It's almost funny to think that five years ago Gilbert Arenas(notes) was a rising star in the NBA. Coming off his first All-Star season at age 23, Arenas was the face of the Wizards, a team that a lot of people thought had a shot at becoming one of the Eastern Conference's elite. Three years later, he'd be a part of a bidding war between the Wizards and Warriors, before eventually settling on a $111 million contract with Washington.
Of course, since signing that huge contract, Arenas has played 34 of a possible 164 games between his recurring knee injuries and that whole "Choose One" episode in the Wizards' locker room. That's why, according to former Washington Times reporter John Mitchell, Arenas is on his way out.
According to one source with intimate knowledge of the team's plans, the Wizards front office, headed 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 [John] 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."
The Wizards' options include trying to trade Arenas, who has four years and more than $80 million in salary remaining on his contract. But that is not the only option. According to a source the team will "definitely consider buying out" Arenas' contract.
Sure, this is just a single report, and as noted in the piece, the Wizards publicly stand in opposition to everything that's being said here. However, if a team is trying to shed some of its baggage and establish a new identity, getting rid of the guy most closely associated with a bygone era makes sense, especially considering the rest of the team was blown up earlier in the year.
That being said, as Kyle Weidie of the suberb Washington Wizards blog Truth About It says, "whomever is pointing to Arenas being the sole reason why the entire unstable house of cards came crashing down has an agenda." Since Arenas went from face of the franchise, super fun times all the time, No. 1 Wizard to "cancer" and "poison" in two years, I'd say that's probably true too. However, moving Arenas' contract while clearing the way for John Wall is a pretty big win for Washington.
It should be interesting to see how this plays out, though I'd think moving Arenas is a win-win-win situation. Some team gets a talented guard who will be driven to show the Wizards they made a mistake. Arenas gets a chance to prove he wasn't the problem. Washington has a bad contract off its books and a rookie point guard who is going to be great. Sounds reasonable to me.