By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 2, 2008
Gilbert Arenas, who was cleared to begin rehabilitating his surgically repaired left knee over the weekend, still plans to opt out of the final year of his contract with the Washington Wizards to become an unrestricted free agent. But he doesn't plan to file the necessary paperwork with the league any sooner than the June 30 deadline.
The free agency period opens July 1, and Arenas has until June 30 to opt out of a deal that would pay him $12.8 million with the Wizards next season. Yesterday, via a text message, he revealed his plan to wait until the final day.
When asked why he planned on waiting until June 30 to opt out, Arenas wrote, "I just want to wait."
Arenas expects to make a full recovery by the time training camp opens in October. Yesterday, he wrote that he has followed his plan so far: traveling and spending time with his family when he might otherwise be in the gym working on his game.
"Everything feels good now," he wrote. "I have to get it strong this month."
Arenas has expressed a desire to sign a maximum-level contract with the Wizards, one that could cover up to six years and be worth more than $100 million. The three-time all-star guard does not have an agent and plans on representing himself in negotiations.
However, Arenas has also said he would be willing to take less if that would allow the Wizards to retain unrestricted free agent forward Antawn Jamison, a two-time all-star who has been with the team since the 2004-05 season.
Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld has consistently stated he intends to retain Arenas and Jamison, who along with all-star Caron Butler, form the core of a team that has made the playoffs four straight seasons.
The team's only other free agent is shooting guard Roger Mason Jr., who averaged a career-high 9.1 points last season on a career-best 44.3 percent shooting. The Wizards also hold the 18th and 47th selections in the June 26 draft and hope to take a good look at 2006 second-round pick Vladimir Veremeenko in the Las Vegas summer league.
The Wizards are coming off a solid 43-39 regular season finish, but were once again plagued by injuries to key players. They dropped a first-round playoff series to the Cleveland Cavaliers for the third consecutive season.
Arenas, who missed the team's 2007 playoff series loss to Cleveland with a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee, aggravated the injury early last season and underwent a second surgery Nov. 21.
He was limited to 13 regular season games and appeared in four playoff contests before deciding to sit out before the team's Game 5 victory at Cleveland on April 30. The Wizards were eliminated two nights later at home in Game 6. Following that loss, Arenas vowed to approach his latest rehabilitation process cautiously.
"I'll be full speed by October," said Arenas, who along with Walt Bellamy is one of only two players in franchise history to score 2,000 points in each of three consecutive seasons. "I'm not going to do anything stupid this summer. I'm going to take my time and prepare for next season. I'm going to be smart about it this year. I'm going to have five or six months to get this thing strong again and ready to go again."