We enlisted Mike Prada aka Pradamaster from SBN brother site Bullets Forever to talk Wiz with us as part of our preview for Monday night's matchup between the Golden State Warriors and Washington Warriors tonight at the Roaracle.
Jump faster than a speeding bullet!
UPDATE (1:18pm 2/11/08): You can check out my thoughts on CWebb, Ron Artest, and more over at Bullets Forever
Golden State of Mind: The biggest difference between this NBA regular season and the last one is we don't see Gilbert Arenas knocking down clutch shots and celebrating on the nightly highlights. We've barely heard anything about Arenas on the left coast this season. He's been a pretty quiet blogger as well. What's up with this former Warrior that got away right now? Do you see him returning to play this season? Will he still opt out of his contract? How critical is it that the Wizards hold onto him?
Mike Prada (Bullets Forever): Gilbert has been his usual quirky self, whether it's talking about his hair down there, opining on the 2004 draft class, or talking about the state of the Wizards without him. It's gotten to the point where he's become a caricature more than a human being, as his reputation of being a talkative guy means he gets asked about literally everything.
He's been targeting an early-March return date for quite some time now, and I imagine he'll be back when he says he will. He's been pretty diligent with his recovery, though you do have to wonder how he's going to be ready to play a full-court game when all he's doing right now is half-court drills. When he does, he's going to face so many questions about how he'll fit in with the "new-look Wizards," and while I'm not too worried about that side of the equation (just look at the last seven games), I do wonder whether he'll be able to play his game with the knee injury in his head. He wasn't exactly playing well in the first eight games of the season.
As far as the offseason, I think he will still opt out, though I'm not sure he should. He seems dead set on getting long-term security, and since this is his best chance, he'll probably use it. I personally feel the Wizards need to re-sign him at all costs, just because they've spent the last couple years quietly re-tooling the team around him. Lots of people say the Wizards haven't improved at all since 2005, but this is a completely different team than that one. The only guys remaining from the 2005 roster are Arenas, Jamison, Brendan Haywood, and Etan Thomas (who's injured). Those that say the Wizards should consider letting him go assert that Arenas' so-called "shoot-first" mentality stunts the growth of his teammates, but that gives absolutely no credit to Caron Butler's own improvement over the last two offseasons or to DeShawn Stevenson suddenly becoming a relatively reliable starting option with Arenas by his side. And as we've seen in the last eight games, without Arenas' ability to score when the offense breaks down, this is not a very good team.
If Orlando wanted to trade us Dwight Howard, or if the Lakers wanted to give us Pau Gasol, then sure, the Wizards can let go of Arenas, but since they won't, I don't see the benefit in letting him go and starting over, not with all the re-tooling Ernie Grunfeld has done in the last couple years.
Golden State of Mind: Former Warrior Antawn Jamison of back to back 51's fame is quietly having a fantastic season (21.2 ppg and 10.5 rpg) and along with his teammate Caron Butler was awarded with an All-Star spot on the Eastern Conference squad. Jamison will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, but there hasn't been much talk about whether the Wizards are going to retain him or if they are going to let him go on the free agent market. Is he in the Wizards' long term plans? Are there any other teams out there that are looking to grab him on the free agent market?
Mike Prada (Bullets Forever): Jamison is a tricky one. When he was playing in tandem with Caron Butler, like you said, he was having an outstanding season. I was particularly impressed with his renewed commitment to getting tough inside, which is something he had gone away with in the past two seasons. And while this may be a bit overstated, you can certainly say something about how his leadership and professionalism has been key to the team's ability to play more under control and hang in there without Arenas.
But he is 31, and the Wizards' best prospect, Andray Blatche, does play his position. I'd be shocked if anyone would pay a ton of money to pry him away, but I could certainly see Memphis or Philadelphia, teams with a bit of cap room, taking him on for the short.
Still, none of the teams with cap room are a great fit for Jamison at this stage of his career, and the Wizards will have the money to re-sign him to a smaller contract (something like 4 years, 38-40 million, perhaps). This isn't like Chicago a couple of years ago, who were good already and still had cap room to sign one more veteran to push them over the top (though they chose the wrong veteran). You also cannot ignore that it was the trade for Jamison, and not the signing of Arenas, that ultimately propelled the Wizards into the playoffs. So while re-signing Jamison might block Blatche from starting for a bit and hamper the Wizards' ability to find that one big man too many people say they need, I imagine he'll be back, and if I was the GM, I'd want him back too.
Golden State of Mind: With Don Nelson and Chris Webber reuniting Warriors Nation is in retro mode, so let's turn back the clock for the Wizards too. In 1995-1996 the Washington Bullets had Chris Webber, Rasheed Wallace, and Juwan Howard all on their squad. From 1996-1998 they had Webber, Howard, and Ben Wallace. That's a pretty stunning assemblage of big men that looks very nice on paper. They probably would've done a lot of damage in the Eastern Conference for the following 5-8 years. Why were these trios broken up? If the Wizards managed to keep one of those trios how good do you think they would've been?
Mike Prada (Bullets Forever): All these years as a Wizards/Bullets fan has taught me that nothing this front office did pre-Grunfeld made any sense, so I don't really have an answer for you. I will say, however, that with Webber/Wallace/Howard, the Wizards had three guys to play one position, since they did have an ever-improving Gheorghe Muresan manning the center position (don't laugh, he was the 1996 Most Improved Player). Meanwhile, the Bullets went through the 96 season with Brent Price and Robert Pack as their point guards, after good old Mark Price flopped considerably. They needed a point guard, and so they traded for Rod Strickland, who provided a couple very good years before falling off. So, in theory, I can see why they made the Wallace/Strickland trade. (The Webber/Mitch Richmond trade, obviously, is another story).
As for Ben Wallace, I'm pretty sure the Wizards, and everyone else for that matter, didn't think Ben Wallace was any good. Can't really blame the Wizards there.
But if we're talking about missed potential, how about the breakup Run TMC, or Joe Smith, or trading Chris Webber, or trading Latrell Sprewell? I kid, I kid.
Special thanks to Mike for taking the time to come on our show. Definitely make Bullets Forever a regular stop to see how 'Tawn, Caron (man, what if the Warriors took him instead of Mike Dunleavy back in 2002?), and crew are up to. Should be a fun one tonight.
Back to back 51's... Back to back 51's... Back to back 51's...