Tag:Washington Wizards
Posted on: March 26, 2010 8:07 pm

Arenas: What's Next?

Gilbert Arenas receiving a lenient sentence Friday that includes no jail time had little bearing on his future in the NBA. That aspect of his sad fall from grace isn't any clearer than it was two months ago, when NBA commissioner David Stern suspended him for the rest of the season.

Since then, the Wizards have almost entirely divorced themselves from Arenas. They've also traded the core players they expected Arenas would lead to the playoffs this season. With Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood went tens of millions in future payroll commitments. GM Ernie Grunfeld and assistant Tommy Sheppard responded swiftly and drastically to this franchise-shaping event, getting the Wizards under the luxury tax and putting the pieces in place for an all-out rebuilding.

The problem is, the Wizards have a team built for rebuilding with a franchise player, Arenas, on the books for $81 million over the next four years. And the chasm of distrust between Arenas and some elements of management did not shrink in the least with Friday's sentencing news.

Arenas' attorneys compiled a 221-page sentencing memorandum with dozens of character reference letters -- some of them quite moving. Yet the most significant aspect of the document was the glaring absence of a letter from a single member of the Wizards' basketball operations staff.

Not every decision maker in the Wizards' organization wants to move on without him, so the team's lack of participation in trying to minimize Arenas' sentence was critical. If the Wizards considered Arenas a key piece of their future, wouldn't they pull out all the stops to encourage leniency?

That is where basketball sense collides with legal protocol. If the Wizards take the expected step of investigating whether they can void Arenas' contract over the incident, then the organization's absence from the sentencing memorandum makes perfect sense. Legal sense.

Legal and basketball observers believe that voiding Arenas' contract is a long shot at best; the collective bargaining agreement is quite clear that players cannot face punishment from the league and from their team for the same offense. But that doesn't mean the Wizards can't try. And how duplicitous would it look to take that step after submitting a character reference letter to a judge?

So the next move belongs to the Wizards, and it's complicated by the fact that ownership of the team soon will be transferred from the family of late owner Abe Pollin to Ted Leonsis, with the franchise being valued at $550 million. Will the new ownership group make front office changes, holding Grunfeld accountable for the catastrophic impact of Arenas' foolishness? Nobody knows.

Whomever is in charge will have to weigh a lengthy arbitration process if they go the route of voiding Arenas' deal vs. the more expedient route of trying to trade him. There's a tendency to overreact in situations like this -- though there's never really been a situation like this -- and presume that Arenas' contract is untradable. Just look up the list of overpaid malcontents who've been traded in this league. No contract is untradeable.

Would a team that strikes out in its pursuit of 2010 free agents want to take a chance on Arenas, who is only 28 and will be determined to use his basketball and personal gifts to do some good?

The Wizards' statement after Arenas' sentencing Friday made reference to "closure" and said the team "looks forward to moving on and focusing on building this team into the contender that our outstanding fans deserve.” Moving on with or without Arenas? That is the biggest question that still needs to be answered.
Posted on: March 1, 2010 11:45 am

Shaq out 8 weeks; not a deal-breaker for Cavs

The Cavaliers confirmed Monday that Shaquille O'Neal will miss about eight weeks after undergoing thumb surgery. Despite the fact that Cleveland has gone from having two 7-footers to none in the past two weeks, this isn't a devastating blow to the Cavs' championship hopes.

While the Cavs were playing well with Shaq -- 12-3 from Jan. 16 until he got hurt last Thursday night in Boston -- they never needed him for the regular season. From the beginning, Shaq was strictly a postseason asset -- specifically, an asset big and bad enough to play mind games with Dwight Howard and get in his way just enough for Cleveland to beat the Magic in a seven-game series this time around.

Eight weeks from today is April 26 -- near the end of the first round, or (more likely) in the midst of a second-round playoff series. That will give Shaq enough time to get his tree-like legs back under him before Howard is posting him up in the playoffs. Maybe while he's rehabbing his thumb, Shaq could adopt Ron Artest's fish-and-veggie diet and drop a few LBs before he returns.

From now until the rest of the regular season, Shaq's absence will allow the Cavs to concentrate on getting Antawn Jamison acclimated to their offense. More importantly, it will give the Cavs a chance to play a little more freely, with better spacing, and at a quicker pace. They won't be a running team as they get deeper into the playoffs, but pushing the ball without Shaq down the stretch will only help them for the postseason stints when they'll need to play smaller lineups.

In the meantime, Cleveland will get back one of its 7-footers, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, once the 30-day waiting period expires following his trade to the Wizards. If Lakers coach Phil Jackson thought that was a "sham" before Shaq got hurt, imagine what the Zen Master thinks now.

Posted on: February 13, 2010 3:11 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2010 8:02 pm

Kidd: Butler trade not the only answer

DALLAS -- Jason Kidd likes the trade that would fortify the Mavericks' title hopes, bringing Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson from Washington for Josh Howard, Drew Gooden, James Singleton and Quinton Ross. But Kidd, an All-Star point guard, said Saturday it's not all the Mavs need to get back on track.

"It could put us right there with the best, but at the end of the day you've still got to play the games," Kidd said on the practice court during All-Star weekend. "So on paper, it doesn't win you a championship. The big thing for us is we got to turn it around because we haven't been playing well as a team anyway. First off, we got to start winning no matter if there's a trade or not."

Butler, having a horrendous year in Washington, would give the Mavs the scoring threat that Howard was unable to deliver -- assuming the change of scenery will restore Butler to his former All-Star level. But the key to the deal could be Haywood, whose shot-blocking and post defense could help solve the problem that had Dallas limping into the All-Star break.

The Mavs went into the break with five losses in seven games, prompting owner Mark Cuban to declare, "We suck right now." The problem has been defense, particularly on the perimeter. Dallas went into the break having allowed 100 points or more in eight consecutive games. According to adjusted plus/minus guru Wayne Winston -- who for nine years headed the Mavs' quantitative analysis team -- Kidd, Jason Terry and J.J. Barea were the worst culprits. With Haywood protecting the basket, all of them should improve.

Posted on: February 12, 2010 5:56 pm
Edited on: February 12, 2010 7:50 pm

Butler-to-Mavs 'looks like it will go through'

DALLAS -- After weeks of discussions, taking the Wizards through various trade proposals that would put them on the path to rebuilding, Washington has revived a deal that would send Caron Butler to the Mavericks as part of a package that includes Josh Howard going to the Wizards, CBSSpports.com has learned.

The deal "looks like it will go through," according to a person with direct knowledge of the discussions. The Butler-for-Howard scenario was revived in the past 48 hours after Dallas owner Mark Cuban initially balked at the idea, the source said. The discussions, described as "lively and serious" by one person involved, expanded to include Brendan Haywood going to Dallas along with DeShawn Stevenson, with Drew Gooden heading to the Wizards, sources said.

The Wizards were deeply involved in discussions with Boston that would've sent Butler and Haywood to the Celtics for Ray Allen, but that deal apparently died for a combination of reasons. The Wizards were reluctant to include Antawn Jamison in the swap, and the Celtics were concerned about taking on large contracts as they try to position themselves to remain a threat down the stretch and also to improve in future seasons.

Barring a snag, Butler would add to the Mavs' offensive potency -- assuming he will return to his previous All-Star level with a change of scenery. But the deal also will add $14.8 million to the Mavs' 2010-11 payroll -- the price Cuban was willing to pay to make a championship run this season.

Howard was virtually a lock to be traded before the Feb. 18 deadline because he's unhappy with his role and has a team option for next season at $11.8 million. The deal has the potential to save the Wizards nearly $15 million in 2010-11 cap space if they decide not to pick up Howard's option.

Posted on: January 27, 2010 12:11 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2010 6:46 pm

Arenas suspended for rest of season (UPDATE)

NEW YORK -- Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton, whose dispute involving guns on NBA property plunged the league into another image crisis, were both suspended for the rest of the 2009-10 season Wednesday.

NBA commissioner David Stern announced the suspensions in a strongly worded news release after meeting with Arenas at the NBA offices for a little more than an hour. Then, he blistered both players on a national media conference call, saying he's "simply not going to tolerate" guns on NBA property.

"We mean what we say when we say that guns are prohibited from being in our buildings or on team business," Stern said. "And when you violate that prohibition, you will be dealt with harshly."

Crittenton, the other party in the Dec. 21 argument at Verizon Center in Washington, met with Stern Tuesday. Both players have pleaded guilty to gun charges as a result of the incident.

“This is about the health and safety of our players – all players, as well as the overall image of our players," Stern said.

Sources told CBSSports.com that Arenas agreed not to appeal the suspension as a way to avoid a potentially longer sentence of a full 82 games, which would have stretched into next season. Stern denied there was any such agreement. Arenas, 28, a three-time All-Star and one of the most flamboyant performers in the league, will lose more than $7 million in salary and still faces possible discipline from the Wizards.

The Washington Post first reported the agreement between Stern and Arenas, who was accompanied in the meeting with Stern by his criminal defense attorney, Ken Wainstein, but not by any representatives from the players association.

Stern negotiated the suspension details with Billy Hunter, the executive director of the players association, over the past several days, but the collective bargaining agreement gave him sole discretion to deliver a suspension of any length under Article 35(d) of the NBA Constitution. The two also discussed strengthening the league's gun policy during negotiations on a new CBA, which are expected to begin in earnest during All-Star weekend in Dallas Feb. 12-14.

"We’re going to make, I would guess, an even stronger statement on the subject than is being made with the penalties being announced," Stern said.

Arenas arrived in New York shortly after 11 a.m. and went straight to the NBA offices on Fifth Avenue, where Stern had been waiting to speak with him before rendering his decision. According to a source, it was the first time Arenas had spoken with league officials about the Dec. 21 dispute.

Crittenton pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor gun charge stemming from the argument. Arenas previously pleaded guilty to a felony charge of carrying a pistol without a license and will be sentenced March 26.

Stern acknowledged that his decision to suspend Arenas indefinitely on Jan. 7 was a direct result of his conduct in the wake of the firearms investigation, which was first reported by CBSSports.com on Dec. 24. In the days after details of the incident became public, Arenas took to his Twitter page with wild, rambling statements and stated publicly in locker-room interviews that he'd done nothing wrong. His career careened out of control on Jan. 5, when in the pre-game huddle in Philadelphia he pantomimed shooting his teammates with finger guns. That, Stern said, was the last straw.

"I felt that I should do something to keep Gilbert from doing even further damage to himself," Stern said.

If Arenas accepts the suspension without appeal, he will miss 48 games -- the third-longest non-drug related suspension in NBA history, following Ron Artest (73) and Latrell Sprewell (68). Under provisions that call for him to forfeit 1/110th of his $16.2 million salary, Arenas' lost income will be $7,065,634.

Stern said he has not personally counseled the Wizards on whether or how it might be possible to void Arenas' contract, which has four years and $81 million remaining after this season -- though he acknowledged that such conversations would take place among attorneys for the parties involved.

The Wizards have taken no official steps indicating their intention to void Arenas' contract, which would be a tall order. Language in the CBA protects players from being punished by the league and the team for the same offense, except under "egregious" circumstances. Stern reiterated Wednesday that the league suspensions are "irrespective of any action the team might take."

"You’ll have to ask a lawyer," Stern said. "I'm just the commissioner. And I'm sure if you ask 10 lawyers, you’d get 10 different descriptions. That’s how those guys are. So I don’t want to practice law on this phone call other than to say the team is a separate issue."

The Wizards issued a statement saying the players "violated the trust of our fans," and that their "poor judgment ... stands in contrast to everything Abe Pollin stood for throughout his life."

Arenas, whose relationship with most members of the Wizards' hierarchy is fractured, has told confidants that he believes he's finished in Washington.

One legal fight that Arenas may have avoided is a potential grievance over his suspension. If he compels the players' association not to appeal, there will be no need for an arbitrator to rule on whether Arenas bringing guns to the Verizon Center locker room constituted an on-court or off-court offense. Suspensions in excess of 12 games for on-court offenses can be appealed to a grievance arbitrator; for all other matters, Stern is the arbitrator.

And he spoke Wednesday, loud and clear. 

Posted on: April 14, 2009 10:39 am

Can Saunders flip Gilbert's switch?

The scenery and roster will be different, but the task for Flip Saunders will be the same: Get his veteran players to like him -- or if not like him, at least play for him.

This is just my opinion, but I think Saunders was the right choice for the Washington Wizards. Unlike Detroit, where he was prematurely canned amid a locker-room revolt, Washington has a stable locker room and a core of veterans eager to reach their potential. With Saunders in charge, the message is clear: The Wizards' future is on the players.

Saunders won't have an erratic Rasheed Wallace to contend with in D.C. But he will have an even more talented, in some ways even more enigmatic star he must rein in. Everything revolves around Gilbert Arenas, and now everything revolves around Saunders' ability to get the most out of him.

It won't be easy, but I think Saunders has a fighting chance.

The Wizards' approach to seeking a permanent replacement for interim coach Ed Tapscott was clear. Though they have young players like JaVale McGee who need nurturing, the Wizards are going nowhere without their veteran core of Arenas, Caron Butler, and Antawn Jamison responding to the new coach. Most of it is on Arenas, because it is always on the superstar in the NBA. The Wizards' front office was adamant that a strong-willed, playoff-tested, experienced coach was needed to coax this roster back to the postseason. Saunders, with his impressive playoff resume, fits that description perfectly.

But what does he do with Gilbert? Is Arenas committed to returning to his previous status as one of the most dangerous and determined scorers in the league? Or has the $111 million the Wizards bestowed on him before last season stolen his edge? By focusing on Saunders, the Wizards sent a powerful message that they believe the former is true. The fact that Arenas agreed to take less than the maximum extension is all the proof the Wizards' brass needed.

According to a person close to Arenas, he is determined not to go down as the guy who got the $100-plus million extension and never won anything. He is on board, and when his health returns -- presumably next season -- Arenas will be more focused on being No. 0 than Agent Zero. For Saunders, this kind of challenge comes with the territory. So does hoping that his superstar will play like one.




Posted on: April 12, 2009 9:32 am

Saunders tops Wizards' list

Flip Saunders is at the top of the Washington Wizards' list of candidates to succeed interim coach Ed Tapscott, a strong signal that the organization believes it can quickly return to contention with Gilbert Arenas healthy for a full season, two people with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com.

While one of the people cautioned that there is no deal in place, predicting a frenzied pursuit of Saunders' services once the regular season ends Wednesday, it is clear that the former Timberwolves and Pistons coach is the Wizards' No. 1 candidate. The organization believes it must move quickly upon the conclusion of the regular season to avoid a bidding war over Saunders, 54, who has a stellar playoff resume that fits the Wizards' requirements for a roster they believe needs a steady, experienced hand.

Some factors have come together to aid Washington's pursuit of Saunders; interim coaches like Tony DiLeo (Philadelphia), Scott Brooks (Oklahoma City) and Jay Triano (Toronto) now seem likely to keep their jobs, thus shrinking the job market for marquee names like Saunders, Eddie Jordan, and Avery Johnson. Cash-strapped teams also may be more inclined to go with Jordan or Johnson because their former teams, Washington and Dallas, respectively, are still paying them next season. It's a chance to get a top-flight coach without paying full price.

Two factors clouding Saunders' future are the uncertain coaching situations in Minnesota and New Jersey. Kevin McHale is expected to return to the bench for the Timberwolves next season, but it's not a certainty, one person familiar with the situation said. And mixed signals have been floated in New Jersey about Lawrence Frank's job security. On one hand, it would make sense for the cash-strapped Nets to let Frank start the final year on his contract and fire him if the Nets get off to a poor start; they have experienced assistant Brian Hill on the bench. If the Nets let Frank go after this season, they wouldn't be a viable candidate to land Saunders. But the more openings there are, the more leverage a coach of Saunders' stature would have.

One way or another, the Wizards will know very quickly after the regular season ends Wednesday if they will get their guy.





Category: NBA
Posted on: January 5, 2009 11:31 am
Edited on: January 5, 2009 8:57 pm

LeBron's 'crab dribble,' a.k.a traveling (UPDATE)

Scoured the internet for video of the controversial traveling call against LeBron James in the final seconds of Cleveland's 80-77 loss to the Wizards. This is the best look I came up with. The clip is a little grainy, but if you watch the slow-motion replay, you can decide for yourself: was it a walk or not?

LeBron calls it the "crab dribble," one of his trademark moves. In this case, he drives to his left and picks up his dribble with his right foot planted. Then he steps through with his left foot and takes a third step with his right on his way to a driving layup that was waved off. LeBron's argument is that it's similar to a hop-step, but in this case it appears clear that he picked up his dribble before making the 1-2 step to the hoop. My take is that if LeBron had picked up his dribble after landing on his right foot, it would've been a legal play. But he didn't. My other take is that, the line between traveling and a legal drive with this move is so razor-thin that it's almost impossible for an official to call in real time. So either LeBron is going to have to refine his move or the Cavs are going to have to do some serious lobbying with the officials. If you're the Cavs, you would hate for this call to be made in the final seconds of a Game 7 against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.

UPDATE: Some rather humorous stuff here featuring the Wizards poking fun at LeBron for his crab dribble. The Wizards talk a lot for a team that is 7-25.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com