Before a trade even went down, and as legitimate rumors made their infiltration Friday night, I somewhat contemplated the departure of Gilbert Arenas from the Washington Wizards. It was vastly incomplete, but my point was that in D.C., Arenas will be remembered for both good and bad, but mostly for the good.
As the trade became official while I was scrambling to get to the Verizon Center for the Wizards-Heat game on late Saturday afternoon, I spurted off several reactions on Twitter, but I don’t consider them as being anywhere close to complete either. The departure of someone who was so ingrained into modern D.C. basketball culture, much less franchise history, is difficult to contemplate, especially so soon. Surely many, myself included, will digest Arenas’ tenure in Washington plenty in the future … and then regurgitate and digest again.
But until then, below is one digestive attempt I made on the trade after Ernie Grunfeld’s press conference, which was held just over 100 minutes before tip-off. I had the opportunity to write this for ESPN.com’s TrueHoop blog, where you’ll also find a brief analysis of both of Orlando’s blockbuster trades from respective Magic and Suns bloggers in the TrueHoop Network. So, check out what I have to say below and be sure and get the full picture at TrueHoop.
In his news conference regarding the trade, Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld spoke of the opportunity that presented itself. “Opportunities don’t come along that often in the NBA,” Grunfeld said. He later countered with, “People in this league will always want talented players, and Gilbert is a talented player.” That “always” for Arenas was evidently a closing window Grunfeld had to jump through on Dec. 18, almost two months before the NBA’s trade deadline. So why the urgency?
“If you wait too long, something disappears, you might not have anything,” Grunfeld said when asked about the timing of this specific opportunity. The man in charge of rebuilding the Wizards according to Ted Leonsis’ plan earlier claimed that Orlando, “was the first team that aggressively wanted to make some changes.” As you can see, Grunfeld is hard to read. Opportunities evidently don’t always come up for players whose talent people will always want while Orlando was the first team that wanted to do something. Just a tad contradictory, I’d say.
But for Grunfeld, the exchange was all about his personal perfect storm. Moving on past the Gilbert Arenas saga? Check. Save a little money? Check to the tune of at least $24 million. Get a player presumed to be a better fit with John Wall as a stretch four who can open up the court? Check, theoretically.
Unfortunately in Lewis, Grunfeld adds another soft big man to a stable already with plenty to spare in that department (when the announced plan of the team has been to get tougher). He also further maligns a fan base already disenchanted with his seven-year tenure running the basketball operations of the team. Fans hoped for a return to the old Arenas, but seem content that it was time for him to go. But for now, as franchise savior John Wall misses his tenth of only 25 games on the year, only getting a slightly less bad contract for the bad contract of a fan favorite seems harder to sell than a consensus on health care in Congress.