Agent Zero Returns as a Low-Key Hero

By Marc Stein

DALLAS -- He drove fearlessly to the bucket. He drained a few clutch contested jumpers. He even talked to the media.

It would be a stretch to say that Gilbert Arenas dazzled Tuesday night in the Wizards’ season-opening road win over the Mavericks, but he certainly turned in a complete game.

After all those knee problems that allowed him to play in only 15 games over the past two seasons, Arenas announced his return to prominence by ringing up 29 points and nine assists without a lot of highlight-reel material. He merely capitalized with precision on what he called “weak” pick-and-roll defense from the Mavs to deliver a steady performance that looks gaudier in the box score than it did in person.

Not that the Wizards mind steady.

"He did his talking on the floor," Wiz coach Flip Saunders said. "Gil showed glimpses of . . . that unbelievable burst of speed and his ability to weave through people and score at the rim. I thought he ran our offense great as far as getting the ball to people.

"I think that anyone that had questions about where he's at ... he's just going to continue to get better and better."

Arenas didn’t want to say much after Washington’s impressive 102-91 triumph over the retooled Mavs -- keeping with his well-chronicled determination this season to avoid the media -- but eventually conceded that he "did fine" and "feels great."

"Coach told me to be myself,” Arenas said. "Don’t let the outside world dictate how I play."

And he didn’t.

Logging 38 minutes, Arenas instead managed to control the tempo throughout, with Dallas forced to scramble from behind for much of the evening after the Wizards rung up 35 points in the second quarter. The only displays of his old showmanship were nods in approval after a couple jumpers and teasingly leaving his shooting hand in the air after one late dagger from the perimeter.

In crunch time, Arenas’ driving layup (with plenty of contact) and that dagger snuffed out any hopes of a Dallas escape.

As for Arenas’ newfound desire to keep his name out of the media game, Saunders said: "He talks to me. That's all that matters. ... I think he's gotten to the point that no matter what he says, it doesn't matter, because everybody is going to judge him by what he does on the floor. I think at this point he says, 'I'm going to play and how I play is going to be first line of defense of what's going to be said about me.'"