John Mitchell has covered the Washington NBA franchise for a long time now. He used to work the team’s beat for the Washington Times and in the present day can often be found writing about league matters, and the Wizards, on NBA.com. Mitchell lives in the area and attended many games this past season.
More recently, Mitchell wrote an in-depth piece, “Why the Washington Wizards will axe Arenas,” for The Grio.com.
According to one source with intimate knowledge of the team’s plans, the Wizards front office, headed up by President Ernie Grunfeld, doesn’t want Arenas – released earlier this month from a Washington DC halfway house after serving 30 days for a felony gun conviction – anywhere near Wall, whom the team has already decided it will select with the top pick in the June draft. After Arenas was convicted Grunfeld traded away four starters.
One source tagged Arenas as “the reason why a core of players that reached the playoffs” on multiple occasions had to be broken up, “and it was entirely due to what he did. He poisoned the team. He is a cancer.”
Mitchell then implores readers not to be fooled by Ernie Grunfeld speaking positively about Arenas.
Don’t be fooled by this. Grunfeld will continue to speak highly of Arenas because as a rule no general manager speaks negatively about a player he is trying to move for fear of looking as though he is about to conduct a fire sale.
Grunfeld is known for playing his cards real close, barely short of wearing a turtle-neck, dark glasses and a hooded sweatshirt at the poker table. On the other hand, Ernie could be playing nice because he knows he might be stuck with Gilbert. Either way you want to chop it, it’s probably a good idea that Grunfeld didn’t publicly read the riot act to Gilbert.
Grunfeld continued to support Arenas even though there were multiple reports that the relationship between the two had deteriorated beyond repair. Back in January, Sports Illustrated reported that “league sources said Grunfeld was shopping Arenas before the December incident. And Arenas has told confidants that he has no desire to play for Washington again. His relationship with Grunfeld, which was once considered one of the strongest player-executive relationships in the NBA, has eroded to the point that the two have barely spoken over the last two months.”
Yes, I too have found it curious that in his past couple public appearances, Grunfeld has continued to admit that he has not spoken directly with Arenas. Seems like something two grown men would have done already.
Has water started to slowly flow under the bridge during this hiatus? Or is Grunfeld letting the distress of Gun-Gate boil over to the point where he can only release his steam by showing Arenas the door, no matter the cost?
Either way, early reports that Arenas felt he was “done wrong” by Grunfeld and the franchise would seemingly indicate little understanding and remorse from the player. So it’s imaginable that Arenas might have crossed a point of no return with Ernie, especially if he did not properly apologize. But if a manager doesn’t reach out to his employee, he might not be managing very well.
Mitchell paints a picture that could be getting a little too personal within the franchise. And that may be justified. With Arenas’ antics, jobs were on the line … mainly because Gil, but also because the flaws of the enablers and the poor way in which the entire situation was handled came more to light.
I’ve expressed why I think a Gilbert Arenas-John Wall combination might work. I’ve expressed faith that Arenas might be able to change for the better. I’ve also criticized Arenas a ton in the past, certainly more than I’ve shed praise upon him (of course, this blog stared in lat 2007 … not very pro-Gilbert times since). So don’t confuse me with an adoring fan blinded by his candid nature or with an Arenas apologist.
If it’s time for him to go, it’s time for him to go. Trust in this decision falls into the hands of new owner Ted Leonsis, a man who says he’s predisposed to liking Arenas, who he also describes as a “sweet kid.”
So put down the phone ringing for Poison Control. Don’t start chemotherapy treatment for the cancer just yet. Arenas’ boarding pass out of town hasn’t been issued. Let Mr. Leonsis sit down with the guy, play video games and do whatever they need to do first.
There’s a lot of substance to Mitchell’s piece. Surely there are many in the Wizards organization who think trading Arenas is a must. Maybe those people are decision makers, maybe they are not.
But whomever is pointing to Arenas being the sole reason why the entire unstable house of cards came crashing down has an agenda. I have no idea what that agenda might be, but throwing out words like “poison” and “cancer” when the franchise is trying to move forward in a positive manner doesn’t jibe with the ‘Business of Happiness’ plan and might not fly for much longer in the future.