A Time for Urgency, But Not for Panic

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By Michael Wilbon
Tuesday, June 12, 2007

CLEVELAND

Okay, it's not exactly on par with Kobe Bryant demanding that the Lakers trade him, but Gilbert Arenas's pronouncement the other day that he plans to opt out of his $65 million contract next summer and test the free agent waters is a pretty big deal in Wizard-land.

And instead of being the first step in some doomsday scenario, it could be exactly what both sides need to make sure the Wizards are good enough soon enough for Arenas to want to stay put and for the Wizards to feel compelled to reward him.

For starters, every ballplayer in the prime of his life who's worth a darn would do exactly what Arenas is doing for business reasons. I didn't major in math, but clearly $100 million is a lot more than $65 million.

Arenas is working under a $65 million deal now, and could re-sign for as much as $100 million with the Wizards, but only if he opts out of his current contract. I don't want to hear about why a ballplayer should be satisfied with $65 million when we wouldn't hold any investor or CEO or developer to the same standards.

Arenas telling The Post's Ivan Carter, "To me, it's just a smarter business decision," isn't just good business, it's sound and necessary business, exactly the kind of advice Warren Buffet is probably giving his new buddy LeBron James in their friendship sessions. Ballplayers, particularly young black ones lacking in formal education, have spent decades making bad financial decisions. Arenas, while he is certainly assuming some risk, would be making the right one. As a three-time all-star who is 25 years old, this is close to no-brainer territory.

As for the basketball part of this, it's time for the Wizards and Arenas to have a catalyst. It's time to jump-start this process. The team and its star player have been doing a nice little dance the past three years. They've made the playoffs three straight years, Arenas has become a perennial all-star and that's been just fine playing in the low-pressure environment of Washington, where the team was so bad for so long the populace will settle for the bare minimum: one round in the playoffs.

It's time for more. And the possibility that Arenas, clearly the team's best player, might go elsewhere could be just the thing to turn up the heat on both parties to have a greater sense of urgency to get going now.

Arenas, coming off what is considered minor left knee surgery, had better have a great season if he's betting on his game to make him a franchise player.

The Wizards, still in need of post play and defense, might feel the pressure to assemble the necessary pieces around Arenas before he can walk.

Turning up the heat on everybody might be a pretty good thing.


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