Sunday, June 10, 2007

No Need to Panic About Gil

So I'm sure you all have seen the news that Gilbert Arenas has made it official that he will be opting out of his deal after next season. I was a little distressed at first until I came to this realization: If this is really a financial decision for him, there's just no way Gilbert leaves town. The Wizards will offer him max money for three simple reasons:

1) He's pretty much improved every season he's been in the league to the point that he is probably the third-best player in the Eastern Conference (behind Bron Bron and a healthy D Wade). You really aren't going to find another player that will be as good as Gil right now. Remember that stretch in December/January; there was no better player in the entire league than Gil for a good 3-4 week stretch.

2) Yes, the team lost in the first round for a second consecutive season, but let's be honest with ourselves here...this team had Eastern Conference finalist written all over it before injuries ruined them. The Wiz kids were leading the East and had just finished beating the Pistons twice in five days when Antawn went down in January. The nucleus was never fully in tact the rest of the way.

3) Gil is a cultural icon in Washington, D.C these days. The city hasn't embraced a player like him since Sam Huff was warming up the diesel every time Riggins got a carry. Seriously, the man is beloved more so than any other person in DC.

I'm pretty sure we're going to be seeing more shots like this from Gilbert in a Wizards jersey.

Here's the tricky part though: Gilbert said before he actually didn't want max money because he thought it would hamstring the team. Obviously, now he has gone back on his word. And as I sat in a hookah bar here in NYC at about 530am, Randy brought up the point that he just doesn't see Gilbert being the best player on a championship team. He said that Gilbert would have to be second fiddle to win a title.

Do I agree with this? Sort of. The way the Wizards play right now, yes, there's no way they beat any of the current Western Conference powers in a seven-game series. But say Gilbert decides to become a complete player and actually put 100 percent into the defensive end...I really think the sky is the limit for him if that happens.

The bottom line is that Ernie Grunfeld is just way too smart of a GM not to sign Gilbert after next season. Plus, Gil's desire to make max money will only motivate him to come out on all cylinders following the injury at the end of this past season. I really just don't see him leaving the Wizards unless he takes less money elsewhere and this really isn't a financial decision.

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