A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
No Jail Time for Arenas
Washington, D.C. Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas was sentenced to 30 days in a halfway house, two years of probation and 400 hours of community service for his guilty plea on felony gun possession charges.
Robert E. Morin handed down the sentence on Friday, March 26, giving Arenas a much lighter sentence than the prosecution’s recommendation of a three-month jail term. Arenas pleaded guilty to one felony count of carrying a pistol without a license on Jan. 15.
The sentencing must certainly come as a relief to Arenas and the Wizards organization as a whole, as the team tries to bring to a close a tumultuous season.
Projected as a playoff contender at the start of the season with Arenas finally healthy after three knee surgeries, and teamed up with Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, the Wizards were finally supposed to take their place among the Eastern Conference elite.
Then, their season imploded. Arenas and guard Javaris Crittenton got involved in a dispute involving guns in December. Crittenton pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor gun possession charge in January, and was immediately sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation, a fine and community service. Crittenton was released by the Wizards; Arenas is serving a season long suspension handed down by NBA Commissioner David Stern.
“Every day I wake up wishing it did not happen,” Arenas said before being sentenced.
No, Arenas will not get a do-over for his poor judgment, his illegal conduct, and perhaps the most ill-conceived prank one teammate ever pulled on another. But avoiding jail time is a huge positive as Arenas tries to resume his NBA career next season.
The next question for Arenas and the Wizards is whether or not their relationship can be repaired, and whether Arenas will suit up for Washington next season.
Despite initially saying he could not play for president and general manager Ernie Grunfeld shortly after his guilty plea, when Arenas said he felt “betrayed” by an organization that did not stand by him, Arenas later backed off of that statement. Arenas has four years and more than $70 million remaining on his contract.
Grunfeld and head coach Flip Saunders have both stated that Arenas would be welcomed back next season. Provided of course, Grunfeld and Saunders are part of the Wizards organization themselves.
Following the death of long time franchise owner Abe Pollin, the team was expected to be purchased by Capitals owner and minority partner in Washington Sports & Entertainment, Ted Leonsis. After months of negotiations, a deal has finally been reached, giving Leonsis majority ownership in both the Wizards and Verizon Center.
Leonsis needs the building; his Capitals have been hemorrhaging money since Leonsis bought the team from Pollin more than a decade ago. A brilliant and innovative owner, Leonsis and his executives have made the Caps best team in the NHL. With ownership of Verizon Center, Leonsis can finally replace that red ink with black.
Leonsis will have a lot of decisions to make as he attempts to do with the Wizards what he did with the Capitals, turn a losing team into a winner. The Wizards are mired in a culture of mediocrity, little or no accountability, questionable trades and draft picks, and the bad luck of injuries.
After Arenas’ gun incident, the team traded away Butler, Jamison, center Brendan Haywood and guard DeShawn Stevenson, and the rebuild was officially underway. For the first few games, the remaining players responded well to the challenge of additional playing time, many realizing that they were fighting for their NBA lives.
But the team is mired in their worst losing streak since 1995 (13 games and counting) man-child Andray Blatche, who put up outstanding numbers at first and was looking like the team’s best player, is proving to be lazy, immature and un-coachable.
Leonsis has a big task, but he’s finally in charge. Arenas has been given a reprieve, and if he has any sense at all, he’ll make the best of it.
Let the work begin.