Gilbert Arenas, Here is Your Chance


When Jameer Nelson went crumpling down to the floor as Jordan Farmar rolled on his knee late in the first half of Friday’s game, Magic fans certainly must have perked up. Nelson is the one that makes the Magic go and truly makes the difference for Orlando on a night-to-night basis. It turned out just to be a sprained knee. But, if Nelson is going to be out for a while, the Magic will need some better play from its point guards.

If Friday night is a preview, Orlando could be limping into the postseason both on and off the floor.

Chris Duhon and Gilbert Arenas combined to score seven points, shoot 3 for 19 from the floor and 1 for 9 on 3-pointers and dish out five assists in 52 combined minutes (obviously meaning Arenas or Duhon spent time on the floor together or spent time on the floor with Nelson). That, frankly, is not going to cut it. And this was on an evening where the Magic shot 50 percent from the floor and had a relatively offensive game (106.5).

To say the least, whoever Orlando puts in at point guard is going to have to be better than that if the team wants to continue this five-game win streak and defeat some fo the playoff teams it has coming up. Nobody knows how long Nelson is going to be out and Stan Van Gundy has not decided who is going to even start in Nelson’s place.

For sure, Gilbert Arenas, who has struggled in his role off the bench, should be salivating at his chance to potentially start a few games and regain his rhythm on this team.

Arenas has admitted that coming off the bench has been a bit of an adjustment. He has said he has a hard time getting into the rhythm of games while coming off the bench. You can always see head trainer Keon Weise working on Arenas’ troublesome left knee during the early stages of games and there are definite concerns about keeping the knee loose. But Arenas also has recognized that he is not on this team to be the ball-dominating guard he was in Washington.

Stan Van Gundy, himself is not quite sure whether to start Arenas or not, citing offensive balance and the need to have Arenas’ (potential) scoring punch off the bench.

Arenas has undoubtedly struggled off the bench, showing only flashes of his former self throughout the four months he has been with Orlando. Arenas is averaging 7.9 points per game, shooting 34.2 percent from the floor and 26.8 percent on 3-pointers, dishing out 3.3 assists per game in 21.0 minutes per game.

This downturn in statistics was extremely surprising seeing as Arenas scored 17.3 points per game while posting a 46.5 percent effective field goal percentage in 14 starts and 21 games for the Wizards earlier this season. His per 36 numbers with the Magic are also well below his numbers with the Wizards this year — 18.0 points per 36 minutes with the Wizards and 13.5 points per 36 minutes with the Magic.

You can easily make the conclusion that Arenas’ new role off the bench accounts for this decrease in production.

So with Nelson out, Arenas can get his chance to get back on track and rediscover his rhythm. Arenas undoubtedly plays better when he gets more playing time. His highest scoring game with the Magic — the 22-point, 11-assist gem he had against the Cavaliers — occurred when he played his most minutes (32).

In fact, in his top five scoring games this year with the Magic, Arenas averages 25.0 minutes per game (slightly above his current averages). In the five games Arenas has played the most minutes since joining Orlando, he averages 13.2 points per game (nearly twice the amount he normally averages).

There appears to be some correlation between Arenas’ minutes and his scoring ability.

Obviously Arenas has not had an opportunity to start with Orlando and so what he might do when/if he does start is still very uncertain. But here is his chance to quiet some doubters and prove Otis Smith was right to believe in him.