Over the last several years, I’ve been lucky enough to have access to the Washington Redskins, and recently I have also begun covering the Capitals. I’ve never tried to attain a media credential for the Wizards, mostly because they suck.
But if I did have a credential, I would use it to track down Gilbert Arenas and tell him one simple sentence – “don’t do it.”
Word on the street is that Arenas, who seemingly a lifetime ago was known as Agent Zero, Hibachi and a relevant basketball player, is planning on making his triumphant return to action this weekend after being sidelined for nearly a year due to a knee injury.
While it’s great to see a player anxious to bounce back from injury, this is quite possibly the worst decision Arenas can make. Doesn’t he know that this year’s Wizards are on the verge of something special?
Had the Wiz not rallied to steal a 95-93 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats at home last night, they would have become the first team in NBA history to go winless in their division for an entire season. Now, they’re 1-14, meaning they’re bad, but not bad enough to be memorable. For the year Washington is currently 17-56, which is the second-worst record in the league (ahead of only Sacramento, who is 15-55). Again, bad, but not enough to actually do any good.
If the Wizards were to finish with the worst record in the NBA, it would increase their chances of landing the number one overall pick, which means they’d be able to draft Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin to help turn things around. But because they’re the Wizards, I don’t even know why I’m getting my hopes up.
When healthy and at their best, Washington is a fundamentally flawed franchise. General manager Ernie Grunfeld is one of the best in the league, but what he’s built in D.C. is a team of jump shooters who either cannot or will not play defense. They can’t score tough baskets when the game is on the line and they give up entirely too many easy buckets to their opposition which means, best-case scenario, they’re good enough to qualify for the playoffs but have zero chance of doing anything once they are there. Teams that can’t score tough points in the paint don’t last long in the postseason, but because the bar was set so low for so long, no one seems to actually acknowledge this.
Without the services of Arenas and center Brendan Haywood this season, the Wizards have been unbearable. Coach Eddie Jordan was fired when the team got off to a slow start and was replaced by some no namer who used to teach a high school gym class or something 20 years ago. The reason no one objected was because folks figured it was a lost season anyways, so bring in someone to pace the sidelines while giving the young kids extended minutes to see who is worth keeping when the band is back together. Instead, Ed Tapscott has decided to make his players “earn their minutes” which is code for “he decided it’d be more fun to lose while playing his veterans over rookies.” I’m sure it makes sense to someone, just not me.
So here’s where we are – the Wizards are awful and yet we have no idea if young guys like Nick Young, Oleksiy Pecherov and JaVale McGee are players you can build a team around. The Wizards are bad enough that no one is coming out to watch them this season, but not bad enough to give them the best chance at the top pick in the draft. With nine games to go, there’s absolutely nothing left to play for.
It’s bad enough that the team re-signed Arenas to a six-year, $111 million deal seeing as he’s played in 13 regular season games over the last two seasons. But to let him come back now and possibly re-injure himself or worse, come back and play well enough to possibly win a game or two for the Wiz down the stretch, is unthinkable. My only hope is he’s so rusty, he remains a non-factor while chucking up ill-advised 20 footers all night long. A player like Griffin is talented enough to help turn this franchise around. Adding him, along with Arenas and Haywood (and a coach people have heard of) to the rotation next season instantly makes this team worth watching again. But if this plays out the way it typically does for Washington, they’ll play just good enough to not get the top spot and have to settle for this year’s version of Kwame Brown instead.
Brian Murphy is an award-winning sportswriter who also goes by the name Homer McFanboy. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.