Ted Leonsis will be the next owner of the Washington Wizards, which puts him in a unique position to dictate the course of Gilbert Arenas’ career. If Leonsis wanted, he could banish Arenas a la Stephon Marbury. He could try his damnedest to keep Gil away from his team until Ernie Grunfeld could find a way to move him. Leonsis could stick Arenas in the closet and try to move on by putting the face of the turmoil out of sight and hopefully, out of mind.
But those options seem a bit ridiculous with Gil. The tales of real guns and finger guns and “Pick one,” and cover-ups are too complicated for their own good, but even though Arenas has made some really horrible decisions over the last few months, nothing he did deserves banishment. Especially not when the Wizards are going to be stuck with his contract one way or another, as few owners would willingly take on Gil’s deal with a new CBA right around the corner.
Leonsis gets that, or at the very least gets that Arenas’ transgressions aren’t worthy of vilification, and that his banishment would accomplish little aside from its symbolism. Maybe what everyone needs in this case — especially Gil — is a hug. From Dan Steinberg of the Washington Posts’ DC Sports Bog:
And so Leonsis chatted with Comcast SportsNet’s Russ Thaler on
Thursday, and offered I believe his first specific comments about
Gilbert Arenas’s future.
“I know Gilbert a little bit from seeing him in the hallways and
talking to him,” Leonsis said, when asked what he would say to Arenas.
“He’s always been a very, very sweet kid. I like him. And I believe in
the best in people. And so I don’t think I’ll say much. I want to get
to know him, but you need to do it in a way that’s respectful of the
…”And I do want to look Gilbert in the eye and see what makes him
tick and understand what he’s thinking. I’ll probably give him a hug,
and we’ll kill a couple of aliens with some video games and get to know
each other. You have to empathize with people and understand them and
what makes them tick, but his boss is Flip and Flip decides what system
and how he plays. And I’ll never get in the way of that relationship.”
I suppose nothing is certain as of yet, but it appears as though Leonsis may give Arenas an open door. It’s his call as the man paying the bills, and while it’s not exactly optimal for Washington to start next season with Gilbert’s baggage, the Wizards reboot will likely include Arenas.
The Kobe Bryant farewell tour has gone all around the NBA, but some stops are more emotional than others. His final trip to San Antonio certainly qualifies — the Spurs and Lakers have played each other in the playoffs eight times in his career, including twice in the Western Conference Finals (the Lakers won both times). The only player who has rivaled Bryant’s longevity is Tim Duncan, and the Lakers and Spurs were the two most dominant teams of the 2000s, winning nine of the 12 championships from 1999 to 2010 between them.
So, of course, the Spurs had an elaborate tribute video planned for Bryant. The video ran two and a half minutes and featured narration from Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Watch it below:
The Clippers are without Blake Griffin for the next few weeks as he recovers from a broken hand stemming from an altercation with an equipment manager. Now, the Clippers have lost backup point guard Austin Rivers to the exact same injury, albeit not in the same circumstances, obviously.
The loss of Rivers isn’t as devastating as the loss of Griffin, but given the Clippers’ lack of depth, it’s certainly not ideal. Now, Chris Paul‘s only backup is Pablo Prigioni.
For once, a marquee matchup involving the Golden State Warriors lived up to its billing. Their much-hyped meetings with the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs were anticlimactic blowouts nearly free of drama. And for the first half on Saturday night’s 116-108 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, it seemed like the defending champions were headed for another snoozer. They led by as much as 20, and completely outmatched the Thunder on both ends of the floor.
But the Thunder rallied behind a surprising defensive effort in the second half and some solid play from Enes Kanter. Plus, you know, Kevin Durant, who led all scorers with 40 points and gave the normally unflappable Draymond Green fits defensively. They tied the game at 104 before Golden State pulled away.
Despite the huge first-half lead, the Warriors weren’t their usual selves. Stephen Curry shot 1-for-8 from behind the three-point line, and triple-double machine Draymond Green scored just nine points. Golden State’s most consistent player was Harrison Barnes, who has probably read the speculation that the Warriors would have to dump him to land Durant this summer. He hit three three-pointers and shot 8-for-14 overall on the way to 19 points.
The Warriors’ bench carried them for stretches, outscoring Oklahoma City’s reserves 42-17.
Despite the Thunder’s late run, this was a statement win for the Warriors. They sent the message that, even when they aren’t in total control from start to finish, they can still pull away from other elite teams. The Thunder have given them the toughest challenge of any team they’ll likely have to face in the late rounds of the playoffs this spring, and it’s to their credit that they took the first-half punch and came back to make it a game. But the Warriors are on a different level from the rest of the league, and they showed that clearly on Saturday.
It goes without saying that with the Thunder and Warriors playing each other for the first time on Saturday night, Kevin Durant free-agency talk has been at an all-time high. The hot rumor this week is that the Warriors are the frontrunners to land Durant this summer, which would shake up the league like nothing since LeBron James going to Miami.
Obviously, all parties were going to be asked about it before the hotly anticipated game. And obviously, all parties were going to downplay it. That’s exactly what happened.
Here’s what Durant said, via the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Rusty Simmons:
“Once that time comes, I’ll make that decision. I’ll sit down and talk to my closest friends and family and figure it out, but right now, I’m just trying to be the best basketball player I can be every single day. I have to be at a high level to lead every day at practices, shootarounds and games, and that’s a tough task. I can’t focus on anything else, other than that.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr also downplayed the speculation:
“I don’t know why anybody would talk about anything but the fact that we’re 45-4 and have a hell of a team,” said Kerr, who hasn’t addressed rumors about Durant favoring the Bay Area as a future destination with his players. “Why would anybody talk about some different team, future stuff and other players?
“Focus on our team. We’re pretty good.”
On both sides, that’s the appropriate way to respond publicly. Not that this is going to go away anytime soon. They play each other two more times this season, once in Oklahoma City and once more in Oakland, and this is going to get brought up then, too. And just like Saturday, nobody will give a definitive answer. Nor should they. Nobody will know anything until July 1. But until then, it will be impossible to quiet the chatter.