There are few buzzwords that annoy me more in sports than "flexibility." Taken literally, it means providing yourselves, as a sports team, the chance to improve your roster later on even while following the parameters of the salary cap. Taken figuratively, it can be a cynic's way of attacking a team. Having lots of flexibility could be another way of saying a team never takes a chance to improve its roster. Having no flexibility could be another way of saying a team is stuck being mediocre with no prospect of improving.
We've heard the latter criticism with the Wizards since the day Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison re-signed. We're now hearing a lot about how the Wizards have "created" flexibility by trading some deadweight, along with the fifth pick, for Randy Foye and Mike Miller. It's enough to make me be the first kind of cynic even though I've spent the past year shooting down the second kind of cynics. The fair question to ask here is, what does the "flexibility" gained from the Foye/Miller trade (as well as selling the second-round pick for 2.5 million) actually do to help us long-term? It's true, we now have more money to re-sign Brendan Haywood, but that just keeps the status quo when we should get better.
However, there's one angle that hasn't been considered, one that doclinkin hinted at a bit in the last thread but never came out and said.
What if the Wizards really can't pay a large luxury tax bill this year, but will be more capable next year? Doesn't that flexibility in the form of better expiring contracts and incremental talent improvement make a major difference if that is the case?
What am I trying to say here? Let's be honest, last year was not a very good year for the Wizards' bottom line. For the third straight year, the Wizards' average home attendance dropped. The Wizards drew just 16,612 fans per game last year, good for 21st in the league. That's over 2,000 fans lower than the Wizards had two years ago, when Gilbert Arenas was last healthy. Those numbers are also just the number of tickets that were sold, and doesn't include the myriad tickets that were bought even though the buyer never showed up to the game. I think it's also pretty safe to say that endorsement sales were way down last year. In addition, while Abe Pollin reportedly didn't lose too much from the economy tanking, it's a pretty good guess that Abe's personal wealth has been in better shape before.
In light of all that, it may not be the best time for the Wizards to charge zillions of dollars over the luxury tax. However, a new year, hopefully with a new clean bill of health, brings a lot of money in. Attendance will go up. Endorsement sales will go back to their normal levels, particularly
if when Gilbert Arenas returns to take the NBA by storm. Home playoff games, hopefully for more than just one round, will result. More money will come in. More windfall for making the big move to go over the tax will result.
The great news there is that, with our recent moves, we're pretty well-positioned to take on more salary when we can. Our recent trade for Randy Foye and Mike Miller brought in two expiring contracts with much more value than the ones that were swapped out. We're still possessing some very promising youngsters, only now it's with more expiring deals with better players attached to them. Then, in the offseason, perhaps the organization will pay whatever necessary to keep Brendan Haywood and whoever remains of Foye/Miller, even if it means going way over the tax to do it.
It's a silver lining of sorts. The Wizards still missed an opportunity to make a major move for long-term salary when several players were available for peanuts on draft day. They still need to make a move to unbalance their roster, and they still made a terribly stupid decision to sell a pick that could have been DeJuan Blair.
But at the very least, they have some roster and payroll "flexibility" that actually means something.