In the mid-2000’s, Gilbert Arenas was one of the top scorers in the NBA. Arenas averaged 25 points per game for the better part of eight seasons with the Washington Wizards, including a career-best 29.3 points in the 2005-06 season.
Not many defenders could stop Arenas at his peak. But there was one player who Agent Zero admitted he struggled against more than anyone else.
Gilbert Arenas said an All-Star point guard was the toughest defender he went up against
At 6-foot-4, 191 pounds, Arenas had a couple of things working in his favor. He was bigger than the average point guard at the time, a matchup he could exploit with strength. But he was also smaller than the average shooting guard, meaning he could use his elite quickness to get around the bigger defenders.
On the All the Smoke podcast, Arenas was asked about some of the individual matchups that stood out to him during his time in D.C. The 39-year-old was battling it out against Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, and a young LeBron James, to name a few. But a fellow point guard was the one who stood out the most to Agent Zero.
“My hardest matchup was J-Kidd [Jason Kidd],” Arenas shared with hosts Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson. “Because you have to remember he’s 6-foot-4, all of 220 lbs. So I couldn’t bully through him, and my speed … he neutralized it. Because he was just as fast, but he was quick. So when I take off, he can get to that spot before [me].”
By the time Arenas entered the league in 2001, Kidd was entering his eighth season. The Hall of Famer spent his first seven seasons with the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns before joining the New Jersey Nets and battling against Agent Zero in the Eastern Conference for the next several seasons.
Jason Kidd was a thorn in Arenas’ side
After revealing Kidd was his hardest matchup, Arenas further explained how even his “good” games weren’t so good when guarded by the veteran point guard.
“So when I played against J-Kidd, I had to really, actually think,” Arenas said. “I mean I scored 30, but it was one of those 10-for-21 type of games. It was never just dominating J-Kidd. He gave me a run for my money all the time.”
Arenas knows Kidd was a tough matchup, and the numbers back it up. In Arenas’ career-best 2005-06 season, he played Kidd and the Nets twice. In their early-season meeting, Arenas scored 17 points on just 6-for-17 shooting, turning the ball over six times and fouling out. They met again near the end of the year, and while Arenas scored 25 points, he once again went 6-for-17 from the field with three turnovers before fouling out.
2006-07 was very similar. Arenas found a way to drop 25 and 26 points in the two games he played against New Jersey. But Kidd forced a ton of missed shots, as Agent Zero combined to shoot 13-for-48, including 7-for-24 from three. Washington lost both of those games by 12 points, while Arenas finished with a plus-minus of -33.
Kidd was one of the best defenders in the NBA
Fans remember Kidd’s skills on the offensive end more than anything else from his 19-year career. But chances are a number of NBA players would also say the 10-time All-Star was the hardest matchup of their careers.
The 48-year-old Kidd was a four-time First Team All-Defense selection and five-time Second Team pick. His 2,684 steals rank second all time, only trailing John Stockton’s 3,265. Kidd, who is the new head coach of the Mavericks, also totaled 75.1 defensive win shares, placing him 11th on the all-time list ahead of elite defenders like Stockton, Scottie Pippen, and John Havlicek.
“The biggest thing is the defensive side of the ball,” Kidd said this year shortly after taking the job in Dallas. “We’ve got to pay a little bit more attention to detail. Understand we all have one goal, and that’s to win a championship. And we’ve got to get stops. The last time we won a championship here, we did get stops.”
Clearly, Kidd knows a thing or two about defense. And if anyone still doubts that, Arenas can attest to it better than anyone.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.