[UPDATE] Truth About It's thoughts are here.
Just to be clear, here's how I understand how we got to today's news about Gilbert Arenas needing a third knee surgery.
- According to the Washington Times, this debris that was removed today was present when Arenas shut things down in the playoffs last year
- The same article says that Wizards doctors told Arenas that the debris "maybe would wash away by itself" with rest. That's probably where the "I'm not picking up a ball until August" statement comes from
- Arenas listened to them instead of saying "hey wait a minute, maybe I should get this fixed now. These guys don't exactly have the best track record. Maybe I should get a second opinion."
- In August, Arenas started working out again, and that's when he presumably found the debris hadn't actually gone away. If not that, then perhaps more debris arrived when he decided to work out again and found his knee hadn't been ready
- According to the Washington Post, Arenas "has been limited during the rehab process all summer and said he has planned all along on not participating in training camp or the preseason." I'm not sure when he exactly knew he would have to miss training camp, but it's clear he knew well before today
- In the Times story, Arenas said he didn't feel the need to tell Ernie Grunfeld and Eddie Jordan about the surgery. Mike Jones said Arenas said it wasn't an issue, even though the subsequent quote doesn't exactly correspond with that
- Yet in the Post story, Grunfeld said he knew all along about the surgery. How's that? Did somebody else tell him? Why didn't Gilbert?
- Grunfeld now says that the Wizards expected that Arenas might not be ready for the start of the season even when they signed him to a contract extension
Alright then, who's to blame?
My first question is, why in God's name did the Wizards doctors think rest was a good idea after the 2008 playoffs? Like, I understand that Arenas was a free agent, so they didn't want to run the risk of helping a player who could just sign with another team. But all the Wizards were saying then was how they were going to re-sign Arenas no matter the cost. If they were so sure, I don't see the point of not operating on him. Perhaps the Wizards were concerned about the bad PR of signing a guy to a six-year deal when he's having another knee surgery, but there was going to be bad PR about the re-signing anyway, whether Arenas was under the knife or not.
The second thing that gets me is why Arenas didn't just get surgery from an outside doctor when the Wizards were telling him to rest. Many guys have done that; the first that comes to mind is Charles Barkley after his back was dead in the 1994 playoffs. Did Arenas really not consider for a second that perhaps the Wizards doctors told him to rest because he was going to opt-out and become a free agent? Why would the Wizards operate on him if he could have just gone elsewhere? They wouldn't operate on someone who isn't their property, after all.
(As a sidenote, I realize those two points sound contradictory, but I assure you they aren't. Arenas shouldn't have assumed at the time the Wizards wanted him all along just because they said so, and the Wizards should have just insisted on surgery then because clearly they did actually want Arenas all along).
Similarly, if Arenas had the surgery then, it'd quench some doubts about his ability to return from knee surgery, since this procedure seems pretty typical. Maybe that increases his market value.
Whatever. So Arenas rests for three months, goes to China, etc. etc. Fine. It's easy to say "wow, look how lazy he was after signing his contract," but if he was told to rest by a medical professional, he should listen. But if his rehab wasn't going well in August, why did he want until September 17 to have surgery? Someone should have checked to see if the debris was still there in August. If it was, the surgery should have occured then, not now. If it happened then, Arenas would be back by the start of the season.
Instead, one month and 17 days after he was supposed to first start touching a basketball, he's having surgery again. If Ernie Grunfeld really knew Arenas was struggling with his rehab all along, why didn't he demand that Gilbert have surgery? Arenas' is the Wizards' property; if he's asked to have surgery on his knee, he has to obey. More importantly, why didn't Arenas himself come to this conclusion earlier. Actually, I know the answer to that: he's stubborn as hell. Ask anyone who saw him play at Barry Farms last summer.
It's also unfathomable to me that Arenas thinks he doesn't have to tell his GM and head coach that he's having surgery. Are you serious, Gilbert? We went through this already when you surprised Eddie with your return, and that wasn't okay. Now, the organization invests all this money in you, and you think you don't need to tell people directly? That's ridiculous. It's possible Jones took something Arenas said out of context, because the quote Arenas gives doesn't say anything about not telling Grunfeld or Jordan, but if not, that part of the story makes me mad.
There were all these chances for one of the parties to insist on having surgery earlier. It could have happened in May. It could have happened in early August. It could have even happened in July after the contract was finalized, though you can imagine the kind of outrage that news would have received. Any of the parties could have insisted on surgery. Arenas could have seeked a second opinion in May. The doctors could have operated in May or in August. Grunfeld could have insisted himself on the surgery when he first heard about Arenas' rehab struggles. Finally, Arenas could have not be his usual stubborn self when he first started struggling and just gotten the procedure over with.
It's very possible this amounts to very little and Arenas returns fully healthy and back to his dominant self. It's true that this is a routine and minor procedure for guys who had microfracture surgery -- Amare Stoudamire had it, Jason Kidd had it -- and that most of the time, the player returns normally. It's also true that the Wizards have faced this situation before, so the remaining players know how to adapt.
That's fine, but that doesn't change the fact that this could have happened sooner. I don't care if the Wizards can "survive" without Arenas; I'm not interested in "surviving." I'm interested about thriving, taking the next step, contending, however you want to put it. And that can't happen without Arenas on the floor.
Which he could have been, easily, if all the parties took care of the warning signs when they should have.