By Steve Czaban Special to Published Mar 03, 2004 at 5:01 AM

{image1} Despite my constant lowering of expectations from professional athletes, they somehow seem to keep limbo-ing under them.

It used to be that I got quite soured by the constant criminal behavior off the court. Then, as I realized it was never going to change, I said to myself: "OK, as long as they give it an honest effort on the court, I'll just forget that I wouldn't want them babysitting my kids."

And then came Gilbert Arenas.

I've never seen a guy who makes $10 million a year actually tank a game on purpose, get away with it from both his coach and the league, and then brag about it afterward.

And somehow, this never made national headlines!

Here's the backdrop on the incident that I thought should have merited at a minimum a two-game unpaid suspension by the NBA league office.

The Washington Wizards are on an express train to the most ping-pong balls in the draft hopper. Along the way, third-year rookie Kwame Brown (I'll keep calling him a "rookie" until he's worth of the term) decided to complain about other players on the team taking too many shots.

Never mind that Kwame used his 6' 11" chiseled physique that night to grab all of two rebounds in 23 minutes of play. Never mind that Kwame has been to date, the biggest #1/#1 bust since LaRue Martin. No, never mind all that. Kwame had something to say.

So basically, he ripped Gilbert Arenas without naming him, saying some guys just cared about shots and numbers instead of winning. Arenas, ever the leader and mature orce, responded by saying, "I guess he didn't get 20 tonight."


So fast-forward to the next night in Toronto. The Raptors roll out a lineup that the Charleston Lowgators could sweep 4-0 in a best of seven. No Vince Carter, no Jalen Rose, no Alvin Williams. Milt Palacio, Roger Mason Jr. and Jannero Pargo all got big minutes.

In this game, a curious thing was happening for the Wizards. Petulant Gilbert wasn't shooting. No, he wasn't just limiting his shots, he literally was not shooting. At all. For like, the entire game!

Not until just under six remained in the fourth quarter, did Gilbert decide to put one up. He ended up scoring 7 points on 3 shots, and the Wiz escaped the Toronto Lowgators by 76-74.

Had Arenas not "perked up" in those last few minutes, the Wiz could have easily lost the game. Hell, had Arenas (the team's leading scorer at 18.7 ppg on an average of 15.7 shots per night) simply played his game, and acted professionally, the Wiz would have probably won going away.

So what then do you think happened after this childish display of "I'll show them" from Gilbert? If you said, "I bet coach Eddie Jordan ripped him in public, and behind closed doors, and benched him for the next game," well, you're going to be disappointed.

Nothing happened. The coach ignored it. The NBA somehow went to bed early. And sadly, almost all of the Washington, D.C. sports media opinion makers didn't think anything of it.

I repeat: Gilbert Arenas intentionally tanked a game, and nobody seems to care! Amazing! This is how low our expectations of athletes in general and the NBA in particular have become.

Now, what did Gilbert have to say after the game? Was he worried about getting ripped in the press, benched by his coach, or suspended by the league? Apparently not.

In a fitting epilogue to the whole outrageous affair, Arenas said, "This is how it's going to be around here, until somebody else complains about something else."

Are you kidding me?

Here's Arenas' shot totals the last seven games: 27, 27, 23, 15, 3, 21, 21. Incredible. And David Stern is more worried about suspending a ref who made a bad call, versus a player who pulls this crap.

Arenas also said that he didn't care about shots or numbers because "I've proven myself in this league." Proven yourself? To be what? The biggest jag in the history of sports making $10 million a year?

The hilarious/sickening footnote is that Arenas couldn't play up the "I was just trying to get my teammates involved" angle. Why? He only recorded one assist while spending starters minutes not shooting all game.


The next night in Chicago, Gilbert the childish recorded a triple-double. The next night at home against the Lakers, he had 35 points on a team-record 8 three pointers. Further proving that Gilbert not shooting, can be crippling to an already bad team.

Apparently, Arenas pulled this trick before, not shooting last season while with the Golden State Warriors. Arenas went into shutdown mode against the Knicks, not pulling the trigger until late in the fourth when coach Eric Musselman started screaming at him to shoot the damn ball.

Now you won't believe this, but the game before, then-teammate Antawn Jamison had complained that (see if you can guess) Arenas was not passing enough.

By now, everyone who knows Arenas, believes that the "big incident" is coming, it's only a matter of time. What that will be, hey, even Gilbert has no idea! So stay tuned. To date, his career as a "professional" (and I put that in quotes because nothing he does is worthy of the term) has been checkered with things that range from simply odd to downright irresponsible.

He made SI right out of Arizona, but only because he defaulted on payment of nearly $50,000 in tricked out upgrades of his SUV. Being a second round pick, Arenas wasn't assured of either making the team, or getting guaranteed dollars.

Problem was, the seven flat screens, DVD player/Xbox, custom paint, bustin' stereo and 19 inch rims were already installed. Oops.

While a Wizard, he got thrown out of a game for arguing calls while being on the DL and dressed in street clothes. He was late leaving the locker room for pre-game warm-ups because he was playing pool in the players lounge and lost track of time.

Just getting here to D.C. was a pure "Gilbert Moment" in and of itself. The free agent was down to picking between the Wizards and Clippers for that $64 million dollar deal. (Note: How appropriate that only those two teams really wanted this guy?) Arenas, being a California guy, said he wanted to stay on the West Coast. However, apparently not realizing that D.C. is not quite on the West Coast, Gilbert decided that flipping a coin would be the best way to decide this important career move.

So he held an impromptu "Best of 10" flip off. It came up "Clippers" 8 out of 10. So naturally, he chose the Wizards.

Can you say, "mental?"

And to think, he's all ours, for the next six years.

Steve Czaban Special to

Steve is a native Washingtonian and has worked in sports talk radio for the last 11 years. He worked at WTEM in 1993 anchoring Team Tickers before he took a full time job with national radio network One-on-One Sports.

A graduate of UC Santa Barbara, Steve has worked for WFNZ in Charlotte where his afternoon show was named "Best Radio Show." Steve continues to serve as a sports personality for WLZR in Milwaukee and does fill-in hosting for Fox Sports Radio.