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Washington Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld says Gilbert Arenas likely will stay with team

Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld says suspended guard Gilbert Arenas, left, is "under contract and he's going to be with us."
Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld says suspended guard Gilbert Arenas, left, is "under contract and he's going to be with us." (Mark Gail/the Washington Post)
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By Michael Lee
washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 19, 2010

After a six-day trade flurry that detonated an underachieving roster, the Washington Wizards are forced to look ahead to a future that no longer includes Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood, core pieces of a former playoff team. But while the Wizards (18-33) finish this season with leftovers, spare parts and throwaways, team President Ernie Grunfeld intimated on Thursday that the rebuilding process could very well include at least one familiar face -- Gilbert Arenas.

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Arenas has been suspended for the remainder of the season after bringing guns to the locker room in December during a dispute with Javaris Crittenton. Arenas will be sentenced on March 26 for a felony gun possession charge, but he is still under contract for the next four years at $80 million. Grunfeld said the most likely option for the Wizards is not a trade, a buyout or contract termination but rather Arenas's return.

"Gilbert is still one of the top players in this league. He's under contract and he's going to be with us," Grunfeld said. "He's part of this organization. If he wants to play, this is the place where he's going to play.

"Gilbert's a basketball player. That's what he likes to do, that's his life and obviously this is a tough situation for him. It's a tough situation for everybody and I think we all feel for him because he loves to play the game so much and this is something that he really misses. Nobody wants to see anybody go through something like this, but during the summertime we're going to sit and I know he's going to work very hard to be the best player he can possibly be."

The Wizards have stopped promoting Arenas or selling his jersey or merchandise with his image, and Arenas has been telling those close to him that he no longer wants to play for Grunfeld.

When asked about his relationship with Arenas, Grunfeld said, tersely, "It's fine."

McGuire to Sacramento

The Wizards traded Dominic McGuire and about $300,000 to the Sacramento Kings for a 2010 second-round pick on Thursday. Grunfeld referred to the trade as a "minor" deal, but it had major financial implications.

Entering the day, the Wizards were about $500,000 above the luxury-tax penalty, but by moving McGuire's $825,000 contract to the Kings, they moved under the tax line -- and made another $4 million. The windfall will come in the form of a dispersal check given to teams that don't pay the luxury tax from the pool of money collected from teams that pay the penalty.

After these three trades, the Wizards have four picks -- two in the first round and two in the second round -- in this summer's NBA draft.

James stays put

The Wizards were involved in trade discussions with the Miami Heat and Utah Jazz for a deal that would have, in part, sent Carlos Boozer and Mike James to the Heat. After the deal fell through, James was given permission to go home to Houston while he considers a buyout agreement with the Wizards before March 1, which would allow him to join a roster in time for the playoffs.

James, 34, said after practice Thursday that he was disappointed that he wasn't moved in one of the earlier trades with Dallas or Cleveland, which was also considered.

"I missed the car ride, I missed the bus and I missed the plane," James said before talks with the Heat collapsed. "Now it's a ship going out at about 2:45, but I'm on the other side of town and I only got a couple of minutes to make it, so it don't look good for me right now."

Summer spending

By shedding more than $28 million from the 2010-11 payroll, the Wizards are in position to offer a free agent a maximum contract. But Grunfeld warned fans not to get their hopes up about the team signing LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh this summer.

"We'll just have to wait and see," Grunfeld said. "Normally, there aren't that many max players out there. How many of these players are going to move teams anyway? Normally very few of them move. . . . There might be some that do move, but we'll have to wait and see how free agency goes."

Newly acquired players Al Thornton and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are not expected to play against the Denver Nuggets on Friday. Ilgauskas's agent, Herb Rudoy, said Thursday that he planned on negotiating a buyout for his client, who has spent his entire career with Cleveland.


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