn rifling through his frilly bits: OMG where's my sky blue and pewter silk necktie?

At 4/13/2009 4:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...




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