April 23, 2008
Heading into Tuesday the Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets sat as the two 0-2 teams after terrible losses and disappointing performances from stars Gilbert Arenas and Tracy McGrady. Players their teams are supposed to lean on to produce offense when the going gets tough. Arenas and McGrady went a combined 9-32 from the field Monday, with both leaving their teammates high and dry in the second half. Their seasons will end in a few days and they will have made approximately $31 million on the season between them ($11,946,667 for Arenas and $19,014,187 for McGrady). Next year their salaries will be even higher.
There’s simply no way these two are worth it.
Yes, McGrady almost had a triple-double, and yes, he was worn down from playing big minutes, which helps explain why he hasn’t scored a field goal in the fourth quarter yet during the series. But other stars on other teams are playing big minutes, too, and they’re still producing in the fourth. Look at Tim Duncan, Deron Williams (who’s playing hurt), LeBron James, etc. I also understand that Gilbert isn’t at full strength right now. But our body of evidence isn’t just the last few weeks, it’s been building for their entire careers.
Just over three months ago both were on the sidelines with injuries and we opined that their respective teams might just be better without them. There was no question Houston and Washington were playing better, and I’m not convinced an NBA team can win with primary scorers who shoot such terrible percentages from the field and aren’t renowned as top-flight defenders. We don’t have a huge sample size this year, but when healthy Gilbert scored at a gaudy 28.5 points per clip last year. He also took 20.9 shots on an atrocious 41.8% FGs with 3.2 TOs. In his 66 games during this regular season McGrady put up 21.6 points per. He did it on 19.8 field-goal attempts and a paltry 41.9% FGs (including an embarrassing 29.2% 3PTs on 4.5 attempts) with 2.4 TOs. Perhaps worse for T-Mac was the 68.4% FTs on 5.4 attempts this season. Take a look at all the teams that have won NBA titles in the last three decades: which was the last to feature a high-volume shooter who is this incredibly inefficient? That’s not a rhetorical question, I can’t think of any offhand.
Gilbert Arenas Photo Credit: Mark Goldman/Icon SMI
The Tracy McGrady argument may be moot at this point: he’s signed through the 2009-10 season when his salary will be a whopping $23.2 million. It’s going to be next to impossible for the Rockets to unload that contract, especially for a player who has time and time again come up so small on the NBA’s biggest stage. Houston will likely be forced to work with their flawed superstar and hope that Yao Ming returns healthy next year and ready to lead the offense in crunch time. The situation is quite different in Washington, where Gilbert Arenas can opt out of his contract and become a free agent after the season. He’s almost certain to do so and Arenas is expected to command a max-type deal. If he does so the Wizards need to let him walk. They may be a better team without the loud-mouthed star, and they would certainly be better served spending that money on other players.
More on why Agent Zero needs to take a hike after the jump…
The Wizards had a pretty good season even though Washington was lacking their leading scorer from a year ago and a player they had a significant chunk of their salary cap invested in. Guys like Antonio Daniels and Brendan Haywood stepped up, Antawn Jamison elevated his usual steady play and Caron Butler emerged as a potential franchise player. After an 0-5 start to the season with Arenas, things turned around when he went down. They hustled, played decent defense and played with chemistry. Ball movement improved, shooting percentages went up and opposing point guards no longer penetrated at will. Washington has looked nothing like that improved team in the seven games since Gilbert’s return, going 3-4.
What they have looked like is a team with a confused leadership structure and pecking order. They’ve been out of sorts on offense with poor ball movement, poor shot selection and terrible turnovers. Suffice it to say the defense also hasn’t improved, and Arenas has been leading the charge. Even though he’s played in just 21:41 minutes a game in April, Gilbert is taking 11 field-goal attempts a game and hitting just 41.8% of them. He’s also turning the ball over twice a night in that time. Monday’s performance was especially bad, going 2-10 from the field with 3 TOs, 4 personal fouls and a number or ill-advised shots. Somebody need to leave Gilbert a memo: he can’t post-up the 6-9, 250 lbs. LeBron James.
Everybody seems to like the Gilbert Arenas sound bytes and the ridiculous quotes that come out of his infamous NBA.com blog. If I’m a teammate or Wizards fan I don’t find his antics too cute right now. All season long he’s been a distraction to the team despite playing in only 13 games. He was especially detrimental with his prolonged media dance while publicly musing on his possible return before finally making a “surprise” appearance on April 2nd. He played no role in getting the Wizards this far, and yet it was Gilbert who took it upon himself to provide the Cavaliers with all the locker-room motivational material they could ask for. On his blog Arenas posted the controversial line, “I think everybody wants Cleveland in that first round. They’ve been a .500 team ever since they made that trade, and everybody wants a chance at that matchup.” Brilliant. He’s always got to ruffle feathers, always got to be the center of attention. Not only is the juvenile behavior getting old, it’s hurting his team.
Gilbert has certainly had his moments with some of the most impressive scoring outbursts and dramatic late-game shots in the NBA during his tenure in DC. And I was previously a vocal supporter of Arenas, but in recent years he’s made it more important to see him in a spotlight than in a positive light. Like Stephon Marbury before him, Gilbert needs to be the center of attention wherever he goes — and his team will always be worse as a result. He took the depressing Wizards and made them fun to watch a few years ago. He gave them an elite scorer and a face of the franchise. Fans in Washington should be thankful for that, there were some good years.
It’s time to part ways.