When I was a kid, whenever I approached my mom for advice she would ask me “what’s the worst that can happen if you make this decision?”
Last year, according to HoopStats.com, Derek Fisher and Steve Blake scored fewer points a game (10.9) , recorded the fewest number of assists (4.9) and were the least efficient tandem of point guards in the league statistically. Although you can attribute some of their offensive struggle to the triangle offense’s usage of the point guard and sharing a backcourt with Kobe Bryant, there’s no denying the point guard is the Lakers’ weakest position.
To his credit, Kupchak’s initial attempt to upgrade at the lead guard (Chris Paul) was infamously blocked by David Stern. But why may I ask has Mitch Kupchak not looked into a plan B yet.
Especially one that is may be staring him straight in the face.
Since Baron Davis ($41.85M over the next three years) and Gilbert Arenas ($80.2M) have been amnestied by their former teams, both point guards have expressed an interest in joining the 16-time world champions. The New York Knicks quickly swooped up Davis, signing him to a $2.5M for one year. I’m guessing the Lakers could pick up Arenas for a similar price tag as no one has bid on him yet.
In recent years Arenas’ play has been judged by his contract, which is unfair. Thanks to multiple knee surgeries, the three-time All-Star is clearly not the player he once was but that doesn’t mean he can’t contribute. Case in point: Tracy McGrady proved last year in Detroit that even the most explosive of scorer of the early 2000’s can adapt to a less prominent role; McGrady played in 72 games last year for the Pistons, starting in 39 as their point guard. I firmly believe Arenas can endure a similar metamorphosis if given the opportunity.
Keep in mind, Kobe Bryant absolutely loves competing alongside players who have challenged him at one point or another in his career (see: Metta World Peace and Matt Barnes). Five years ago, Arenas torched Bryant’s Lakers for 60 points, displaying his entire offensive arsenal.
In his prime, the self-proclaimed “Hibachi” had unlimited range that complemented his above average ability to get into the lane as a point guard. The Lakers sure could use his outside shooting: they shot 1-16 from three in the loss against the Kings earlier in the season and 2-24 in the triumph against the Nuggets on New Year’s Eve. It didn’t get much better on New Year’s Day when L.A. shot 4-23 from three.
Many observers around the league are claiming Arenas is washed up, that he’s finished. I don’t buy it. This is still a guy who has given you 21.2 points a game on 42.1 percent shooting over his career. Sure he’s only appeared in 117 out of a possible 328 regular-season games since signing his max-deal with the Wizards, but that’s not entirely his fault. Firstly, a good portion of those missed games are due to his gun incident with former Laker Javaris Crittenton. And secondly, do you really blame Arenas for taking his time to get healthy when that Wizards team was comprised of himself, Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and D-leaguers. Agent Zero is merely 29 years-old (younger than both Blake and Fisher), thus he shouldn’t be written off as an after-thought yet as he’s shown when he’s placed in the right environment, he can still contribute.
The question Laker fans should be asking is not if Arenas can still play, but how Arenas will fit in with the team.
Forget the enormous excitement that bringing Arenas to his hometown will bring, where will he find playing time?
It appears that Derek Fisher will start alongside Kobe as long as he’s fit. Blake has had somewhat of a renaissance season thus far since being freed from the triangle, with two impressive showings against
the Clippers Lob City in the pre-season, as well as a fine shooting performance (14 points off 6-9 shooting) in the tail end of the home and home against the Nuggets. Arenas already complained about finding it tough to develop a rhythm while coming off the bench with the Orlando Magic, he certainly won’t start with the Lakers. However, if he’s able to wow coach Mike Brown in practice, he’ll get ample opportunities to show he’s still an impact player albeit coming off the bench. Brown has already shown he can be flexible with his minute distribution by giving rookie Andrew Goudelock extended minutes in the season opener, as well as starting sophomore Devin Ebanks for a couple games. Just the thought of having a bench led by Metta World Peace and Gilbert Arenas makes me faint in giddiness.
When Chris Paul was first dealt to the Lakers, the NBA Playbook’s Sebastian Pruiti proposed a potential problem with Paul and Bryant: Bryant has never played with a ball dominant point guard before (besides the 2008 Olympics) and vice versa. Pruiti writes that “Bryant is more comfortable controlling the basketball for a while before he shoots, so when he’s put in catch-and-shoot situations, he doesn’t have the best technique.” Arenas is most efficient with the ball in his hands, this could create potential problems between Bryant and him if he’s able to crack the rotation.
While there may be no defense to Arenas’ immature past, I’m willing to bet a lot of money that he won’t be disrupting the chemistry between a team led by the strong personalities of Kobe and D-Fish.
But really, what’s the worst thing that can happen by signing a former All-Star for a discounted price? Roll the dice on Gilbert Arenas, Mr. Kupchak, it’s a low risk, high reward situation.