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Popular Star Has An Untimely Setback

But this hurts. This isn't how his season should have ended.

Eddie Jordan and Ernie Grunfeld will rightly have alibis for the team limping into the postseason. Because no NBA squad can ultimately be judged anywhere but the playoffs -- and the team the Wizards will take there won't accurately reflect who they are and what they might have been -- the coach and the GM get a do-over.

But the next several months are going to be paramount in regard to the team and its relationship with Arenas. He is eligible to sign a six-year contract extension this summer. Arenas can also opt out and become a free agent in the summer of 2008.

Even before Arenas went down, it was clear the Wizards could not function properly without Antawn Jamison and Butler. With either or both players out of the lineup, the Wizards were 6-17. At some point, they need more depth and help. All their liabilities were brought to bear the past month: porous defense, questionable shot selection and the inability to put a bad team away.

"We're one or two players away," Arenas said last month. "We have a solid second unit. But your Dallases, you're coming off the bench with a Jerry Stackhouse. San Antonio, sometimes Manu Ginobili is coming off the bench. You have power-power coming off the bench if you need it. You have 12 players who could get it done by themselves if they want to. You need depth like that."

Arenas said he would never lobby management to acquire a specific player.

"I don't want to say if we lose in the first round, that's it, I'm gone," he said. "It's about your competitiveness, to see how you match up against those elite teams. Personnel. We can go all the way to Game 7 of the second round, but it depends on how we're competing, what are the decisions this summer."

It's clear the decisions made in the coming months by Grunfeld will go a long way toward deciding whether Arenas remains in Washington.

"If I [sign an extension], it will be the last day I can sign an extension," he said. "Because I want to see what we do, who we acquire, who we sign back."

He wasn't cryptic; he was just being honest.

He has already invested his soul in the Wizards and now he has given them cartilage from his knee. Some reciprocation in the front court is the least the franchise can do at some point.

After he came out of surgery and blogged away, we exchanged a couple of text messages yesterday. On the day his once-promising season was officially over, the last thing he wrote was, "I'm doing OK."

All things considered, he's doing much better than most of us who watched Gilbert Arenas work his game and dream his dream this season.

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