Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Is Gilbert Arenas the next Penny Hardaway?

The fact that even mentioning this comparisan would have come as a shock just two short seasons ago, but there's no denying the similarities here. It really is eery examining the careers of Penny Hardaway and Gilbert Arenas right now?

Penny averaged more than 20 points per game in three of his first four seasons of the NBA, making the NBA Finals in 1995, while also becoming somewhat of a cultural icon due to his Lil' Penny commercials. Gilbert averaged 18, 19, 25, 29, and 28 points per contest in his first five years as a starter in the league, leading the Wizards to the second round of the playoffs in 2005, in the process becoming somewhat of a cultural icon due to his ridiculously entertaining blog.

Here's where it gets eery, though. Both had severe injuries on the same body part (left knee) at the same age (26 years old) — although to be fair to Penny here, Gilbert had a right knee injury before the age of 26, so I guess that kind of gives Penny the lead.

Seriously, look at that and tell me it doesn't scare you to death about Gilbert's career. Yeah Penny averaged slightly less points, but that was almost certainly due to playing with a certain somebody named Shaquille O'Neal. I'm usually an eternal optimist when it comes to the Wizards, but I just don't see it this year. I just don't see Gilbert coming back at full strength no matter when he returns and combined with an improved eastern conference, well let's just say I'm scared. I refuse to rule out the playoffs like every other national basketball pundit seems to doing because well, I have some faith in the Wiz kids.

And you can't help but get a little happy when you hear things like this come out of the mouth of the best young player in the NBA when talking about the Wiz's first-round draft pick JaVale McGee:

"He can fly," said Chris Paul, who finished with 10 points and eight assists. "I mean, that's plain and simple. He can fly. I think it was early the third quarter, I came and did an in-and-out move and thought -- I just knew -- that I had enough room to get my shot off and he blocked it. He's easily one of the most athletic big guys in the NBA. You can put him in that Dwight Howard category."

Seriously, though, I never thought I'd reach the stage in my Wizards fandom where I would be thinking things like "Boy, I wish we had Brendon Haywood." See, the real crux of the problem is that it has nothing to do with Haywood's improvement as a player, it's got more to do with how terrible this roster looks once you get past the names "Caron Butler" and "Antawn Jamison".

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