Picking the right conflict

With all due respect to the dueling centers, there's really only one personality conflict that matters on this team: that between Gilbert Arenas and Eddie Jordan.  That issue, in turn, directly affects the relationship between Eddie Jordan and Ernie Grunfeld, and if you catch my drift, that means the major question this year is how patient will Ernie be with Eddie Jordan this year.

Perhaps I was naive to think that this was a big deal at all.  After all, didn't Arenas lobby for an extension for Eddie just one offseason ago?  And while his anti-Eddie tirade after the Portland loss was disconcerting, it seemed to me that Arenas was merely venting about an incredibly frustrating game.  

Apparently, there's a hell of a lot more to the Gilbert Arenas/Eddie Jordan tension than we ever imagined, says Mike Wise.

Unbeknownst to many, Gilbert Arenas had a lot of anger stored up against Jordan, whom he felt contributed mightily to his knee injury last season by not starting Arenas in the game in which he was hurt. The more he confided in people about his resentment, it sounded like the recipe for a season gone awry.

When a team's coach and his best player don't have a decent relationship in the NBA, losses, trades and firings usually follow. There was even recent talk that Arenas might publicly go after Jordan on media day.

When I asked Arenas about this in mid-September, though, he backed off.

"I was mad about that for a good two or three months," he said. "But I had the summer to think about it and now I realize stuff happens. If you asked me three months ago, then I'd have said, 'Yeah.' But naw, it's bigger than that."

No big deal, right?  Combine Gilbertology with the start of a fresh season, and all is well.

Not so fast.  Color me unconvinced by this Gilbert comment.

"Everyone always thinks you get rid of a coach or you go to another team and the grass is goin' to be greener," Arenas said. "But we lost two players to free agency, Larry Hughes and Jared Jeffries. And they're both miserable where they are. You might have feelings where you're angry at each other but you need to move past that.

"Say you get rid of him," he added. "And then we bring in a coach nobody likes. We're practicing five hours a day. He slows the ball down. Well then it's, 'Get rid of this coach.' If it's a good fit, it's a good fit. And I still think it's a good fit."

Reading between the lines, it seems like Gilbert is saying, essentially, that Eddie Jordan is "good enough" for him.  He's willing to forgive and give this thing another try, but mostly because there isn't a better option out there.  

The thing is, I think that's an accurate portrayal of Eddie Jordan, and it's one that I think Ernie Grunfeld shares.  He'll do for now, until we find someone better.

The problem is that it's one thing for someone like me, you, or Ernie Grunfeld to think that way.  It's entirely another thing for one of Eddie Jordan's own players -- nay, his star player -- to think that way.  Gilbert likes to say that he can't be a leader unless he's a veteran, but like it or not, his style defines the team's, if only because so many posessions are built around him.  The team's biggest problem is that they don't dedicate themselves defensively, and while we can debate Arenas' specific role in that problem, the fact of the matter is that he's one of the major culprits.  If the Wizards are going to actually pay more attention in games on defense, they're probably going to need Gilbert to lead the way.  

Even though Eddie is an offensive mind, you can bet that he's making defense the number one priority.  But if Arenas still harbors some resentment to Eddie for whatever reason, then how much will he digest from Eddie?  How much attention will he actually pay to playing better defense.  Oh sure, he can talk about it, but it was all talk last year, and it will certainly be all talk this year if he's not on board with Eddie as a coach.

The best way for this team to solve it's problem is if the players are on board.  Wise's column and Arenas' comments seem to tell me that the tensions that helped sabotage last season still exist somewhere, and it's only a matter of time until they come to the surface.  

And that's very, very concerning to me.  

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