A new era is set to begin in Washington, much to the delight of a growing majority.
Any conceivable notion of Gilbert Arenas returning to the Washington Wizards is over.
After meeting with NBA Commissioner David Stern in New York earlier this week, Arenas was notified that he would be suspended for the remainder of the season. Sources familiar with the happenings of the meeting came away with the following nuggets:
First, Arenas asked Stern if the Wizards' had made any inquiries of voiding his contract to which Stern responded with a "no."
Second, Arenas has no plans on appealing the suspension and is not going to ask the Players Association for any help, unless the Wizards try to void the remaining $80 million on his deal.
Third, Arenas has told those close to him that he has no interest in playing for Washington again, a sentiment that grew as his name, pictures, jerseys, and such were quickly removed from the Verizon Center.
That being said, I believe it is a sad time for Washington basketball fans. I seem to be in the minority in thinking that the Wizards are losing the greatest asset they have had since the late 70's when the Bullets went to the Finals consecutively, winning once, led by Wes Unseld.
Wizards fans had seen nothing to get excited about as the team finished with a losing record in 19 of the 24 seasons between their last trip to the Finals in 1979 and the arrival of Gilbert Arenas in 2003.
In that span, Washington made the playoffs eight times, with a combined playoff record of 9-24. The team had zero playoff wins from 1988 through 2004, Gilbert's second season with the team.
Between 2003 and 2007, Arenas led the Wizards to three winning seasons, one 41-41 season, and four consecutive playoff appearances, advancing to the Eastern Conference Semifinals once (lost to eventual champion Miami Heat).
Why am I pointing this out? Why am I bombarding you with historical statistics about the team before and after Arenas?
Because Washingtonians have a very short memory.
People seem to have forgotten the success that this team achieved under a healthy Arenas. And for those of you mocking the notion that the Wizards had success in the Arenas era, don't kid yourself.
Making the playoffs and advancing after the drought that this organization and its fans went through is considered an achievement. End of discussion.
Over the past several weeks, I have heard all kinds of comments from various outlets - including television interviews, radio calls, Internet posts, and text messages/e-mails from friends...and much of them seem to say the same things about Arenas.
I'm going to address the most common remarks here once and then leave it alone, close the book, and move forward.
Gilbert Arenas is overrated.
I've never really understood how people can throw this statement around so recklessly. I'm going to present four sets of statistics, and I want you to tell me which set belongs to Arenas.
A) 31.4 ppg - 6.6 assists - 7.0 rebounds - 1.6 steals - 48.0% FG Percentage
B) 29.3 ppg - 6.0 assists - 3.5 rebounds - 2.0 steals - 44.7% FG Percentage
C) 27.2 ppg - 6.7 assists - 5.7 rebounds - 2.0 steals - 49.5% FG Percentage
D) 26.5 ppg - 2.7 assists - 4.9 rebounds - 1.1 steals - 48.1% FG Percentage
Now be honest. Did you guess Arenas to be choice B? Because those stats belong to him.
These are the single season statistics from 2005-06, just two seasons before Arenas went down with knee injuries that sidelined him, allowing him to start only 10 games in a span of two years. Prior to those injuries, look at his statistics and explain to me how he was "overrated".
Some will knock his shooting percentage. Sure, his percentage wasn't as high as others but he had steadily improved it in each of his first three seasons with Washington, from 39.2 to 43.1 and a career-high 44.7 percent.
Factor in the reality that guys like James, Wade and Anthony drive to the basket a lot more, giving them higher percentage shots. Arenas was much more of a shooter, so a comparable figure would be Allen Iverson in that regard.
Iverson is considered a superstar, despite his lack of stellar shooting percentages or defensive prowess. Even if you don't consider Arenas a superstar, don't tell me he is overrated. The statistics say otherwise.
The combination of statistics coupled with leading a franchise known as the "Clippers of the East" to the playoffs and experience some levels of success is what elite players do. It's what Arenas did.
The fact that he ran into LeBron James and a Wade-Shaq combo in the postseason is no fault of his own.
He wasn't worth the money that he got.
This is probably my favorite point to dispute. People get all up in arms when they look at the size of the contract Arenas received and argue that he shouldn't have received a "max deal."
First off, it wasn't a max, contrary to what many believe.
Secondly, Arenas received the deal that he got because that was his market value at that point in time. To this franchise, he was worth "x" amount of dollars. To the Los Angeles Lakers or Miami Heat, he wouldn't be worth the same.
Because they already have their No. 1 assets under contract. He doesn't bring anything to the table that they don't already have. To the Washington Wizards, he was the most important piece to their puzzle.
For those who struggle with principles of economics, it's called supply and demand. The Wizards demand for Arenas was high so they were willing to pay more for him than others to make sure they kept that asset wearing their colors. Simple as that.
Suppose you still believe they shouldn't have signed him. Here are the other "big names" that were available:
Emeka Okafor, Luol Deng, Josh Smith, Andre Iguodala, Ben Gordon, Ron Artest, Corey Maggette, Shawn Marion, Jermaine O'Neal, Allen Iverson, Baron Davis, and Elton Brand.
Have at it. Which would you have preferred? Keep in mind the type of seasons the Wizards were coming off at that point and the buzz in the Nation's Capitol for a town that had been starved of success since the Redskins won the Super Bowl in 1991.
Refer to this Sports Illustrated article in which Arenas was regarded as "the prize of the free-agent class".
You really think letting Gilbert Arenas walk at that point was the way to go?
He deserves the punishment he's getting. They should void his contract.
I can understand and agree that getting suspended without pay is the appropriate punishment. I feel that there is no place for guns in the locker room.
As far as voiding his contract goes, unless he spends a day in jail, all indications are it will be a difficult and uphill process for the Wizards. In short, don't count on it. Expect a trade at some point.
The Wizards are better off without him.
Time will tell, but I don't believe that this organization has done anything in the past 30 years to warrant trusting them to make the right moves in the draft or through free agency.
In a climate where teams are doing everything in their power to get under the cap and cut costs, even at the expense of wins (See: Phoenix Suns), why would I believe that the Wizards will be able to acquire the right pieces to become any sort of contender?
And for those out there, the blind faithful, who believe that landing one of the big named free agents of the summer of 2010 (LeBron, Wade, Bosh, etc) is even a remote possibility, I feel for you.
Because if you believe that, then the next five, ten, maybe twenty years are going to be very eye-opening and difficult for you.
This is a franchise that has lacked competence. It has lacked a winning mentality. It has lacked fiscal responsibility. And now, after its best stretch since the late 70's, it will lack wins and talent for many, many years to come.
But at least Gilbert Arenas is gone, right?
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