The Washington Wizards are down 3-1 and are on the verge of being eliminated convincingly by the Cleveland Cavaliers from the 2008 playoffs. The Wizards have been making news recently for the wrong reasons: flagrant fouls, trash talking, and under performance. Instead of highlighting the disappointments of the postseason failures of the Wizards over the past 4 years, I will instead highlight the team’s potential to become an Eastern Conference Champion next season. I am serious; however, I, as a devout Wizards fan, am also finding this to be quite therapeutic actually in the wake of potentially another FIRST ROUND EXIT!
With regard to veteran leadership for next season, the Wizards have plenty of it. But the heart and soul of the organization is no longer Gilbert Arenas but rather Antawn Jamison. The Wizards NEED TO LET GILBERT ARENAS GO! It surprises me to say that because 2 years ago, I and many Wizards fans thought the world of him. No one, including myself, blames Arenas for his injury troubles because the injury he sustained came as the result of a FREAK collision against the Charlotte Bobcats early last April off a bizarre rebound. However, Arenas did not handle his injury reserve status with maturity. Instead, he seemed to devote more time to his blog than his rehabilitation. His crazy comments on his blog caused unnecessary distractions for the team in critical situations. In this “Wizards v. Lebron James” feud, it was Arenas who fired the first shot arrogantly predicting a Wizards whipping of the Cavaliers. And, if the 2007-2008 season taught any Wizards fan anything, it was that the Wizards rallied to a winning season without the services of Arenas. Since both Arenas and Jamison have uncertain statuses for next season, my opinion is clear: dump Arenas and re-sign the true veteran, All Star leader [Antawn Jamison].
Assisting Jamison on the starting lineup for next year is two-time All Star Caron Butler. In addition, Washington’s 2007 First Round draft pick Nick Young from USC had a sensational rookie season coming off the bench and will be a positive asset for the team next season. In addition, Roger Mason provides effective contributions from the bench, especially with his 3-point shooting capabilities. What is the point with all this? Gilbert Arenas is unnecessary to build a winning team in DC. More importantly, Arenas is unnecessary to build a Southeast Division champion team. Most importantly, Arenas is unnecessary to build an Eastern Conference championship team. You heard me right. Gilbert Arenas missed 66 of 82 regular season games and the Wizards still managed to win 43 games to clinch yet another winning season during the impressive coaching tenure of Eddie Jordan.
Speaking of Eddie Jordan, where is the love? Mike Wise of the Washington Post following the Wizards defeat in Game 4 brought up the point that Eddie Jordan may be on job security. My reaction was and still is…………..WHAT?!?!?!?! There is no reason to fire the greatest coach Washington basketball has ever had! The Wizards began the 2007-2008 season 0-5. Many fans were calling for Jordan to be fired. Three games later following the 0-5 start, three-time All Star Gilbert Arenas aggravated his knee injury sustained from that freak collision the previous season in a game against the Charlotte Bobcats. With Arenas on the Injured Reserve list for the next 4 months, the Wizards rallied. Even an 8 game losing streak sustained before the All Star Break did not slow the Wizards down and they rallied to a 43 win season. Before Jordan was hired as Wizards head coach in 2004, the franchise had only 2 postseason appearances in its previous 15 seasons. Five years into the Eddie Jordan era in DC, the Wizards have successfully made the playoffs each of the past 4 seasons.
The only component left the Wizards need filled is center. Brendan Haywood had an improved 2007-2008 season; however, his time has come to move on as well. Haywood is the last player handpicked by Michael Jordan for this franchise when MJ worked for the organization from 2000-2003. Haywood is good, but he is not great. In order to be an NBA center, you have to be GREAT. Don’t get me wrong though! Haywood is good trading material for a young team in building mode, such as the Minnesota Timberwolves. With MJ working for Charlotte, the Bobcats may have needs for him. Regardless, the Wizards should offer Haywood this offseason to secure a big man who can dominate the boards and help the team outrebound their weaker division and conference rivals in the Eastern Conference, rather than play .500 ball against many of those so-so teams.
Thus, Washington should release Arenas, re-sign Jamison, keep Eddie Jordan, and find a big man who can dominate the boards. If Washington does these things, the Wizards should be representing the East next year in the 2008-2009 NBA Finals.