You have to hand it to Gilbert Arenas: the man knows how to create a 48-hour news cycle out of pretty much nothing. It's now been more than two days since his 10-word throwaway comment to writers (aka non-teammates, the people most affected by a "distraction") about "eventually" moving on from the Wizards (which ohbytheway, he clarified here), and the sports news cycle has already gotten going. You have people speculating about whether Gilbert is depressed, about whether John Wall was drafted simply to replace Arenas and more.
It's also enough to get Michael Wilbon to actually write something about local sports. Normally, due to all his national obligations, Wilbon only pops in to write about something local when there's a really pressing issue. Apparently, 10 words is enough to make something a really pressing issue, so Wilbon filed this column in today's Washington Post.
Wilbon's earth-shattering revelation? The Wizards should trade Gilbert Arenas.
I believe Arenas can be a productive player in the NBA again . . . just not here in Washington.
Team owner Ted Leonsis and President Ernie Grunfeld should continue doing what they're doing, saying nice things about Arenas and how they want him here . . . all the while trying to trade him to anybody that will take him.
Because it's Wilbon, the column will be consumed by many and seen as the kind of thing that causes a sea change in Arenas' public perception. Indeed, already one TV host has called his take "spot on." And I suppose he's not wrong, per se, because surely Arenas' contract and history is not something a franchise wants associated with their rebuilding team in a perfect world. I'm one of Arenas' biggest backers, and even I know that.
But at the same time, this isn't particularly insightful. Wilbon's basic point is that the Wizards should trade Arenas as soon as possible, but he's reached that conclusion far later than the people that matter. The organization already realizes that they probably need to trade Gilbert Arenas. The only people whose minds have changed based on one week of this silliness are ones who were too naive to realize this.
It's one thing to want to trade Arenas; it's another to actually do it. The real issue now is that nobody wants Arenas, not that the organization is insistent on keeping him around. Wilbon compares this situation to the Juwan Howard one in 2001, when the Wizards somehow found a taker for Howard's massive contract. But Howard had only two more years left on his huge deal at the time; Arenas has three after this year. Howard was also traded in midseason, and didn't have a felony gun charge hanging on his head. He also didn't get traded with a lockout that promises to bring smaller player salaries looming, and had at least managed to stay healthy in the three years prior to being dealt.
There's simply not a general manager alive -- current or retired -- that is willing to trade for Gilbert Arenas right now. To shrug this aside is to incite a firestorm for no good reason (which, to be fair, a lot of columnists like to do anyway). Wilbon suggests the Wizards should trade Arenas for 50 cents on the dollar. Right now, no team is willing to offer even half a penny on the dollar.
So the only choice is to play Arenas, deal with all these mini-distractions-that-aren't-really-distractions, and hope he builds his value up enough to find a taker. It's kind of ridiculous when Brendan Haywood of all people has the best take on this.
"If you look at it, he's probably the most untradeable player on the team. If he's playing well and playing up to the level that we all know he can, management is not going to want to trade him. If he's not playing well, who's going to trade for him? You got the knee issue. You got the gun issue and then you got the amount that he's making. He's got a very hard contract to trade. But it doesn't shock me that he's still there. I think it makes sense that he's still there."
No disrespect to Haywood, but as an athlete that plays for another team, he shouldn't have more perspective and nuance that some of the best writers in the country.