If all the latest reports are to be believed, it might be a matter of hours before Gilbert Arenas gets the fat new contract he's been seeking since last summer. Ivan Carter (first link) says he expects the Wizards to be "aggressive" with Arenas, and Mike Jones (second link) has been told that "the Wizards realize it's important to present a handsome offer to Agent Zero right off the bat."
Alright, I'm prepared. I just have one question.
What's the rush?
Now, I think everyone here knows my position on Arenas is that the idea that the Wizards are better without him is pure baloney (as opposed to...unpure baloney? What was I thinking here?). Losing him for nothing or sign-and-trading him are situations I'd like to avoid hearing about. My feeling, as a fan, is that it'll absolutely suck if Gilbert Arenas is playing for someone else next season.
Still, let's be honest here. Gilbert wants at least 100 million dollars over the next six years and reportedly won't settle for less than 15 million in the first year of the deal, but is asking for this with very little negotiating strength. As the esteemed Kelly Dwyer reminds us, the market simply isn't there for him.
Where is Arenas going to find half that on the open market?
Where, exactly, is Gilbert going to sign for maybe a third of that with another team on the open free agent market?
And ... I've repeated myself. No matter, because it deserved the echo. Only the Philadelphia 76ers and Memphis Grizzlies have significant cap space this summer, and the Sixers are no doubt going to use a good chunk of theirs trying to re-sign Andre Iguodala.
It's doubtful Arenas wants anything to do with a rebuilding effort in Memphis, while the Grizz probably don't want to pay a player in his prime while the youngsters are still years away. And certainly without Arenas' potential clone - O.J. Mayo - already on board making maybe $4 million a year.
So that leaves the Wizards to bid against themselves. Sure, there could be a sign and trade, but base-year compensation complications rear their ugly head if Gilbert's first-year raise is too significant, and what big contract (because the contracts have to match in a trade) would Washington take back in return? Who would they want?
Long quote, I know. But it really needs to be said. There is nobody out there other than the Wizards who can pay Arenas anywhere near the amount he wants. Literally. Memphis supposedly has around 15 million dollars of cap space this summer, but they don't seem inclined to spend it all. Even if they did, they already have too many point guards and Gilbert wouldn't want to go to a rebuilding effort yet again. Philadelphia, assuming they re-sign Andre Iguodala, probably has about 12 million of cap space, but they also have Andre Miller and Louis Williams under contract at Gilbert's position. Even if those teams did have the necessary cap room, they couldn't offer Arenas as sixth year, as we've mentioned here before.
Gilbert may be crazy, but he's not stupid. He knows there isn't much of a market out there for him. He knows he needs to make his position stronger.
Call me crazy, but something tells me this two-week trip to China at the beginning of free agency is a calculated negotiating ploy. He's forcing Ernie Grunfeld to make a decision, or else he won't be heard from for two weeks.
Before you shoot this down, let me explain myself. If he had an agent, this whole China trip wouldn't matter, because the two sides could still negotiate while Arenas was out selling shoes to young Chinese ballers. But because Gilbert has chosen to represent himself, Ernie must talk to him about any contract matters. From the sounds of it, Gilbert won't be in the mood to talk from China. Ernie is now faced with a choice. Either give Gilbert what he wants in the next nine hours, or wait for two whole weeks before resuming negotiations.
It's brilliant and it only works because Gilbert is nuts. Because he's such a lunatic on and off the court, many of those close to Gilbert actually believe he'd do something crazy if he doesn't get what he wants. Want proof? Think about this Mike Jones anecdote for a second.
He has already proven himself to be a cut-throat negotiator when signing his latest shoe deal. Arenas once recounted the story to me. He wanted $5 million a year, Adidas wanted to give him $3 million. Arenas said, "Fine, I'll go the @%!$# home with my $2.5, wait for the deal to run out and go somewhere else." Adidas' representatives watched Arenas walk and once the deal ran out, he started to talking to other shoe companies until Adidas came back at him with the figure he wanted.
Funny story. It made me laugh for a second. But here's the thing: Gilbert can't talk to other teams like he can talk to other shoe companies. Presumably, every shoe company is allowed to offer Arenas as much as they want to sign him. Gilbert could go to Nike, ask for 5 million, and Nike would be allowed to take up his request if they feel he's worth that much. But it doesn't work like that in the NBA. Gilbert can't just go to the Lakers and ask for a max contract, because the salary cap doesn't permit the Lakers from making that offer. So why is Jones mentioning it? Beats me, but my guess is that, subconsciously, he's making a connection between Gilbert's antics and Gilbert's contract negotiation. Why else do you think Gilbert would have told Jones that story?
Gilbert's banking on Ernie caving to his demands instead of dealing with a drawn-out situation, but Ernie can still call Gilbert's bluff. Nothing is going to change in two weeks. If anything, things will look worse for Gilbert. Memphis and Philly may have used that cap room already. Sign-and-trade opportunities may have dwindled as teams sign new free agents. If Gilbert still doesn't get what he wants after resuming the negotiations upon his return, what could he possibly do? He could hold out, like Anderson Varejao, but why would he do that when it puts his marketing ventures in serious jeopardy (remember, he's barely played in over a year).
It's a different situation from the Jamison negotiations. At the end of his post, Dwyer bemoans Jamison's contract, wondering why a 32-year old power forward like him could possibly be worth that much money. I wish Jamison would have signed for less, but I understand why we had to do it. Conspiracy or not, there was reportedly a big offer from Philadelphia, so the threat of Jamison leaving was real. Jamison's contract may make him overpaid for his age and skill set, but in this free agent market, it's proper value, because some team did try to pry him away for a similar price.
With Arenas, though, there's no risk of that alternative. We would be bidding against ourselves, literally. And I don't mean like we allegedly did with DeShawn Stevenson last summer.
So I ask again. What's the rush?