Gilbert Arenas' eventful week and what it all means

Obviously, the last couple days have provided far more clues into what Gilbert Arenas' future will be.  The fact that Ernie Grunfeld - long a master of saying nothing with many words - went out and said the team would not look to void Arenas' contract is very significant.  It essentially takes one of the very limited number of options off the table, and considering Arenas' trade value is radioactive right now, you'd think it ensures that Arenas will be back next year.

That said, I'd caution against equating this news to mean the Wizards 100% want him back.  The truth is, they probably didn't have much other choice.

As we've discussed several times before here, the contract void possibility was always a lot less feasible than one would think.  While it's certainly possible to argue that Arenas' actions were a violation of the moral turpitude clause of the standard Uniform Player Contract, the clause itself is vague and it would be fairly easy for someone to argue it.  Also, the fact that the NBA explicitly prohibits a player being punished by both the league and the team for the same crime, except in extenuating circumstances (which, again, is subjective and could be argued) throws a major monkey wrench into the proceedings.  Finally, you have to consider the actual cost (devoting resources into lawyers that argue for you), the opportunity cost (i.e. the amount of time this drags on for, thereby affecting how we shop in free agency) and the residual cost to agents and other players in the future (i.e. the whole "that's the organization that cost someone over $80 million for one dumb mistake), and the whole thing just would have been a headache.  J.A. Adande said it best: voiding the contract would have been "an apparently unwinnable legal play that would only antagonize the player/management dynamic if it failed."

(It's also looking like the lack of jail time would have hurt their case.  The only scribe that said otherwise was noted CBA expert Larry Coon, and he later clarified that it was just his opinion and not one shared by many arbitrators).

So with that off the table, and with a trade an impossibility, the Wizards' options were ... well ... I think you get the point.  A buyout really isn't on the table, according to Marc Stein, simply because there's no way Ted Leonsis cuts a $40 million check (or more).  That means the Wizards' option are to keep him and play him, or keep him and not play him.  There's really not a choice.

The other thing we have to remember is that what Grunfeld says could very well be completely irrelevant.  Later in the press conference, he admitted he's still answering to the Pollins and not to Leonsis.  Leonsis might have a different opinion on what to do with Arenas than Grunfeld does.  Also -- and we can't ignore this -- there's a good chance Grunfeld won't be here in three months.  Leonsis kept George McPhee when he bought the Caps, but that was before Leonsis got a decade's worth of experience in sports management.  There's a good chance he feels comfortable enough to fire Grunfeld and find someone else more up his alley (hello Kevin Pritchard!).  

As for next year, the Wizards can start planning assuming Arenas will be around.  I know there are a lot of you who don't feel like Arenas can ever contribute to a championship-caliber team.  While I understand this, we're still really damn early in the rebuilding process.  Over half of this year's roster probably won't be here next year, and there are major questions about even our most coveted assets (Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee).  We don't know whether we'll get John Wall, Derrick Favors or Wesley Johnson in the draft.  We don't know if Flip Saunders will coach this team in the future.  We don't know who we get in free agency (or, hell, if we get anyone in free agency).  In other words, Arenas isn't coming back to the 2007/08 Wizards; he's coming back to a very, very different environment, one we probably don't fully know yet.  

What we do know is that we've cleared one hurdle in this long journey.  Many, many hurdles still remain.

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