18 June 2007

Tim Povtak: Magic Should Wait for Arenas in 2008

Gilbert Arenas takes a bow at center court after scoring 60 points in a win against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Photo by the Associated Press

Tim Povtak, the Orlando Sentinel's NBA reporter, wrote in yesterday's paper that the Magic should not spend any of their salary-cap this summer so they will have enough room to attract All-Star point guard Gilbert Arenas when he becomes a free agent in 2008:
The Magic plan to pursue 27-year-old forward Rashard Lewis of Seattle, but so will 20 other teams looking to improve in a very shallow free-agent class, all willing to take drastic steps to make it happen. Lewis would help the Magic significantly next season.

Yet Gilbert Arenas could help them even more -- if they can be patient.

Arenas, 25, is the do-everything guard from Washington who will be a free agent in 2008, an all-star the past three seasons and already one of the game's finest players.

Lewis is good, but he is not close to Arenas-good.


By the summer of 2008, Arenas will be tired of playing on a team without a decent center, and beating his head against the wall with little hope of going deep in the playoffs with the Wizards.
It seems like a crazy idea; why pass on a sure shot at signing Lewis, Gerald Wallace, or Vince Carter and take a chance that we can outbid Arenas' other suitors next summer?

It gets even tricker: Arenas wrote on his NBA.com blog that he's sure he's staying in Washington; his opting out has everything to do with money and nothing to do with wanting to leave the team:
When I signed my original deal, I believed that I would become a max player so I had a player’s option. So, I make 11 and 12 million the next two years and then the extension would put me at 12.5, 13, 14 in the three years of the extension. The part that I got frustrated about the extension was that I have to play next year at that figure no matter what and then if I extend, all I’m getting is four years guaranteed. But, if I opt out after next year, I’ll have six years guaranteed because I’ll sign a whole new six year contract.

So at the end of the day, it will be a six-year deal instead of a four-year deal and instead of starting at 12.5 or 13 million, I’ll be starting at 14 or 15 million and I’ll be a max player.

This has nothing to do with me leaving or trying to look for other teams. I have to do it:

1. To get more years and
2. To increase my pay.

The risk doesn't end there. Arenas is notoriously eccentric, as documented here in a New York Times article by Chuck Klosterman. One of his quirks in particular stands out as relevant to this situation. From Gilbertology.net:
Fans began noticing his quirky antics when Gilbert said he decided between the Wizards and Clippers by flipping a coin 10 times. When the Clippers’ side came up eight times, Arenas says he knew what he had to do: go “against the odds”, although he later said he made up the story for “fun and entertainment.”

Assume that Povtak's right and Arenas indeed gets sick of not having any help down low. Would Arenas go "against the odds" -- turning down the chance of playing alongside two dominant big men and making Orlando a contender -- and stick with the Wizards? Would he throw logic out the window again and base his decision on another coin flip? There's no way to tell at this point, and that's worrisome.

Illustration by Lee Bermejo for Batman-On-Film

We Magic fans know what it's like to gamble in free-agency. We watched as the Magic signed an injured Grant Hill to a max deal seven years ago, and he's played in only 40% of the Magic's games over that span. Perhaps more infamously, we watched as the Magic lowballed Shaquille O'Neal in their bid to re-sign him eleven years ago, and he decided to bolt for the L.A. Lakers.

I've weighed the pros and cons of waiting to sign Arenas several times and I still can't come up with a conclusive answer. If we don't wait, we'll almost certainly have Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, or Gerald Wallace in a Magic uniform next season, which will give us some much-needed perimeter scoring and firepower. If we wait, we'll trot out the same team we had last season, which went 40-42 and finished 8th in a mediocre conference, and likely won't improve that standing unless Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick have breakout seasons. Can we take another year of mediocrity in hopes of landing one of the NBA's premier scorers?

I don't claim to speak for all Magic fans, which is why I'm leaving this question up to the 3QC readership.

Should the Magic save their free-agency money this summer so they can sign Gilbert Arenas next summer?
pollcode.com free polls

The future is in your hands.

No comments: