Fantastic game downtown last night between the Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets, as my colleague Ben Leatherman already has detailed in Valley Fever. We were fortunate enough to be courtside for the thriller, which had the intensity of a do-or-die playoff game.
Down in the bowels of the not-so-packed arena before the game, scribes and others (NBA friends of ours) chatted about a recent Sports Illustrated piece in which 171 NBA players were asked which player they would most want on the foul line at the end of a game, with everything riding on the outcome:
The easy winner? Steve Nash (one of the NBA's all-time greatest free-throw shooters), who received one-in-three votes from his peers. In second place was Kobe Bryant, who happens to be one of the best to ever step onto a basketball court.
Nash's unofficial honor led to another category, made up on the spot in the media room.
Who, someone posed, would be the player, past or present, you'd want most to have your back in a tough, i.e. life-threatening, situation?
The consensus was unanimous:
Nope, not Moses Malone, Charles Oakley, Maurice Lucas, Bill Laimbeer -- legendary ex-players who looked like they would stick a knife in your back if they had half a chance.
The winner was: Gilbert Arenas (pictured above, with friends), a onetime University of Arizona guard.
Arenas was suspended indefinitely yesterday by the NBA in the aftermath of a bizarre gun-toting incident inside the locker room of his team, the Washington Wizards.
Though Arenas is a three-time All-Star with great offensive skills, he also has the capacity to be eminently offensive, as this unintentionally absurd story from back in 2008 reflects. But getting portrayed as a great team guy for taking a paycut from $127 million to $111 million for a six-year deal pales in contrast to the thick soup he's gotten himself into now.
Wrap your heads around this one: The dude is costing himself almost $250,000 for every game he misses while under suspension (insert starving child "joke" here).
But at least Arenas did win the pundits' unofficial "Guy Who Would Best Cover Your Back" award at the Suns game last night.
Maybe that's because a bullet is a better bet than an elbow to the face or a knee to a kidney.
And that reminds us, the Washington Wizards nickname used to be the Bullets, until owner Abe Pollin (who died recently) decided to change it because he didn't want his team associated with violence.
Arenas, as it turns out, is no wizard.