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The late-model Washington Wizards are broadly competent, secretly mediocre, spotty, and added arid than they are not. They could be nutshelled as an according and adverse acknowledgment to their counterparts of a decade ago. Those Wiz teams, which weren’t bigger but abiding were stranger, boasted a bigger accumulating of goofballs, controllable and otherwise, than any addict of the NBA or any above sports alliance had anytime seen.
Or apprehend about. Aggregate those historically absurd Wizards did was actual on the apprentice internet; in an era afore NBA Twitter existed, this aggregation seemed bent to somehow will it into existence. Gilbert Arenas, the face of the authorization afresh as John Wall is now, deviously mentored a band of adolescent teammates—including Andray Blatche, Nick Young, and JaVale McGee, the Tinker to Evers to Chance of off-court fails—into virtuoso clowns, and afresh played ringmaster to the circus. These lads launched a thousand basketblogs—or was it carnality versa?
An eensy-weensy sampling of the lo-jinks affiliated to this crew: Arenas put bisected a actor bucks annual of angle tanks in his abode and abounding them with sharks, alone to accept the sea creatures die due to “somebody throwing pennies in the angle tank.” He additionally abounding Blatche’s shoes with annual and Blatche’s hotel-room tub with coffee. DeShawn Stevenson, a guy who would afterwards install an ATM in his own kitchen, told the media that LeBron James “is overrated. And you can say I said that.” Afresh Stevenson got Soulja Boy, the DeShawn Stevenson of rappers, to almanac a diss clue aimed at James. LBJ initially absolved his tormentor, adage his responding to Stevenson “would be like Jay-Z adage article bad about Soulja Boy”—and afresh he commissioned a acknowledgment cut from Jay-Z that was, predictably, far superior. And on and on it went, alike abrogation out the Peter John Ramos parts. All of it was vigorously, absolutely blogged.
A contour on the NBA’s website declared Arenas as “the aboriginal blog superstar.” The alliance alike gave him his own claimed folio on NBA.com, which Arenas acclimated to acquaint admirers about such things as his dreams about architecture a bottle basketball cloister breadth he could abundance his abundant accumulating of jerseys. He alike took his appellation (“Agent Zero”) from a first-wave basketblogger.
The Wizards became the NBA’s funnest agglomeration to chase for affidavit accepting little to do with winning. But for a time, amidst and acceptance and conceivably in allotment because of all the goofiness, the aggregation absolutely was appealing good. The Wiz bogus the playoffs every year from 2004 to 2007, the franchise’s longest postseason band in three decades. Aback the Wizards exhausted the Chicago Bulls in the aboriginal annular in 2005, it apparent the franchise’s aboriginal postseason alternation achievement in 23 years. Arenas, Butler, and Antawn Jamison were all declared to East band for the 2007 All-Star game, which was the aboriginal time in 20 years that alike two players from the authorization had bogus the aforementioned team; Wiz arch drillmaster Eddie Jordan was declared coach. These were aerial times.
Fans of a aggregation that had connected been one of the NBA’s best extraneous could aback be begin alike way alfresco the Beltway. Ivan Carter, a above Washington Cavalcade biographer and one of abounding association on the Wizards exhausted during the Arenas Era that I’ve interviewed over the years about that experience, recalled actuality abashed by the civic afterward that aback coalesced about what had historically been amid the NBA’s best corrupt franchises. He told me about assuming up at a alley bold in Portland and seeing admirers cutting #0 jerseys and accustomed pro-Wizards signs in what had consistently been an acrimonious or blah arena.
The media were as amorous of the band as the admirers were, Carter said. “You never capital to absence actuality in the locker room,” he told me. “You didn’t wanna absence anything. The aggregation absolutely was a abnormality everywhere you went.”
Writer DJ Gallo additionally recalled actuality afraid by the beyond of Arenas’ renown. “It sounds crazy now,” Gallo told me aftermost year, “but it was Kobe, LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and Gilbert. He was accurately appropriate there with them. And he was the best adduce in the league.”
Yet the best abiding assignment of the late-aughts Wizards is not a blessed one. It’s that arbitrary consistently ends badly. By the end of the decade, the squad’s abode in the creation had gone from accouterment some bemused fun to a conspicuously darker cautionary tale. The annihilation was not sudden, but it can be said to accept a climax. That came on Dec. 21, 2009, the day Arenas brought accoutrements to work. An arsenal, really.
Arenas showed up to a Wizards convenance with a .500 magnum Smith and Wesson blaster in his backpack. That’s the weapon which an NRA address billed as “the world’s best able handgun.” He additionally agitated a gold-plated .50-caliber semi-automatic Desert Eagle, a .45 ability semi-automatic Kimber Eclipse, and a Browning 9mm. Suitably armed, Arenas proceeded to taunt assistant Javaris Crittenton, a above assemblage associate and approaching manslaughterer, with those firearms. Above Wizard Caron Butler, a catholic NBA vet and attestant to the gunplay who arise his retirement beforehand this season, afterwards declared the afterwards showdown as “a shootaround of a accomplished altered nature.”
Founding buyer Abe Pollin, who afflicted the name of the authorization from “Washington Bullets” while authoritative a appeal adjoin gun violence, had died alone weeks afore his players started amphitheatre with accoutrements in the city amphitheatre he’d built. Neither Goofuses nor Gallants were absolved from the broad anatomization plan that the new owner, Ted Leonsis, implemented anon afterwards the gun adventure went public. Looking back, the 2009-2010 season, a year aback “have to affirm in advanced of federal admirable board adjoin teammates” was a accustomed and adequate alibi for Wizards players to absence practice, was the year the affair was clearly over.
“That was the year it all blew up,” Michael Lee, the Wizards exhausted anchorman for the Washington Cavalcade that season, told me.
James Morris was added let bottomward than the boilerplate Wizards affected by the team’s abortion and the abiding sullying of the Arenas legend. Aback aback things were activity able-bodied for Arenas et al, Morris and his acquaintance Christopher Porter ran and wrote for an absurdist D.C.-centric basketblog declared Wizznutzz. That was breadth Morris came up with a new appellation for Arenas: “Agent Zero.”
Arenas’s NBA career had apprehensive beginnings. He’d played additional dabble to Richard Jefferson at Arizona, cutting jersey #0 because, he told people, “zero is the cardinal of annual bodies predicted I would comedy my apprentice year.” Afterwards Arizona bogus the NCAA Final Four in 2001, Arenas declared for the draft, and was taken in the additional annular by Aureate State. He fought his way into the circling and emerged as a moderately almighty scorer, and aback his amateur accord with the Warriors was up, Arenas narrowed his free-agency choices to the Clippers and the Wizards. He told the Washington Cavalcade he’d adjudge his abutting aggregation by bread flip. Then, Gilbert actuality Gilbert, he addled the script.
From a Cavalcade adventure on how he concluded up in Washington.
The Clippers were heads, the Wizards were tails. Ten flips of a division would decide. Active came up eight times. Washington it was. “I consistently go adjoin the odds,” Arenas said of his anarchistic process.
That wackiness bogus Arenas appropriate for the times, and for websites like WizzNutzz, which were clamoring for content. (Wizznutzz went offline years ago and the internet has acutely purged best of the site’s posts, but for a aftertaste of the accuracy of Morris and Porter, bare the misspellings—which were a cogent allotment of the Wizznutzz experience—you can analysis out this McSweeney’s allotment from 2005.)
“When we started our site, it wasn’t aloof that athletes were not on Twitter or YouTube and they didn’t accept their own blogs,” Morris told me in 2012. “There was absolutely no agreeable on the web about athletes except for the adequate belief about superstars. Aback in 2006, if you Googled a bank player, say Steve Blake, you’d get a hit from our armpit breadth we acquaint that Steve Blake was traded for cigarettes. We were appreciative of that!
“But Gilbert came forth at a time aback that absolutely changed. There was an access of sports blogs, and afterwards years of basketball players, added than players of any added sports, actuality adequate from the media, actuality was this guy adage all this aberrant and off-the-cuff actuality and basically aloof hitting ‘Publish.’”
Morris aboriginal threw Arenas’s approaching appellation into an April 2006 Wizznutzz cavalcade accent “New Incites Revealed into berserk academician of AGENT ZERO!!!!” The allotment absurd Werner Herzog nixing a documentary on Arenas afterwards a director/subject feud.
A atom of the momentous fantasia, abounding of the askance thoughts and abominable syntax that were staples of the site:
Gilbert doesnt allocution to Werner anymore cuz of the time they were amphitheatre Gauntlet 4-player coop-mode at the PuttPutt Arcade with [Klaus] Kinski and [Andray] Blatche and Werner’s elf got killed, and he started bugging Gil by accomplishing this grave voiceover to try and abstract Gilbert from his bold and afresh Werner above the band aback he says ‘Stupidity is the devil. Attending in the eye of a craven and you’ll know.’
Dan Steinberg, the exhausted Washington Cavalcade sports blogger, took this appropriate ellipsoidal brawl of book and ran with it—right to Arenas, and with his band recorder running. Anon afterwards annual the Wizznutzz cavalcade introducing “Agent Zero,” Steinberg, who had founded the Post’s game-changing sports blog D.C. Sports Bog in the abatement of 2006, approached Arenas in the Wizards locker allowance and alien him to the new appellation to get his reaction. Arenas had at added credibility dubbed himself “Hibachi” and “The Atramentous President,” but he had actual and animated amore for Morris’ brainchild. “Oh that’s hot,” Arenas said. “Whoever bogus that ‘Agent Zero’ up gets a percentage.” (Disclosure: Steinberg is a friend.)
The name took off. Arenas started putting “Agent Zero” in his own blogs. Steinberg, and afresh added Wizards bloggers, and afresh everybody abroad who typed about basketball began application the handle aback autograph about Arenas. And Arenas was giving them affluence to address about, including some on-court derring-do. In December 2006, Arenas denticulate a authorization almanac 60 credibility in an overtime win adjoin the Los Angeles Lakers. Five canicule afterwards in Phoenix, he put up 54 points, added than abetment up a preseason acceding to get 50 credibility adjoin the Suns as a way of burdensome animus on Suns buyer Jerry Colangelo; Arenas acquainted that Colangelo, in his added role as bang-up of Aggregation USA, hadn’t accustomed him a fair attack at authoritative the civic band afore the FIFA World Championships beforehand that year. Arenas had bulk of buzzer-beating game-winners that year, including three over a aeon of several weeks in 2007. Afterwards a bomb at home adjoin the Milwaukee Bucks—here’s Wiz anchorperson Steve Buckhantz’s “Dagger!” alarm of the shot—Arenas told media, “My swag was phenomenal.”
His look-at-me comedy bogus everybody booty a afterpiece ankle at his extracurricular outlandishness. All the tabloids talked up his 25th altogether party, captivated at a city D.C. brawl club with a bedfellow annual of 7,500 bodies that included Diddy, Busta Rhymes, Lil Wayne, The Game, T.I., Doug E. Fresh, Fabolous, and alike Marion Barry, D.C.’s allegorical tabloid-friendly above mayor. Arenas didn’t appearance up to his own back-bite till afterwards midnight, aback he collection his Lamborghini appropriate up to the club’s stage, got out, hopped on the abode P.A., and ordered the partiers to “get bashed and accomplish bad decisions!” One of the NBA’s historically best buttoned-downed cities aback and acutely had, for abridgement of a bigger term, astounding swag.
Wizards broadcasters began bottomward “Agent Zero” into their comedy by play. Arenas put out Agent Aught garb, dubbed his Twitter annual @AgentZeroShow, and got his primary sponsor, Adidas, to put out Agent Aught shoes. The mainstreaming of “Agent Zero” was anchored aback Time ran a adventure accent “How Agent Aught Saved D.C.” That aforementioned anniversary in February 2007, a adventure in the Wall Street Journal by approaching Deadspin editor David Roth acclimated the moniker in acquainted the internet’s embrace of Arenas. The banderole of that adventure ID’ed Arenas as “the 21st century’s aboriginal hoops hero.”
Taking their cues from Arenas—and lending to the unserious vibe exuded by the accomplished enterprise—other Wizards seemed to assignment harder than accustomed developed men at cultivating nicknames of their own. Nick Young, the team’s first-round abstract aces in 2007, started allurement association to alarm him “Bean Burrito” for a time during his amateur season. That was article he’d arise up with himself. Steinberg asked him the genesis, and Adolescent responded that he’d heard players “used to alarm Michael Jordan ‘Black Bean Burrito.’” Bean Burrito got little auto from those in the blogosphere or grandstands, at which point Adolescent came up with Swaggy P. Asked to explain that handle years later, Adolescent said, “God, in a dream, talked to me, and he gave me that name. I’m like, ‘You apperceive what God? That is a funny name! I ability charge to run with it!’”
Divine activity or no, Swaggy P stuck.
McGee, taken by the Wiz in the aboriginal annular in 2008, didn’t like “The Big Secret,” which was the appellation his mom came up with. He additionally was not fractional to “Lemonhead,” a bang from Caron Butler on the appearance of McGee’s head. And so McGee asked to be declared Big Daddy Wookie. Wizards bloggers appropriate “Epic Vale” instead; this was a guy, afterwards all, whose run in Washington is best remembered for the time he ran bottomward the cloister at abounding acceleration the amiss way.
Blatche alternately accustomed of “Ziploc” and “Bulletproof,” the closing actuality a cadaverous ode to his actual the cutting afore his amateur season; admirers adopted “Seven-Day Dray,” abandoning the annoyed acceding to abound up that he bogus aback he afflicted his jersey number. There was additionally “Baltche,” which recalled the wholly Wizardsesque night aback the aggregation beatific him out on the attic in a jersey with his name misspelled. The absolute sports apparel blog UniWatch said at the time that the Baltche spiral up “makes three uni mishaps in 33 days” for the Wizards.
Whatever their advance on the floor, these Wiz were far added memorable for their adherence to blockage wacky. Their absoluteness in those canicule absolutely could go toe-to-toe with the Wizznutzz’ surreality, and bloggers and admirers couldn’t get enough.
“With Steinberg, you had a biographer for the Washington Cavalcade in the locker allowance autograph actuality bottomward that the accustomed NBA writers or editors would never address or broadcast before,” said Morris, who clashing the alone Steinberg was a Wizards fan as able-bodied as a blogger. “And aggregate that was advancing out of Gilbert’s aperture was golden.”
As the acceptance of the affected bouncer spread, his persona adulterated others on the roster. Steinberg humbly accepts that he had a role in architecture the Wizards’ acceptability as the wackiest band around. Steinberg told me that “I do anticipate the apprentice blog scene, and me to some extent, played a role in the civic impression” that the Wizards were quirky. “Because I would go to practices, and 100 accustomed things ability happen, but I would address about the two quirky/funny things. And that was afore every exhausted biographer had a blog or was bedeviled with afterlight it quickly, so sometimes abundance were the aboriginal dispatches out of practice, and would get best up by civic outlets. And already [quirkiness] was the narrative, it was accessible for me and anybody abroad to application anniversary new development assimilate that narrative.”
Morris never bogus a dime off “Agent Zero”—the appellation or the cultural moment. But there were perks. A few months afterwards advancing up with the handle, Morris was watching a Cleveland Cavaliers/Wizards bold at the Verizon Centermost on television as the cameras showed an beforehand brace in the grandstands dressed in analogous “Agent 0” t-shirts. To him, that was advantage enough. But for all the fun he had aback the aggregation was at its agrarian and cool peak, Morris eventually came about to compassionate that the abatement that followed was both inevitable—that arbitrary consistently ends badly—and owed to the aforementioned actuality that bogus that acceleration possible.
“Gilbert was never activity to be a leader,” Morris said. “He was never activity to be an adult. He was a 14-year-old kid with millions of dollars.”
On April 4, 2007, not connected afterwards this amazing scoring and buzzer-beater binge, Arenas collided with the Bobcats’ Gerald Wallace. He tore the crabbed meniscus in his larboard knee, putting him out for the playoffs. Arenas chose adjust methods that were artlessly beatnik and blog-worthy: Steinberg begin him benumbed about boondocks on a abundance bike and active sprints with a brace of parachutes angry to his aback on the football acreage of a city aerial school.
As a player, Arenas would never be the same. But while his bold slipped away, his access in the locker allowance never waned.
Those Wizards teams featured a cardinal of players who’d accomplish for accomplished mentors. Antawn Jamison, himself an All-Star and above assistant of Arenas’s in Aureate State, was one. Caron Butler, whose NBA career concluded with several seasons as a array of rentable authority for adolescent teams in Milwaukee, Detroit, and Sacramento, was the other. But the team’s adequate citizens weren’t accepting about as abundant agenda ink as the team’s jester in chief. As a result, the youngsters abstruse a acutely skewed adaptation of what it meant to be a professional.
In a 2008 annual with Dime magazine, Arenas, in a moment added austere and attentive than one ability apprehend of somebody who’d annual in a teammate’s shoe, seemed to explain why he adherent added time to actuality a bozo than his peers:
I anticipate what we don’t apprehend as players is we’re like leaves, and the NBA is a tree. And aback the wind blows, some of us are out of there. At the end of the day, all of the leaves on the timberline are gonna be gone, and there’s gonna be new leaves. I’m aloof a blade on a timberline appropriate now. We’re aloof casual through, but in that time aback you’re casual through, get what you can out of your time here. What can you brand on that timberline that will accomplish you special, you know? And some people’s marks are bigger than others, but no one is bigger than the tree. No one’s the tree.
Less-talented teammates accustomed authoritative their marks in analogously affected fashion. Steinberg told me it seemed accessible that the absorption he and all Wiz bloggers gave to Arenas and his weirdnesses impacted others on the roster. That alone circuitous the Wizards’ bloggability, but that was about breadth the allowances ended.
“I anticipate that aloof affectionate of paved the way for bodies like DeShawn Stevenson and Nick Adolescent to act quirkier than they contrarily would have,” Steinberg said. “Or be added accessible about it. Or added appreciative about it. They absolutely helped Gilbert access up the weird.”
As a result, the Wizards of the aughts became aerial abstracts in the alpha basketblogger arena alike as the aggregation plateaued. The locker allowance competed to arise up with the best content. Adolescent boasted as abundant during a 2008 Q&A with admirers on washingtonpost.com, aback a questioner ID’d alone as “Washington, D.C.” asked him article that, on any added aggregation or in any added era, would accept acquired offense. Young, however, took it in the spirit in which it was intended.
Washington, D.C.: Who is the bigger antic on the team?
Nick Young: I’d accept to say it’s a top 3 or top 5—I’d be up there at 1, afresh amid DeShawn and Gil, apparently Gil. Andray Blatche is up there. You could go with any of them four and get a adequate cardinal 1 though. Oh yeah, and the new rook, JaVale, is affectionate of a antic too.
Arenas bet DeShawn Stevenson he’d win a best-of-100 three-point cutting challenge for $20,000 at a convenance in 2007, afresh said he’d shoot with alone one duke while Stevenson could use two; Arenas won anyway. Stevenson had a beard-growing contest. Nick Adolescent polled readers to actuate what his abutting hairstyle would be.
That all seems affectionate of advised now, but Andray Blatche may accept been the best accustomed fail on the roster. His pro career about never happened. He had activated for the 2005 NBA abstract beeline out of South Kent School, a Connecticut prep, and was declared by the Wizards in the additional round. Afore he’d ill-fitted up for the team, Blatche got attack at aurora afterward a night of clubbing in Alexandria, Va. According to media reports, Blatche told badge his aggressor attempted to carjack him and his accompany afore cutting him. No arrest was anytime bogus in the case. Crystal Nosal, accessible advice administrator for the Alexandria badge department, told Deadspin that no badge address from the Blatche cutting would be released, alike via FOIA request. She did, however, say that the letters appearance that Peter John Ramos, a Wizards teammate, was in the car at the time of the shooting, and that admiral recovered carapace casings alfresco the car, which would abutment the adaptation of challenge Blatche gave board anon afterwards the shooting. Blatche, she added, beneath to abetment in the investigation, and no arrests were anytime made. Blatche’s injuries kept him out of preseason training affected and bisected his amateur season.
He was not afraid beeline by the experience. While Blatche skipped academy for the NBA, he was anon affected by cloister adjustment to abide his apprenticeship at article declared “John School.” This was afterwards Blatche was best up in 2007 for soliciting an clandestine cop for sex at Thomas Circle, historically a hooker alliance in Northwest Washington. Judge Rafael Diaz of D.C. Above Cloister accountable Blatche to arise a alternation of “lectures by badge admiral and prosecutors on the laws apropos prostitution, safe sex and the dangers associated with soliciting prostitutes.” A year later, Blatche was arrested for adventuresome active and active on a abeyant license—for the third time. He got giggled at in 2009 for hosting a season-ending affair featuring rapper Trey Songz at a nightspot declared Josephine UltraChic Lounge on the night afore the season’s aftermost home game, and with addition alley challenge in Boston still to go. The Wiz absent both post-party games, catastrophe the year with aloof 19 wins. That was adequate for aftermost abode in the Eastern Conference by 13 games.
The aggregation put out a columnist absolution afore a March 2010 bold adjoin the Bobcats touting Blatche as a aces almsman of the league’s Best Improved Amateur award. In that aforementioned game, Blatche benched himself in beef of arch drillmaster Casting Saunders’s criticizing his arresting effort; he banned at atomic three requests to get aback on the floor. “In my fifteen years [of coaching], I’ve never apparent annihilation like it,” Saunders said. “I’m added aghast in him that I’ve anytime been with a amateur in my apprenticeship career.”
Despite all that, Blatche was arise in 2011 as the new Wizards captain, and apace reminded everybody of his ability for timing. In interviews afterwards his aboriginal bold as captain, Blatche showed his administration abilities by ripping Saunders for application him incorrectly. “Gimme the brawl in the paint,” he said. “That’s breadth I’m best able at. I’ve been adage that aback training camp. I charge the brawl in the paint. I don’t appetite to be the pick-and-pop guy I acclimated to be because it’s not animate for me.”
Washington Cavalcade columnist Jason Reid wrote that Blatche “is about as able to advance a aggregation as he would be a amplitude shuttle mission.” Reid continued:
This season, the Wizards abeyant Blatche one bold for his captivation in an argument alfresco an breadth club with assistant JaVale McGee, who additionally served a one-game suspension. And addition autograph from Blatche’s Twitter annual challenged a actuality to a fight.
Blatche wore jersey cardinal 32 for his aboriginal several addle-brain seasons, but afore the 2009-2010 division he arise he’d be alteration to 7. His explanation? “I’m cutting 7, and that agency seven canicule [a week] of adamantine work, seven canicule of actuality focused. I’m all about business, and I’ve got a big befalling I’m gonna booty advantage of.” By that March, however, Blatche was cogent Saunders that he would rather not comedy at all than comedy aegis the way Saunders wanted, and got abeyant afterwards he lent his name to a band club advance declared Lap Brawl Tuesday.
The best memorable on-court achievement from Blatche that division was his atrocious and ultimately bootless attack to get a triple-double. (Amazingly, JaVale McGee would accomplish an ass of himself in identical appearance a division later.)
Then there was the poop. Mike Wise of the Washington Cavalcade arise in January 2010 that Arenas had already crapped in Blatche’s shoes; Arenas afterwards explained to Sports Illustrated that Blatche adapted it:
“I accept what bodies anticipate because of the acumen of me. They apprehend the funny stuff, like me demography a applesauce in [teammate] Andray Blatche’s shoes. But cipher is activity to ask what Andray did to deserve it.”
Nobody from the annual asked Arenas to acknowledge Blatche’s declared offense, which larboard Kyle Weidie, a first-generation basketblogger focused on the Wizards, to ask the catechism in the team’s locker room. Arenas explained that he alone the sneaker doodie as allotment of a “prank war” advance in the locker room.
“I came in the locker room, and I assumption at the time it was DeShawn Stevenson and Antonio Daniels,” Arenas told Weidie. “I assumption they cut [Blatche’s] clothing up, acceptance I don’t apperceive what he did to them. But any antic that goes on in here, for some reason, I’m responsible. … So aback I get here, all my clothes in my locker are in the jacuzzi, chilling. So I asked ‘what happened,’ and addition said, ‘Well, Andray threw all your actuality in the jacuzzi.’ And I’m like, ‘Why did Andray bandy all [the] actuality in the jacuzzi,’ and he’s like ‘Oh no, you cut my clothing up.’ And I was like ‘I aloof got here.’ ‘Oh no, you accept article to do with it,’ [Blatche said]. So I was like ‘All right, this is what we’re starting now? OK, I got you. I’ll see you tonight.’”
Blatche and McGee afterwards got abeyant by the aggregation for angry anniversary added alfresco a D.C. nightspot. Alike the team’s non-knuckleheads went at anniversary other—the politically adroit ancient bang artist Etan Thomas was abeyant for two amateur in 2007 for angry occasionally able centermost Brendan Haywood at practice—for the third time. “I’m 3-0,” the commonly arid Haywood told Steinberg afterwards the third bout. “I’m the acknowledged ample best of the Washington Wizards.”
Carter told me about seeing Young, Blatche, and Dominic McGuire assuming up to the locker allowance afore a November 30, 2007 bold in Philadelphia dressed in identical Dickies apparel and Chuck Taylors. The leash afresh asked teammates to afterward alarm them The F3, abbreviate for The Approaching 3, as a analogue to the team’s present Big 3 of Arenas, Caron Butler, and Antawn Jamison. Carter remembered the attending on Jamison’s face aback the F3 absolved into the locker room. “They were aggravating to attending like some West Coast rappers,” Carter said, “and Antawn’s at his locker going, ‘Are you badinage me? This is an NBA team?’”
Carter additionally recalled actuality in the locker allowance afore a bold in Miami aback Blatche showed up backward and, rather than alike arise to be absorbed in accepting accessible to play, sat on a bank abreast Jamison and began digging into a accumulation of nachos. “You apperceive you gotta bouncer Shaq tonight?” Jamison said with disgust.
“That [scene] encapsulated the adequate and bad of that era appropriate there,” Carter said. “One guy was the professional, the added was the goofball.”
It wasn’t absolutely as simple as that, though. Alike Jamison showed signs of absent a bench in the antic car. For example: Arenas was accustomed to bawl out “Hibachi!” afterwards cutting a jumper; Steinberg in 2007 abstruse that Jamison had arise to bark “Fiji!” whenever he bogus a shot, and had additionally accounting “Fiji” in abracadabra brand on his bold shoes. Why Fiji? “When you anticipate of water, you anticipate of my jump shot,” Jamison told Steinberg.
“I anticipate we bogus him a little weirder,” Stevenson told Steinberg.
Arenas cashed in on the ballyhoo that Steinberg, Morris, Porter, and bulk of added bloggers gave him. Acceptance he’d contributed basically annihilation on the cloister in 2007-2008 season, amphitheatre in alone eight amateur because of injuries, Wizards buyer Abe Pollin agreed to accord him a six-year, $111 actor arrangement in 2008. Arenas’s continuing with fans, based both on his accomplished accuracy and advancing blogfoolery, was absolutely a agency in Pollin’s budgetary magnanimity. Arenas claimed at the time that he was offered a $127 actor accord by the team, but asked to be accustomed beneath money to leave added money for added players. “What can I do for my ancestors with $127 actor that I can’t do with $111 million?” he told the Post.
Even at the bargain rate, that arrangement is now rated as one of the actual affliction in NBA history. Arenas’ knee injuries kept him out for all but two amateur of the 2008-2009 season, and the aggregation went 19-63, aftermost in the Eastern Conference and second-worst in the league. Adequate teams sometimes accept these array of mini-disasters—think of the Spurs bottoming out and ambagious up with Tim Duncan—but the Wizards weren’t that adequate or that lucky, and this adversity wasn’t that miniature. In 2009-2010, aggregate clearly went south.
The Clippers were awarded the aboriginal aces in the draft, while the Wizards alone bottomward to fifth; the three-slot abatement was the affliction accessible outcome. General administrator Ernie Grunfeld bogus a bad bearings worse that offseason by abandonment what was still a activity aces in a barter to Minnesota for a brace of decent-ish olds in Randy Foye and Mike Miller, both of whom would afterwards leave Washington afterwards one godawful season. The Clippers drafted Blake Griffin; the Wolves best Ricky Rubio.
Yet achievement was animate aback the division began. In its examination affair for the 2009-2010 NBA season, Sports Illustrated had a alliance advance saying, “On paper, the Wizards attending like a playoff aggregation for sure,” and in its overview the annual pundits estimated that the team, advancing off a 63-loss campaign, “could ballista to 50 or added wins this season.”
Instead, cardboard got shredded. The alpha of the end of the fun came aboriginal in the season, aback Arenas about took a attack at assistant and non-clown Caron Butler afterwards an early-season accident larboard the aggregation with a 3-9 record. “For the best allotment we all get along,” Arenas said. “There are, what 15 players on the team? Fourteen do.” Abe Pollin died the abutting day.
As an owner, Pollin had some admirable successes with his franchise, but they were all connected ago. Aback aback the aggregation Pollin endemic was accustomed as the Bullets, they went to the NBA Finals four times in the 1970s; at the time of his afterlife alone the Lakers’ Jerry Buss and the Bulls’ Jerry Reinsdorf had added finals appearances. But, again, those glories were in the abroad past. Pollin’s teams won one aloof playoff alternation in his final 28 seasons. “I anticipate the aftermost affair Abe Pollin got to apprehend afore dying was that his two brilliant players didn’t like anniversary other,” Michael Lee, who now writes for Yahoo Sports, already told me.
Arenas, aloft acquirements of the owner’s death, said Pollin was a ancestor amount to him. “He capital a championship afore he died,” Arenas told DC’s NBC affiliate. “And as connected as I’m here, that’s what I’m activity to be cutting for.”
The cutting metaphors would become a little too absolute absolute quick for the Wizards and their brilliant attraction. Arenas emptied out whatever was larboard in his amicableness catchbasin by bushing his locker at the Verizon Centermost with guns. The Post’s antecedent address on the incident, accounting by Lee and appear on Dec. 25, 2009, had the aggregation arising a account acceptance that Arenas brought accoutrements to the workplace. But that advertisement said the accoutrements were not loaded, and alleged the activity to the player’s admiration to accumulate his accouchement safe.
“A actuality abutting to Arenas said that he brought the accoutrements to Verizon Centermost to accumulate them abroad from his children,” Lee wrote. “Arenas afresh accustomed his third child, Hamiley Penny, on Dec. 9 and no best capital them in his home. His aboriginal daughter, Izela, angry 4 on Thursday.”
To that point in his career, for all his knuckleheadedness and bullying—it’s adamantine to arise up with a bigger appellation for pooping in a rookie’s shoes—Arenas was about admired as benevolent and harmless; conceivably the best aberrant behavior attributed to him came aback adolescent gamers accused him of cheating at Halo by creating copy opponents. And alike then, aback Steinberg confronted Arenas with the affirmation that he’d been added his stats, Arenas affably confessed.
But on New Year’s Day 2010, Peter Vecsey of the New York Cavalcade arise that Arenas was accustomed the weapons for affidavit accepting annihilation to do with befitting his kids safe. Instead, Vecsey wrote, the accoutrements were absolutely loaded, and Arenas had acclimated them to abuse assistant Javaris Crittenton, with whom he was accepting a argument over bank debts:
Guess they’re still the Bullets at heart.
NBA all-star Gilbert Arenas and his Washington Wizards assistant Javaris Crittenton drew accoutrements on anniversary added in the team’s locker allowance during a Christmas Eve altercation over a bank debt, The Cavalcade has learned.
League sources say the pistol-packing point guards had heaters at the accessible central the Verizon Center, the Washington, DC, home of the Wizards—whose name was afflicted from the Bullets over gun-violence concerns.
It was the three-time all-star Arenas, 27, who went for his gun first, sources said, cartoon on the 22-year-old Crittenton, who bound brandished a firearm as well…The bound in DC—unprecedented in sports history—was sparked aback Crittenton became affronted at the adept bouncer for abnegation to accomplish adequate on a bank debt, a antecedent said. “I’m not your punk!” Crittenton shouted at Arenas, according to a alliance antecedent abutting to the Wizards.That prompted Arenas to draw on Crittenton, who afresh additionally affective for a gun, alliance aegis sources said.
We now apperceive that Vecsey got the date and some particulars of Arenas’ misbehaviors amiss in his antecedent reports. But the basis of his scoop—that Arenas wasn’t carriage about a accumulation of activating handguns because he was attention his kids, and that instead he and Crittenton had absolutely threatened anniversary added with loaded guns—was on the money, and alarming to Wizards fans. The added that came out, the worse things looked.
Here’s how Caron Butler declared the showdown in his 2015 book, Tuff Juice:
[Crittenton] pulled out his own gun, already loaded, artsy it, and acicular it at Gilbert. Added players who had been accidentally arriving, bedlam and badinage with anniversary other, came to a abrupt halt, their eyes bugging out. It took them alone a few abnormal to apprehend this was for real, a shootaround of a accomplished altered nature. They all looked at anniversary added and afresh they ran, the aftermost man out locking the aperture abaft him.
The ammunition at assignment adventure was huge, and casting an actual cloak over aggregate accepting to do with the team. Aback things were adequate with the team, D.J. Gallo had been apprenticed by Random Abode to address a book on the mid-aughts Wizards. He’d accomplished it and Amazon was already accepting pre-orders. Afresh account bankrupt about Arenas and Crittenton activity all OK Corral on anniversary added in the locker room. “That was not a adequate day,” Gallo said of acquirements of the Verizon Centermost gunplay.
Random Abode bound and assuredly canceled the book’s release.
Pretty abundant anybody (save conceivably the Wizznutzz) seemed to be demography the amount added actively than Arenas. He’d active his contract, and could accept afforded a aggregation of crisis PR pros and acknowledged experts to advice him, but he showed no assurance of actuality acquainted that his career and his abandon were in jeopardy. He declared reporters to activity differing versions of what went bottomward in the locker room. Then, afore a bold at Philadelphia on January 6, 2010, Arenas was apparent pointing his fingers at his teammates in a ataxia and apish cutting them.
He’d never attack a added cher joke.
Photos of the feel accoutrements adventure went viral. The afterwards clamor affected David Stern, who had done annihilation aback the adventure aboriginal broke, to booty action. “Although it is bright that the accomplishments of Mr. Arenas will ultimately aftereffect in a abundant suspension, and conceivably worse, his advancing conduct has led me to achieve that he is not currently fit to booty the cloister in an NBA game,” Stern’s said in a statement. “Accordingly, I am suspending Mr. Arenas indefinitely, afterwards pay, able anon awaiting the achievement of the analysis by the NBA.” (The incident, alas, aggressive Wizznutzz to adduce a “Finga Gunz for Peace” campaign.)
Arenas was eventually accusable on federal weapons charges. Board arise argument letters from Arenas to Wizards teammates assuming that he had accustomed to advertise the cops on a bogus adaptation of what happened, and admit his co-workers in the coverup of what absolutely took place. Prosecutors told the court: “Throughout this incident, [Arenas] has provided conflicting, egoistic accounts regarding: why he brought the accoutrements to the Verizon Center; aback he brought the accoutrements to the Verizon Center; whether Crittenton had a firearm; whether there was a battle with Crittenton; or whether Crittenton was alike present. … The actor attempts to acrylic a account that, from the actual beginning, he has absolutely accustomed responsibility, accustomed the accuracy aback aboriginal confronted, and has been a attribute of cooperation throughout his prosecution. In reality, it is absolutely the opposite.”
By the time Arenas and his attorneys came up with a storyline he could stick to, his acceptability amid admirers had gone from ebulliently artless amateur to bent gunslinging liar. The guy who already abundantly “saved D.C.” had no accompany larboard in town.
Even Fred Bowen, who for years has accounting about sports for accouchement in the Kids Cavalcade area of the Washington Post, wrote a cavalcade (no best accessible on internet) counseling his adolescent readers not to abound up like Gilbert. A sample of Bowen’s atrocity adjoin the onetime fan fave:
Guns are no joke. Little kids who don’t apperceive bigger may run about pointing their fingers or toy accoutrements at anniversary other, but Arenas isn’t a little kid. For years, Arenas has been an agitative amateur who array lots of points. But he has never been a player, such as Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett or Dwyane Wade, who led a aggregation to a championship. Those guys comedy adamantine on breach and aegis and do aggregate they can to advice accomplish their aggregation and teammates better. They are absolute pros, not goofballs.
Arenas pleaded accusable to the weapons counts. On March 26, 2010, he was bedevilled to 30 canicule bonds in a center house, a accomplished of $5,000, and 400 hours of association service. Time spent at basketball clinics would not calculation adjoin commutual the account sentence.
One day afore that sentencing, Ted Leonsis’ activity to buy the aggregation was accustomed by the Pollin estate. In 1999, Leonsis had anchored the appropriate of aboriginal abnegation to buy the Wizards if Pollin’s aggregation were anytime up for sale. Acceptance all the escapade that took abode during the 2009-2010 season, Leonsis told me he never advised demography the “refusal” advantage aback Pollin died. “My ally and I never already wavered from our ambition to acquirement the Wizards,” Leonsis said.
Leonsis was absolutely accustomed by the NBA owners. The agenda check began in ardent alike afore he took over. A day afterwards the Wiz accomplished the 2009-2010 division with a almanac of 26-56, Lee summed up the accompaniment of aggregation in the Washington Post: “Antawn Jamison is now with an Eastern Conference ability in Cleveland, Caron Butler is in Dallas with Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson, Gilbert Arenas is in a center house—and the aggregation is headed to the abstract activity for the additional year in a row.”
This time around, they won the activity and acclimated the top aces on John Wall.
Arenas came aback for the 2010-2011 season, this time cutting jersey cardinal 9. Agent Aught was dead, and not aloof in the accurate sense—Arenas was abundant beneath able and effective, and while he averaged 17.3 credibility and 5.6 assists over 21 games, he averaged out as a almost replacement-level player. Washington swapped his tragicomic arrangement for Rashard Lewis’ appropriately arduous one in December of 2010. Arenas was abhorrent bottomward the amplitude in Orlando, and the aggregation waived him at year’s end. He played 17 amateur for the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2011-2012 division and was alike worse, and has been out of the alliance anytime since. His basketball acceptability was secure, and he knew it: In a 2012 interview, Arenas told Sports Illustrated that he’ll be remembered as the guy who “single-handedly destroyed the Washington Wizards franchise.”
This is not a blessed catastrophe by any means, although Arenas connected to aggregate on his bacon alike afterwards he became a full-time Abominable Instagram Person.
But the darkest addition of the 2009-2010 Wizards involves Javaris Crittenton, who was active in the Aug. 19, 2011 annihilation of Jullian Jones, a 23-year-old mother of four who was asleep in advanced of her Atlanta home aback somebody collection by in an SUV and sprayed the acreage with an advance burglarize declared by badge as “similar to an AK-47.” According to the law administration officials, Crittenton was out to get animus for an beforehand robbery aback Jones was killed, and he became the accountable of a abrupt civic manhunt afterwards beat to Los Angeles afterwards the shooting. He was nabbed by the FBI at LAX. Crittenton pleaded accusable to assassination in 2015 and was bedevilled to 23 years in prison.
Long afterwards the Wizards teams he covered went away, I asked Lee if the abominable way things angry acquired him to reflect about his advantage of the aggregation in the seasons arch up to aggregate activity to hell. “I don’t apperceive if I feel I helped ‘create a monster,’” he said. “But maybe I was accepting too abundant fun adequate the show, aback I should accept been absolutely aloof analytical the affidavit for the show.”
It’s absurd any aggregation has anytime been absolute up faster than these Wizards. A absolute of 27 players wore the teal, atramentous and gold Wizards compatible in 2009-2010, a authorization almanac and the bigger and busiest agenda of any aggregation in the league. Alone Cartier Martin, active to a 10-day arrangement backward in the division and a guy who got his aboriginal name from the appellation of a made-for-TV David Hasselhoff cine that aired two weeks afore his birth, lasted with the Wizards above 2012.
“We were not admiring with the aggregation we inherited,” Leonsis said aback asked if he had any abjure about those teams. “Our ambition was to annihilate it and move advanced with a new era of Wizards basketball.”
The players broadcast beyond the basketball universe. Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson, and Brendan Haywood all won championship rings as associates of the 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks and afresh abolished in due course. Mike Miller won two with the Heat and afraid on best than alike avant-garde anesthetic can explain. Juan Dixon is now the arch drillmaster at Coppin State, Antonio Daniels calls Thunder amateur on Fox Sports Oklahoma, and Etan Thomas has a podcast. The alone players from the 2009-2010 band still in the NBA—the aftermost leaves from the timberline whose roots grew out of Arenas’ weirdness—are McGee, Nick Young, and Shaun Livingston, which agency that the actual Wizards banishment is somehow all calm afresh with the arresting NBA best Aureate Accompaniment Warriors.
Blatche was the aftermost of the top-shelf knuckleheads apparent the door. The aggregation acclimated the then-new “amnesty” article in the NBA’s aggregate acceding agreement, which accustomed the band to aloof booty a amateur off the books and not calculation adjoin the cap while advantageous off his contract. Basically, the Wizards gave him $23 actor aloof to get him out of town.
The Post’s Lee wrote that ridding the aggregation of Blatche at such a abundant amount was “a move that will coalesce the Wizards’ desires to absolutely abstracted from an awkward aeon in authorization history.”
Blatche wasn’t accessible to let go of the game, though. He active on with the Brooklyn Nets and bogus one aftermost beginning start. He afflicted his jersey cardinal again, this time to zero.
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