LOS ANGELES -- Lakers forward Luke Walton knew his former Arizona teammate, Gilbert Arenas, was in for a big night as soon as he heard about Arenas' allotment of tickets.
Agent Zero goes for 60
"I knew when he had 70-some people coming to the game, he was going to go hard," Walton said of the Wizards guard. "He's a showman."
With a perfect storm of circumstances, in a building more accustomed to seeing Kobe Bryant blister the scoreboard, Arenas shattered a host of long-standing records by sticking Kobe and the Lakers for 60 points in a 147-141 overtime Wizards' win.
Arenas' name now goes next to Wilt Chamberlain as the only players ever to score 60 -- something Wilt did multiple times -- against the Lakers. On top of that, Arenas set the Washington franchise for points in a game, eclipsing Earl Monroe's 56 (also vs. the Lakers) in 1968.
His 16 overtime points also is a league record, passing Earl Boykins' two-year-old record of 15.
Born and raised in nearby Van Nuys, Arenas was worried about being distracted by the familiar environs.
"It's a Christmas present to myself," he said. "If you're not focused, your teammates see that and wonder, 'Was he out late?' I stayed in my room and played video games. That was it."
All of which left him ready to take advantage of a rare combination -- a monstrous scoring game from a single player in a close contest. Generally, if a player goes off as Arenas did, his team is coasting by the fourth quarter and he's watching the scrubs clean up. But the Wizards needed every one of Arenas' 60 to keep the pesky Lakers from protecting their homecourt.
Bryant did not take Arenas' performance quietly, during or afterward. He had 41 in regulation to offset Arenas' 44 and drive an L.A. comeback from a 17-point deficit to force overtime. He also asked to guard Arenas down the stretch, despite having five fouls, but neither he nor the Lakers' big men could keep Arenas from getting either to the rim or the free-throw line. Trapping someone as quick as Arenas isn't all that easy, and the Lakers were kept honest by Caron Butler (27 points) and Antawn Jamison (25).
"We thought we'd take Kobe off but he wanted him and nobody else had really stepped in and found a way to defend him at all," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson.
Antonio Daniels anointed Arenas the best guard he's ever played with, putting him ahead of Ray Allen. Had Arenas been better than 21-of-27 at the line or 5-of-12 from the arc, "he could've had 70 easily," said Daniels. "He missed some 3s he usually makes. When he's focused, there's not a man in this league who can guard him."
Bryant hopes to disprove that. "You tip your hat and say, 'See you next time,'" he said. "I don't think he has a conscience. I really don't. He was chucking out there. He took some horrible shots and he made some big ones. I don't get a chance to play him much. I'll be ready next time."
For those interested in the rematch, set your Tivo now: Feb. 3, 7 ET. Franchise record for points scored by a Wizards opponent: 52.
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Quietly, the Pistons have climbed back to the top of the Eastern Conference. Sunday's hero was soph stud Jason Maxiell, who replaced the injured Rasheed Wallace and capped a 17-point, 12-rebound day with this game-winning jumper with 6.8 seconds to play in Detroit's 97-93 win over Seattle.
Remember the glory days, back when there was a debate about who the best NBA team in L.A. was?
What a grand time that was. Started about this time last season, if memory serves.
Not exactly sure when it ended, but if you need a closing moment, how about when Corey Maggette's inbound pass sailed through Cuttino Mobley's hands into the stands Sunday afternoon at the Staples Center? That unforced miscue effectively sealed the Clippers' 108-103 loss to the Houston Rockets, ran their losing streak to four and dropped their overall record to 10-13.
Clippers Nation, which developed a zany, hysterical energy watching their previously comatose franchise storm into the second round of last season's playoffs, filed out meekly. Even the guy in the red and blue suit who starts the "Let's go, Clippers!" chant didn't quite have his usual zip.
In fact, the most excited fan in the building might have been the dude in the jeans, sport coat, white shirt and seriously loosened tie -- proving that reading GQ too closely can be hazardous to your fashion sense -- frantically waving the green "Bring A.I." placard several rows behind the Clippers' bench.
Then again, his cry for attention may not go unanswered. Word is that owner Donald Sterling rather enjoyed his brief rivalry with Lakers impresario Jerry Buss for roundball supremacy. So much so that, after ignoring the Philadelphia 76ers' repeated offers to give them Allen Iverson if they were willing to part with Shaun Livingston, sources say the Clippers are now reconsidering their position.
That doesn't mean they're ready to give up their 6-7 third-year point guard. They might settle for a less earth-shattering shakeup, such as moving Corey Maggette, say, for the Warriors' much-maligned small forward -- and Clippers' coach Mike Dunleavy's son -- Mike Dunleavy Jr.
But the Clippers clearly are of the mind that they need to shake up their roster. If nothing else, it's also a full admission that their brief dalliance with being a (if not the) toast of the town is, for the time being, in the rearview mirror.
The Lakers' faithful, meanwhile, filed in for the evening show and went semi-berserk when Jordan Farmar and Andrew Bynum took the floor early in the second game of a rare Staples doubleheader. That's Farmar and Bynum, small but meaningful pieces of a stellar (and surprising) 16-7 squad that in the past week has knocked off those same Rockets twice along with the much-revered San Antonio Spurs.
"It doesn't make sense," says Livingston of the Clippers' doldrums. "We're the same team we were last season. But this falls on me. I need to get the team where it has to be."
If, that is, the Clippers give him the chance.
-- Ric Bucher in Los Angeles
An NBA official confirmed Sunday that there is no spelled-out league rule that permits or forbids teams from trading a suspended player.
It's an apparent gray area that would require the Denver Nuggets, if a trade for Allen Iverson (or anyone else) materializes suddenly, to secure special permission from the league office to include any suspended Nugget in the deal.
Yet I was led to believe Sunday that such permission would be granted.
Because blocking such a trade, while one of the principals was serving out a suspension, would potentially punish the Sixers and Iverson, neither of whom had anything to do with the Madison Square Garden brawl.
It should be pointed out, though, that Denver has consistently stressed a reluctance to include J.R. Smith in any trade, according to sources close to the talks.
Nene is the only on-the-block Nugget believed to be facing a suspension and, in his case, it's unlikely to be more than a one-game suspension for leaving the bench.
-- Marc Stein
Zero Hero: Gil goes gaga in gold
AP Photo/ Mark Avery
Gilbert Arenas stole the Staples Center spotlight on Sunday, pouring in 60 points on 17-for-32 from the field, 5-for-12 from 3-point range and 21-for-27 from the line.
Quote of the Day
-- Royce Webb
ACHILLES DIAW? I expect to see more teams defend Phoenix the way Eric Musselman had his Kings do, effectively, on Saturday night. That is, play a small lineup and hope Boris Diaw is ineffective against a smaller guy. Diaw seemed fearful of picking up an offensive foul, neglecting to pound the smaller defenders inside, and the Suns struggled to score during that time.
COACH LAW: It's an unwritten rule that when a team is losing big late in the game and puts in its scrubs, the leading team should do likewise. That's not what George Karl did on Saturday. But there is another coaching guideline that suggests you worry about your team and not the other.
FORD FREEDOM: Like a lot of other point guards, T.J. Ford has struggled to find the right balance of looking to score while still running the team and taking care of the Raptors' best scorer, Chris Bosh. In Bosh's absence the past two games, Ford has looked more assertive offensively and has played well in all facets. He looks "freer," less worried about playing a role and just focused on making plays, whether for himself or others.
-- David Thorpe, Scouts Inc.
The Denver Nuggets might have been preoccupied with other things on Sunday, but that hasn't changed their big-picture mindset.
The Nuggets, according to NBA front-office sources, have no plans to alter their Allen Iverson thinking because of what happened at Madison Square Garden.
They can't really ramp up what you'd classify as a full-court press to get Iverson. Nor are the Nuggets, sources said, contemplating a shift in the other direction where they'd scale back their pursuit.
The latest estimates in circulation Sunday night suggest that Carmelo Anthony is facing a ban of at least seven to 10 games for his role in the MSG brawl. But if it's longer than that, Denver might actually be more motivated to complete an AI blockbuster, just to ensure that it makes the playoffs ... with the side benefit of shifting some focus away from 'Melo's fate.
On Sunday night, Gilbert Arenas and Kobe Bryant did something only six other pairs of opponents had done -- put up 60-plus and 45-plus in the same game.
This is the first time the feat didn't involve Wilt Chamberlain, and the first in 44 years.
-- Lisa Brooks, ESPN Research