Monday, December 18, 2006

Zero to 60 in 53 minutes

Truth be told, Gilbert Arenas only played 49 minutes in Washington's 147-141 overtime win against the Lakers last night, and while his 60-point outburst was historic and dramatic, it was not surprising. Arenas and the Wizards forced the tempo all night (and into the morning), and his points came from everywhere; he had 15 from three-point range and made 21 free throws. In the five minute OT, he scored 16 points, more than some teams have had in an entire quarter this season. And unlike Kobe Bryant's 81-point game last year, Gilbert took less than half of his team's shots and added eight assists and eight rebounds (Kobe had two and six).

I won't try to summarize the game; Big Stein has all the links you could want over at the
Bog. But I do have a few random thoughts:

On the East Coast, you had to stay up late to watch this one, but it was worth it. Right up there with the Caps four-overtime loss to the Islanders in the 1987 playoffs, except that the Caps lost, of course.

Caron Butler decisively settled the question of who got the best in the Butler for Kwame Brown trade last season.

When Odom is healthy, the Lakers are just a better point guard away from contending for a title. Bynum is becoming a Western Conference Dwight Howard, Walton is the best three-point shooter in the League, Radmanovic and Vujacic can also shoot it, and when you forget that Kwame was the number one pick, he looks like a good body to have coming off the bench. They have a better record than any team in the East, but are looking at a five seed in the West today.

The Comcast announcing team of Steve Buckhantz and Phil Chenier do a good job, but they are unabashed homers (New Years Resolution: use the word abashed without the "un" in a sentence). Last night, one of them, I can't remember which, said, "Kobe Bryant really has Arenas-like range on his jumper," and the other agreed. I love Gilbert's game, but I think most people would have reversed the roles in that comparison.

Agent Zero is a really cool nickname, the best in the NBA. It's cool because it has nothing to do with his initials or truncating his name, like T-Mac, KG, 'Melo, or D-Wade. It's cool because it's intrinsic to his personality and captures his well-chronicled eccentricity. It's cool because it came from a blogger, and wasn't focus-grouped into existence by a marketing executive. If you think about it, "The Answer" is a clever sobriquet coined by Reebok for Allen Iverson. But that's the problem; you have think about it. Agent Zero makes you smile right away, and then laugh when you think about it. It's cool because Gilbert likes it; I think he enjoys calling himself Agent Zero and laughs when others do the same. Back to Iverson for comparison: I just don't picture him screaming out, "I am the Answer!" after a big shot. It's cool because Gilbert didn't give himself the tag, like Kobe with the ridiculous "Mamba" or Shaq with his millions of monikers. Finally, it's cool because last year, when Gilbert was asked by a Miami police officer if he had any "street names," Gilbert jokingly replied, "Zero Hero."

I can honestly say that I am not nearly as enthused about the black and gold uniforms that the Wizards wore last night. I don't mind the gold jerseys as much as some folks do, but the black shorts are not working for me no matter how many games they win. Basketball uniforms are meant to have the same color shorts and shirts. The two-color combo looks like something Marathon Oil would have worn in the 1990s as they barnstormed around the country playing in college exhibitions. Or a Greek professional team named after its sponsor. Make the shorts tighter and you've got yourself a women's volleyball uni. Give me a gold-and-gold or a black-and-black, but right now the Wizards look like the equipment manager packed the wrong crates.

The Wiz have won eight of their last 10 and are one game over .500, something I hadn't hoped for until the end of the month. It's fair to argue that they beat Miami without Shaq and Wade, Philly without Iverson, and the Lakers without Odom, but they did beat Dallas with Dirk and Denver with Carmelo, and they have now won three in a row on the road. By the way, it looks like 'Melo will be a noshow in tonight's rematch after the "Fight Night in the Garden" over the weekend. I have nothing to say about the brawl, but if anyone has a good "Stop Snitching" joke to pass on, I am all ears.

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