It’s not often you get to commend the Washington Wizards for smart basketball decisions. But by trading away the remaining core of their best players, sabotaging their immediate future and helping their biggest rival become Finals eligible, call me crazy but I kind of like it. I didn’t agree when they gave $111 million to a guy with no agent and one good knee. I didn’t agree when they traded last year’s top five draft pick for a pair of reserves and I hated it when they fired coach Eddie Jordan after 11 games to start last season.
I could always throw in the Kwame Brown thing, but that would be just going for the jugular there. However, I do like what Washington did in last week’s fire sale though. It’s going to be hard seeing ex-Wizards Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison in opposing colors and somewhere in some local barbershop right now, there’s still an angry mob spewing verbal shots at Wizards president Ernie Grunfield.
But, you have to understand the courtesy of the Wizards moves, not the lunacy. Grunfield didn’t just close the book on the Wizards. He paid salute to the long serving members of a steadily sinking ship by offering them first class life preservers out of town. Jamison, Butler, Brendan Haywood and to a lesser extent, DeShawn Stevenson, have been depositing their services to a bank that’s been closed for years now and it’s time for them to cash out.
Through all the disappointing losses, questionable decisions and lackluster attitudes from their teammates, they were the constant. They were the unvarying factors you knew you could count on nightly. You knew Jamison and Haywood would churn out double-doubles game in and game out. You knew Butler would find a straw to chew on and leave his heart out on the floor in the process. And you knew Stevenson would miss about six threes before fanning his face when the seventh dropped in. You knew this!
You respected it, you appreciated it and you still wondered why Washington couldn’t beat the Indianas, Milwaukees and Minnesotas of the league, Gilbert Arenas or no Gilbert Arenas. By shipping Haywood, Butler and Stevenson to Dallas and Jamison to Cleveland, Grunfield basically said: “Thanks for everything guys, sorry it didn’t work out here, now go enjoy the remaining years of your prime playing for contenders.”
It was a classy move by Grunfield and probably the only thing he could do after Arenas tied his hands behind his back. But Arenas isn’t the sole one to blame here. His penchant to emulate Rambo wasn’t the deciding factor that ruined the Wizards season (they were 10-20 and in last place in the Southeast Division at the time). Things were never all that great when Washington’s big three were in their hay day and it was foolish to expect things to get better after three surgeries to Arenas’ knee and another three years on Jamison’s driver license since Arenas went down initially.
Washington’s big three were never going to outlast Boston’s version. Haywood was never going to be able to handle Orlando’s Dwight Howard and Washington was never going to trump the King in Cleveland. So Grunfield blew it up. And although he’s gone on record and committed to Arenas returning next year (hold the phones before you invest your 401 into that), with $80 million remaining on Arenas’ contract, he might not have a choice.
The Wizards and their fans will now look towards newcomers Al Thornton and Josh Howard for inspiration. They’ll cheer for holdovers Andray Blatche, Randy Foye and Mike Miller. And they’ll pray the light comes on for Nick Young and JaVale McGee.
They’ll do all these things while wishing Arenas would get his life together and wishing nothing but the best for their parted players. Because no one around here hates any of the guys that just left town last week. We’ll just follow Grunfield’s gesture and pay homage to those men who produced some fine years of service during their time in Washington. Thanks gentlemen.