Former NBA All-Star Gilbert Arenas signed with Yao Ming-owned Shanghai Sharks late last year. He’s had a tumultuous time of it, limping off six minutes into his debut with a groin injury, losing his first game back from injury, and finally snatching back a victory with a game winning score against Nanjing in January.
Arenas recently sat down with basketball magazine Slam to discuss his career, and the state of basketball in China. Some highlights:
SLAM: First off: How are you enjoying Shanghai?
GA: It’s been going good. I’ve finally had a chance to enjoy myself over the last few weeks, and that’s because I’ve been playing. When you’re playing you get to actually go out and enjoy. But before I just stayed in the room—you know the whole time it was like, why have fun if you’re hurt?
SLAM: You were known to always have a good relationship with your teammates in the NBA. From the looks of it, it seems that trend is continuing in Shanghai, too.
GA: Well, when it’s your teammate, you’re around them more than your family members. You’re there with them on long bus rides, in locker rooms. So if you don’t have a good relationship with them, you’re at a loss. Even though we have that language barrier, we still get our points across.
SLAM: It’s been a tough season for the Sharks and for yourself, especially considering your injury layoff. The season is so short, you miss 10 games, and you miss a third of the season. How did you deal with being off the court?
GA: It was rough, man. You know, when I came, it was like everything was rushed. I didn’t get a chance to jell with the players, the trainers, the medical staff. So once I got hurt it was like, What? Am I going back home? Am I getting cut? It was going so fast. Only these last two weeks I’ve gotten to know the players on the court. Off the court I’ve already been hanging out with them and getting to know their vibe.
SLAM: You’ve always been a step ahead when it comes to your relationship with fans. For the Guangdong game, you gave away 888 tickets to fans in Shanghai. What’s your relationship like with the fans here? How have you embraced Weibo and your fanbase in Shanghai?
GA: Weibo started off difficult because of the language barrier. I can’t read any of the stuff on it in Chinese. So Gu Young [a trainer with the team] taught me basically how to text, change pictures, like the little things, so I can get by. Looking at it, I figured out more of it. I comment back to the fans who say things in English. The fans have been good, they make me wanna go out and play. They have always been positive; I haven’t seen anything negative at all. That’s a relief.
SLAM: So do you have long-term plans in China? What do you see for yourself in the future here?
GA: 32 games a year. Maximum 36 minutes. That’s all I need at this point in my career. So as long as China teams want me, I’ll be here.