The newer, more efficient Gilbert Arenas

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All the talk this preseason has been about changes in Gilbert Arenas the personality (although we suspect the new, business-like Arenas is more about what he shows the media than teammates), but we have missed the change in Gilbert Arenas the player.

Gone is Agent Zero the gunner, replaced by a much more efficient player, as Michael Lee of the Washington Post noted.

If you look at Arenas’s numbers in the preseason, he has been more efficient than prolific. He is not trying to do more than he has to. He isn’t forcing plays or drives. And, he is taking “quality shots” within the flow of the offense. Being flanked by Wall and Kirk Hinrich has really worked to Arenas’s advantage because he doesn’t have to be burdened as the sole decision-maker. He has just one turnover and is able to showcase his shooting ability. Arenas is averaging 13.7 points, on 50 percent shooting (16 for 32) from the floor, with 3.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 26 minutes.

For comparison, Arenas has never shot better than 45.3 percent from the floor before, and not better than 41.8 percent in the last four years. He is shooting 46.7 percent from three this preseason, up from 34.8 percent last season.

Yes, we are talking three preseason games, which is a long, long way from being able to do the same thing during the regular season.

But the theory has long been that when a player is more selective in his shots, just taking the good ones he wants not forcing others, he will shoot a higher percentage and be better for the team that way.

If this pattern holds into the regular season, the Wizards may get more out of Arenas than they had even hoped.

Remembering Notre Dame, Laker legend Tommy “the hawk” Hawkins

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Tommy Hawkins passed away recently at the age of 80.

The former NBA player was the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame (he still holds the school’s total rebounds record), was drafted in the first round, and went on to have a 10-year NBA career playing for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers as well as the Cincinnati Royals. Los Angeles fans may also remember him as the long time director of communications for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his playing days ended.

The NBA put together this well done video look back at Hawkins’ career.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.