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Gilbert Arenas' Double-Edged Comeback

Dec 3, 2010 – 8:00 AM
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Bethlehem Shoals

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Either William James or Henry James wrote something once about how man must get spiritually sick (lost, unsure) in order to find God and "get well." I don't know if Gilbert Arenas is a true believer, but this certainly works as an analogy for what's going on with him and the Washington Wizards.

At the beginning of this season, Washington couldn't have given away Arenas to another team. He had pretty much everything imaginable working against him, from his massive contract and chronic injuries to his legal woes, unorthodox game and questionable locker room presence. Last season, there were rumors that Arenas might simply be cut by the Wizards. He was seen as beyond worthless.

Beyond worthless, though, means that Gil was, in effect, so hard to trade he might as well have not existed. No team had to seriously weigh the pros and cons of the former All-Star because no sane team would make a deal for him. Arenas' value was a moot point; the more pressing question was what exactly the Wizards would do with the eccentric millionaire they were stuck with.

But if things went their way, one day, there would come a time when Arenas was not only a commodity, but an honest-to-god liability. And here's where the Williams James (I looked it up) comes in: Arenas will always be damaged goods. However, for the Wizards to do anything with him -- Thursday's hot rumor had the Magic making inquiries -- he has to play well enough, and act normal enough, to become somewhat desirable again. When he reaches that point, then the franchise can focus on the business of trying to sell low so they can get on with their future.

Arenas doesn't necessary deserve our endless sympathies. He is very rich regardless, and the firearm/FINGER GUNZ stuff last season was a pretty grievous mistake. But the guy does love to play basketball, and has to be happy that he's finally regaining something of his old form -- even if the team is horrendous. That he was benign, even pitiable, when the Wizards had to keep him, and now becomes a bum who needs to go because he has made steps in the right direction is, to say the least, a somewhat cruel irony.

The NBA is above all else a business; no trade is ever personal, and shopping Arenas simply makes sense when the Wizards have John Wall. And yet it's odd to see Gil make something of a comeback, only to find out that it's his ticket out the door at, presumably, a cut-rate price.

The timing isn't right for Greg Oden to fall into a similar situation; the Blazers can simply let him walk if they aren't convinced by his latest recovery. The situation, though, could have been nearly identical. Are we really at the point where we will cheer on a guy so our team can get rid of him?
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