Online poker at halftime? That's Gilbertology 101
It might be the quirkiest of all the quirks associated with the affable, creative, nonstop, 24-year-old point guard, a player so mercurial that his coach coined a term -- "Gilbertology" -- to describe the whole package.
"I just have a different way of approaching things," Arenas said as he relaxed in the Wizards players' lounge for an interview with The Associated Press. "I'm a little offbeat. I think of myself as the Dave Chappelle of the NBA, that nobody knows about. Like, at halftime, while everybody's getting ready, I'm playing poker online. It's just a mental challenge, to keep my mind going."
So, while his teammates are resting, relaxing or focusing on second-half strategy, Arenas' thumbs are in constant motion. Antonio Daniels, who sits two lockers down from Arenas, hardly knew what to think the first time he saw it.
"I just laughed," Daniels said. "Actually, I told him, 'I would expect you to do that.' It's kind of weird, but you let guys do what they do to be successful."
It's hard to argue with Arenas' success. Fourth in the league in scoring, the two-time All-Star has led the long-moribund Wizards to their second straight playoff appearance. His photogenic smile, his natural ease with fans -- many of whom compete to catch his jersey when he tosses it into the stands after every game -- and his on-court talent have all the makings of an NBA star.
The worst of his youthful indiscretions have subsided with maturity. He missed a practice two years ago because he was playing pool, but it would be difficult to imagine such behavior now. Last fall, coach Eddie Jordan even felt that Arenas had grown up enough to become a team captain.
Arenas reluctantly accepted, but Jordan appears to be having second thoughts. After all, his captain is, well, playing online poker during halftime.
Asked to assess Arenas' tenure as captain, Jordan answered very slowly.
"He's OK," Jordan said. "I have different ideas for that next year, so we'll see. Right now that's all I want to say on that."
Added co-captain Antawn Jamison, the team's true locker-room leader: "On the court he's been phenomenal, he's done everything you can ask of a captain. But off the court? We've still got a little bit more work."
Maybe that's because, by everyone's admission, Arenas is a guy on his little planet.
Not that it's a bad thing. In fact, Arenas is universally described as goodhearted. He created quite a stir during a practice at All-Star weekend when he purchased 25 of his own jerseys, signed them and tossed them in the crowd, going above and beyond the cursory autographs -- or brush-offs -- many of the other All-Stars gave the fans. He was so touched when he heard the story of Andre McAllister, a Washington boy who lost his family in a fire last year at age 10, that he has become the child's mentor, taking him shopping, bowling and just being his friend.
"You can't let a good kid like this get sucked down in society by a tragedy," Arenas said. "So I decided I'd hang on to this one."
What else is going on in Arenas' life? Well, when is there not something going on? One reason he does the online poker thing at halftime is because he always has to be engaged in some activity or another, usually a competitive one.
Bowling? He has three custom balls, one featuring a boxing glove with Sugar Ray Leonard's signature on it. He'll bowl for three to four hours every day during the summer, usually in the 200s, and his high score is 277.
"He'd rather go bowling on a Friday night than go out to the club and party with his boys," Jamison said.
Video games? Arenas confessed after one Sunday game early this season that he had been up until the wee hours playing online. He now says he's more or less replaced that habit with movies since installing a home theater in his house.
Basketball? Arenas was infamous for 2 a.m. solo workouts for years, but he's cut back a bit. Even so, he stunned the Wizards training staff when he arrived at the arena for a workout just 12 hours after the season ended last year with a playoff loss to Miami.
"I look at it like, once you start trying to rest yourself, that's when you start to burn out," Arenas said, "because you're not as active as you used to be. You're losing your stamina, you're losing your muscle memory, then you're getting fatigue."
Writing commercials? Yep, he does that, too. He takes after his father, Gilbert Arenas Sr., an actor and writer in Los Angeles.
"I think I'm going to start filming some this summer and putting them online," Arenas said, "because I don't think they're going to be able to be on the TV."
No one would care, of course, if Arenas weren't a dynamite basketball player. Asked what has surprised him most about Arenas, Daniels didn't mention poker or bowling or anything related to Gilbertology.
"I had no idea he's as good as he is," Daniels said. "I tell people all the time he's the third-best player I've played with, behind David Robinson and Tim Duncan, and those two guys are top 50 all-time."
Arenas kept playing last week, playing despite a sprained, throbbing back. He vowed not to rest until the Wizards secure the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. There's always something to do, something to prove.
He wears the jersey No. 0 because that was the number of minutes he was supposed to play at Arizona. He still smarts from having to wait until the second round to get drafted by Golden State in 2001. He was chosen for this year's All-Star game, but only as an injury replacement -- then promised to take revenge against all the coaches in the East.
Gilbertology, it seems, is a science of endless dimensions.
"But he's a great player," Daniels said. "And everybody has their own things. You've got to let them roll with it."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index