Links: Lakers, Celts and Wiz

by November 09, 2010

by Lang Whitaker | @langwhitaker

Yo. Yeah, I’m still here, just been underwater trying to get work done. Actually, just seconds ago I finished writing the cover story for the next issue of SLAM and IM’ed it to Ben. And now I need to post something on The Links because something needs to go on The Links. So I present you two things for your perusal.

1) Here is this week’s Hangtime Podcast, which we taped yesterday. Besides Sekou and myself hosting, we’re also gonna have the great Dennis Scott sitting in with us every other week. As I told 3D yesterday, it’s always good on an podcast that’s all about the NBA whenever we can have someone who ACTUALLY PLAYED IN THE NBA hosting with us. Plus, 3D is a genuinely funny dude.

On yesterday’s show we talked mostly about the Lakers and Celtics. Our guests were Sherrod Blakely, who covers the Celtics for ComcastSportsNet and Then we talked with Lakers executive VP Jeanie Buss, who just released a book called Laker Girl, about her life and last season’s title run.

You can subscribe to the podcast here, or listen live right here.

2) Last Friday night here in NYC, I went to the Knicks/Wizards game, which was mostly hyped as John Wall’s NYC NBA debut. It also turned out to be the season debut of Gilbert Arenas.

Gil mostly spent the preseason on his own Operation Shutdown, but after his season debut, Gil sat in his locker and talked freely and openly and interestingly about a variety of subjects.

I ended up standing there for the entire session as various people peppered Gil with questions, and I thought I’d run the entire thing here.

MEDIA: Does it seem like John Wall is too unselfish at times?

GILBERT: You know, like I told him in the fourth quarter tonight, I’m getting tired and I need you to perform. We need your spark, we need that speed to kick in, get them off balance a little bit. And that was when he started driving.

How good did it feel when you drained your first three?

Just making your first shot, just feels good. First couple ones I rushed it, but in the fourth quarter, I felt comfortable. It’s really been a long time. They kept yelling at me to be aggressive, and I was like, I forgot how to! (laughs) Kirk found me with some easy passes, and I just concentrated and knocked the shots down.

What was going through your mind pregame? You were sitting here in the locker room with your headphones on, dribbling a ball.

I don’t know. I just tried to black everything out and go out there and give good energy and just be a professional. I didn’t know what was expected of me, and I didn’t want to interfere with what John’s been doing, because he’s been playing phenomenal basketball. Once I got on the court, I didn’t want him to think or focus on me. But he knows hey, when he’s going, I’m spotting up and when you get tired, I’ll go.

How are you feeling physically?

I’m feeling good, just little aches, being away from it for so long. Just moving again, I guess I’m going to have little nick-nacks until my body gets used to it again.

How did it feel playing off the ball?

There’s no difference. Throughout my career I always had another guard who came in. Last year it was Earl Boykins, some years I had Larry, AD…so I was used to just catching and shooting. But I don’t get as tired and I don’t have to worry about turning the ball over.

Were you anticipating coming off the bench?

Yeah. I haven’t been consistent with the team since training camp. So those guys earned those spots. I’m surprised I got in as fast as I did (laughs). I mean, I’m appreciative of that. So I should be coming off the bench for another couple weeks, couple months. It’s fine with me. When I come off I just gotta be ready, like the Microwave.

What is it like playing with young guys who are still learning the game?

It’s frustrating at times because, you know, you want to yell at ‘em for little things, but you have to remember this is the first time they’re getting the opportunity to play. That’s why I just back up and I say, We can’t keep making the same mistakes. When I came in as a rookie, the veteran guys told me I was going to make mistakes, but just don’t keep making the same ones. I talked to Dray, JaVale and John, like, whatever mistakes you make, just don’t keep making them. I’d rather you just make a different mistake. And they’re learning, they’ve been playing great. I’m happy with what they’re doing.

You joked about being nervous. When was the last time you were nervous before a game?

It’s been a while (laughs). I think it was just the unknown. It’s that whole unknown thing. I think that’s what got me. Just like my preseason game at home, I didn’t know what to expect so…I said I was hurt. It was one of those things, my nerves kicked in and…human nature I guess?

So your first shot and miss tonight, you attribute that to nerves?

Yeah. I’d been on fire…in practice (laughs). I knew eventually I was gonna catch fire. I was just rushing the shots. Once I got the first one I was like, OK, here we go. Then from there I was like, I gotta get to the basket. I’ve just got to get used to getting my shot.

You’ve got a back-to-back tomorrow night. Do you think you’ll be ready?

I feel fine. I’m not as tired as I though I’d be, being out so long. The other guys, they’ve got young legs, they should be fine.

Coming back at Madison Square Garden is a pretty big stage to come back on.

Yeah, yeah, I was thinking about it (laughs). I felt good enough to play, and I had to come back at some point.

What is it like playing with John Wall?

It’s great. Just like when I used to play and people just watch you play? I sit there and do that when he has the ball, I just watch and see what he’s going to do next. (laughs) I used to yell at guys, and now he’s doing the same thing, yelling at everyone, You guys gotta move somewhere! So that’s kinda funny.

Have you ever seen anyone that fast?

Yeah, there was…me, at 20. We still have a debate to see who’s faster now.

Do you think it was you at 20?

No, no, no, we’re talking about right now. I said I’m faster than him, if we just run a hundred. He has the speed that you don’t see in the NBA anymore. Either you’re straight fast, or you’re laterally fast. He’s both. He’s quick and fast. What makes him look so fast is when he’s going this way and then he cuts back that way. He can cut. He has that Tony Parker and TJ Ford in him, so he can just maneuver and it just makes him look so fast. I can just go straight. So we still have the debate.

Do feel a sense of relief, sitting here reflecting?

Yeah. You know, I was anti-media for a while. But it’s part of our job. Eventually my personality is going to come back and kick in. You know, I’ve made mistakes, and I’ve got to live with it. I’m just ready to move forward, and try to forget about the past. I know it’s going to always be there, but try to be a better person and a better teammate.

Earlier this year when you were anti-media, was that the real you or was that you putting something on?

Come on. I’m a smiling guy. It’s hard for me to actually be angry, so that was me just trying to dodge, just saying, “Ahhh!”

Conflict avoidance?


Is being back on the floor comforting for you?

Yeah. I’m a big fan of basketball. I interact. I’m a performer. When I’m on the court, it’s the whole environment, talking with the fans, the other players, I just love the environment. And that’s what I missed the most. I just didn’t know what to expect. They’ve been playing without me so long, and I didn’t want to mess up what they’ve been doing. But just like I expected Dray to say, Come on, take over now. And it felt great that he still believes in my talent.

How has the reaction been from fans?

It’s been great. I expected worse. But just like any fan, if they are negative, you just acknowledge them and it’s a big joke. Everyone around the country knows I’m a big jokester, and I’m not getting heckled too bad.

Have the fans said anything to you, like when you’re out walking around the cities?

No, no. I haven’t. Not yet. I haven’t been to Philly yet (laughs). In D.C., I tried not to leave my house for a while, because I didn’t know what to expect. When I got out into the community, they just always say, Keep your head up, we’re behind you.

How did you deal with everything you went through last season?

I had my teammates telling me keep your head up. And then once the season ended, I didn’t have anyone to talk to. It was like I was just stuck on that island, and it just really hit me hard.

Can you describe that breaking point?

I thought about retiring for a minute. Because I really didn’t know what to expect. I thought there was just too much negativity for me to come back. I just didn’t know if I was mentally prepared for it again.

Do you think you did the right thing?

(exhales) Yeah. I couldn’t stay home. When you’re a father and you’ve got kids, eventually you’ve got to get out of the house (laughs).