Gold Standard; Wizards' Gilbert Arenas Is Finishing One of the Greatest Seasons in Franchise History - and Having a Great Time Doing It

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Knott, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

A 2001 Monte Carlo sits in the garage of Gilbert Arenas' upscale digs in Great Falls. Arenas does not need the vehicle. He never drives it. It just sits in his garage collecting dust, although he has re-painted it, equipped it with a larger engine and added new upholstery and rims.

Darnell McCondichie, Arenas' childhood buddy, has given the thumbs-up sign to the changes.

"It does look better than when I had it," he says.

The vehicle was McCondichie's pride and joy until he lost it to Arenas in a game of Halo 2 on Xbox in Los Angeles last summer.

Arenas pretended to be a novice at the video game until he and McCondichie

agreed to bet their respective vehicles on it: a Cadillac Escalade vs. the Monte Carlo, straight-up.

"He beat me real bad," McCondichie says. "It wasn't even close."

Arenas had his newly secured possession shipped to the District and has been thoughtful enough to send photographs of it to his buddy this year. Or perhaps those photographs are the basketball equivalent of a taunt.

"Darnell has a year-long bus pass," Arenas says with a proud grin.

That is not really true, of course.

McCondichie used public transportation for a spell before purchasing a 2005 Yukon.

"He even offered to lend the Monte Carlo back to me to help me out," McCondichie says. "But I had too much pride for that. He is just being retarded."

This is the off-beat world of Arenas away from the court.

He is a likable, genuine fellow who has remained true to his modest beginnings, even as the NBA exploits of the two-time All-Star guard of the Washington Wizards have proceeded at an accelerated rate.

He has eschewed the usual trappings of NBA stardom. He wears no bling-bling, has no omnipresent tattoos and lacks the requisite entourage. He lives alone in his 10-bedroom, 10-bathroom estate, far enough removed from the urban core.

"I have to be out of the city," Arenas says. "I need the space."

That is a reflection of his suburban-like upbringing in Van Nuys, Calif., in the San Fernando Valley, home of the ditzy Valley girls made famous by Hollywood in the 1980s.

Arenas may be from Los Angeles, as the sprawling city is geographically defined, but his sensibility comes from the San Fernando Valley of broad thoroughfares and strip malls.

It is pointed out to Arenas that requiring his buddy to make good on a bet seems harsh, especially since he duped him and hardly needs the vehicle. He is in the third year of a six-year contract worth $64 million and could own a fleet of four-wheel toys if he so desired.

"He would have taken my Escalade, I know that," Arenas says.

And there is a caveat in all this, as there often is with Arenas.

The two pals are planning a bowl-off this summer, with the Monte Carlo representing Arenas' ante. Arenas has agreed to a bowl-off knowing McCondichie is a considerably stronger bowler than him.

"I intimidate him in bowling," McCondichie says. "He is usually in the 160 range. I am in the 190-215 range. The Monte Carlo is coming back to Los Angeles."

That is how it is with the two, whose friendship extends back to their youth sports days.

They shared seats at the end of the bench on a team in fifth grade coached by Arenas Sr. and McCondichie's mother, Irene.

"We were awful," McCondichie says. "We just sat on the bench cracking jokes about the players on the floor. Here is the thing with Gilbert: He always was one of the worst guys on the team back then, in fifth grade, sixth grade, seventh grade and eighth.

"And then, in the summer between ninth and 10th grades, he just shot up. All of a sudden, he was quicker than everyone else, stronger, faster. My family moved out of the Valley about then, and I can remember hearing about some guy named Gilbert Arenas doing this or Gilbert Arenas doing that, and I remember thinking, 'That can't be the same guy. …