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Kelly Dwyer

Gilbert Arenas breaking the bank?

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Mind you, any possible objections I might have to the Wizards giving Gilbert Arenas a giant contract have little to do with Gil the player. Arenas could stand to shoot a little less and penetrate/dish more, but his contributions win games. Washington's ability to circle the wagons without Arenas last year had more to do with Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison sustaining career-best seasons than it did Arenas' absence.

But, as reported, six years and $100 million? Or, possibly, $124 million? That gets a little scary.

For one thing, Arenas isn't worth it. For a few reasons:

*No basketball player should be worth that much. Got that one out of the way before you can get on your high horse about schoolteachers and the like.

*Where is Arenas going to find half that on the open market?

*Where, exactly, is Gilbert going to sign for maybe a third of that with another team on the open free agent market?

And ... I've repeated myself. No matter, because it deserved the echo. Only the Philadelphia 76ers and Memphis Grizzlies have significant cap space this summer, and the Sixers are no doubt going to use a good chunk of theirs trying to re-sign Andre Iguodala.

It's doubtful Arenas wants anything to do with a rebuilding effort in Memphis, while the Grizz probably don't want to pay a player in his prime while the youngsters are still years away. And certainly without Arenas' potential clone - O.J. Mayo - already on board making maybe $4 million a year.

So that leaves the Wizards to bid against themselves. Sure, there could be a sign and trade, but base-year compensation complications rear their ugly head if Gilbert's first-year raise is too significant, and what big contract (because the contracts have to match in a trade) would Washington take back in return? Who would they want?

If the reports are correct, then the Wizards are essentially at the salary-cap limit after Arenas' contract hits and before signing their first round rookie to a contract, or re-signing Antawn Jamison. Give Jamison $10 million a year, and the team is capped out for a long time, at least until 2011.

With no high draft picks, no cap space, no good trading chips, and an average age in the late 20s, it's hard to see this squad going anywhere beyond the second round of the playoffs. Sure, next season could surprise if the team is healthy, mainly because these guys are in their prime (Jamison a bit after it, Arenas a bit before it, Caron Butler right in the middle), but even that might be a reach. I don't see much of a ceiling.

What do you see?

UPDATE: As expected, Jamison and the Wizards have agreed to a 4-year, $50 million deal. Washington will be paying Antawn Jamison an average of $12.5 million a season until he's 36. Sigh. You don't need to pay these guys this much, they're swell guys and very good basketball players, but Washington has just crippled its future flexibility in order to preserve an above-average basketball team.

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