The Washington Wizards have officially rid themselves of Agent Zero. Or was it Agent 9 now? Or is he the Man with the Golden Gun? Okay, so that last one was a reach. Nevertheless, Washington fans find themselves a bit worse on paper, but have fully invested themselves as John Wall’s team with the departure of Gilbert Arenas for Rashard Lewis. Arenas heads to the Magic with one goal in mind- provide reliable perimeter scoring to draw attention away from Dwight Howard down low. For the Wizards, they are no longer saddled with Arenas’ stigma following one ridiculous comment after another, and his recent suspension for keeping his guns in the locker room. Every time I type that it feels insane, but at least I won’t have to type it again… I hope.
I am certain that the Wizards tried to unload the once-future star over the past offseason, but coming off of a multitude of injuries and playing poorly even when he was in the lineup, Arenas wasn’t going anywhere. Since the 2006-07 season in which he averaged 28.5 points in 39 minutes a game, Gilbert had played in a whopping 47 games in the next three seasons, and only hitting over 20 ppg for a season once. The player who for a three year stretch was a budding superstar who looked like he belonged in a Mike D’Antoni offense was only a mouthpiece. Frankly, I wouldn’t have dealt a second-round pick for him going into this season, as he has been far beyond the expiration date on typical comeback players. In fact, I wouldn’t take a chance on him unless my team desperately needed some offense.
But that team turned out to be the Orlando Magic. Losers of 5 of their last 6, even superhuman efforts from Dwight Howard weren’t enough to put the Magic in the win column. Vince Carter was showing his age even more this season, and J.J. Redick isn’t shooting as well as he has to to provide a legitimate threat to opposing defenses. The Magic therefore upgraded at the point guard position with Arenas, and upgraded their roster with the addition of Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson. Turkoglu should fit well back in Orlando, and Richardson is a major upgrade over Mickael Pietrus. This was a calculated risk by Orlando, but they had good sense to realize that this team wasn’t going to win the East as currently constructed. The question will be whether they will be able to gel quickly enough as a team to come back and be a contender by season’s end.
But for Washington, this marks the end of another dark era in Wizards history. Both of the massive contracts handed out to Antwan Jamison and Gilbert Arenas are finally off the books, and while Washington has lost a talented player, the team may not miss a beat. This move officially hands the reigns over to John Wall, who has performed about to expectations, which is saying something for a #1 overall pick. The team will take another step back in the short term with Rashard Lewis, but he fits into this lineup as constructed better than Arenas did, and perhaps his absense will relieve the team from their bevy of distractions.
With a contract worth $19 million less than Arenas is owed, Lewis is a good call for a team looking to rebuild- though his $43 million deal is still going to be a burden. They have the point guard, the cornerstone of a franchise, in place. With Agent Whatever finally out of town, they can look to build around him and have a bit more cap space to do so.