While Gilbert Arenas pens his redemption story, Javaris Crittenton is just looking to get by

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javaris_crittenton_wizards_bobcats.jpgGilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton will forever be linked by a card game, two unloaded guns, and a note in the Washington Wizards’ locker room, but both players were in fundamentally different positions to deal with the aftermath of their shared experience.

Arenas is a former superstar that once dined with the league’s true elite. He’s also due $80 million over the next four seasons, which makes him both a difficult player to deal and an impossible one to cut. It didn’t make sense for the Wizards to part ways with Arenas even after his various displays of irresponsibility, and now he’s an important part of the roster that will usher in a new era for the Wizards.

Gil is reinventing himself. Or learning from his mistakes. Or showing maturity. Or…something. Regardless, Arenas has a chance to make his narrative whole, and ride out what should be a few more seasons with the Wizards.

Crittenton? He was done in Washington the day he made headlines. Critt has talent, but as an unfocused (in terms of skill), atypical guard without much career production, he wasn’t deemed worth the headache, nor did he have a contract that made him so. So the Wizards waved goodbye after Crittenton served his 38-game suspension, and we sat wondering whether one bizarre incident would destroy Crittenton’s career before it had a chance to truly begin.

It didn’t, at least for now. The Charlotte Bobcats invited Crittenton to training camp with their problematic point guard rotation in mind. D.J. Augustin, who struggled last season, is the starter by default, and his primary backup, Shaun Livingston, is already having trouble staying healthy. Should Crittenton work his way onto Charlotte’s roster, there will be opportunities aplenty for minutes throughout the season, be they with Livingston sidelined or Augustin inconsistent.

Crittenton’s own health is an issue, too. A left ankle injury has hindered Crittenton for some time, in part because of a botched surgery, per Crittenton’s estimation (via the Associated Press):

…Brown also didn’t know if he was healthy, an issue that got little
attention because of his legal problems. Crittenton said he had a bone
spur in his left ankle at the beginning of last season and underwent
surgery. “It didn’t go well,” Crittenton said. “They went in from
the wrong way and it didn’t fix it. I had another surgery to actually
repair it.”

Instead of being sidelined for few weeks, Crittenton was out for the season.

“A
lot of people think I had one surgery and, ‘Oh, it’s taking a long time
to heal,'” Crittenton said. “If the first surgery was successful, I
would have been ready.”

The 38-game suspension at the end of the
season made that moot. It also meant he wasn’t returning to Washington,
and Charlotte marks his fourth team in four years. “I do feel
like I really haven’t gotten my shot yet,” Crittenton said. “I really
wasn’t one of those players who could really learn from watching. But
it’s the NBA. This is the decision I chose. I left college early and I
just have to learn. There’s no more being babied or anything like that.”

The surgery doesn’t even matter at this point. Crittenton needs to be ready now, because isn’t likely to have many other NBA lifelines.

Sadly, this could be it for Crittenton. His involvement in the Arenas gun incident is just the kind of Wikipedia-worthy trivia that could prematurely terminate his NBA career. Crittenton’s future training camp/tryout opportunities could be very limited, which makes it all the more important that his chance with the Bobcats doesn’t go south. With good coaching and the right system, Critt could be a valuable rotation player. Here’s to hoping that happens in the NBA (and in Charlotte, for that matter, where Larry Brown could really help him), rather than overseas. 

James Ennis opting out of 76ers contract

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James Ennis was the 76ers’ lone reliably good backup this postseason.

He’s hoping to parlay that success into a salary above $1,845,301 next season.

Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

James Ennis will decline his player option and become a free agent, his agent, Scott Nichols from Rize Management, confirmed Monday morning.

Teams can’t get enough versatile forwards like Ennis. He can defend multiple positions and, sometimes, shoot adequately from outside. The 28-year-old should remain a helpful player.

With his Non-Bird Rights, Philadelphia can offer him a starting salary up to 120% of his minimum salary. That projects to be about $2.3 million. Paying Ennis more would require using another exception (like the mid-level) or cap space.

Of course, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris are the main priorities in free agency. But the 76ers sacrificed a lot of depth to acquire those two. Philadelphia must build back up its roster.

So, whether or not they re-sign Ennis, the 76ers should keep pursuing more capable reserves.

Rob Pelinka: Magic Johnson saying I betrayed him ‘simply not true’

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Frank Vogel – at was ostensibly his own introductory press conference – sat quietly while Lakers general manager Pelinka fielded six straight questions.

Finally, at Pelinka’s urging, Vogel chimed in.

“What I’d like to add, quite frankly, is the perception of our organization is very far from the reality,” Vogel said, “from my experience coming in here, of just the thoroughness of the work, the collaboration of how things are being done with the decision-making.”

Vogel has worked one week for the Lakers. His claims of stability carry far less weight than the description Magic Johnson – who ran the front office for two years before stunningly resigning last month – gave in an explosive interview earlier in the day.

Johnson said Pelinka betrayed him. Johnson said business-side executive Tim Harris interfered in basketball operations. Johnson said mid-level employees Joey Buss and Jesse Buss thought they should be general manager or president.

And Johnson said Lakers owner Jeanie Buss enabled this toxic environment.

Pelinka stressed how much he enjoyed working with Johnson. Pelinka said he had spoken positively with Johnson several times in the last month. So, Pelinka called Johnson’s characterizations “saddening and disheartening.”

“They’re just simply not true,” Pelinka said. “I stand beside him. I stand with him as a colleague and a partner. I’ve always supported everything he’s done and will continue to.”

Pelinka is fighting an uphill battle on his reputation. Johnson remains so popular because of his greatness as a player and endearing personality.

Johnson effectively admitted today to being an absentee executive. He even contradicted his own tweet:

But most still view Johnson as more credible than Pelinka.

Really, this whole saga was sad for Frank, who was clearly excited about this opportunity after failing with the Magic. He was often a bystander at his own press conference.

Ultimately, it won’t matter Johnson-Pelinka drama upstaged Frank. He still takes over a team with LeBron James. a good amount of young talent, the No. 4 pick and max cap space. Vogel can succeed in this job.

If he does, everyone will come around. Pelinka was right about one thing: Winning will solve most of the Lakers’ issues.

But it’ll be harder for them to win because of their issues.

Frank can do his part by coaching well and, as he said he was up for, instilling energy and cohesion around him.

He can’t simply say the Lakers have their act together and expect us to believe him. Neither can Pelinka. And Johnson is obviously saying the opposite.

The next big question: How will they pitch free agents and stop these problems from spiraling even further?

Magic Johnson: Former Pelicans GM Dell Demps leaked Anthony Davis trade-talk details

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The Pelicans reportedly blame the Lakers for details of Anthony Davis trade negotiations leaking.

Former Lakers president Magic Johnson blames former Pelicans general manager Dell Demps.

Johnson on ESPN:

I told Dell Demps, “Let’s just do it in private. What we offer, let’s keep it between us.” Well, Dell didn’t do that. So, that’s how it got out.”

The Lakers have intriguing assets – Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, the No. 4 pick, all their own future first-round picks. Los Angeles will likely try again to land Davis.

Johnson and Demps are out. So, maybe these sour grapes don’t matter.

But enough people remain in each organization – including Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka, whom Johnson blasted today – from those winter trade talks. Whether or not there’s an edict in New Orleans forbidding new lead executive David Griffin from sending Davis to the Lakers, there’s clearly mistrust between these franchises. That makes it harder to reach a deal.

Lakers haven for failed coaches

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In the last two decades, 16 teams changed coaches, gave a majority of their minutes to returning players the following season and won 15 more games than the year prior (or equivalent in lockout-shortened season).

Only one of those 16 deposed coaches has gotten another non-interim NBA head-coaching job.

The Lakers will introduce him today.

His lead assistant is also one of the 16. Another member of the 16 was instrumental in hiring them.

Frank Vogel, Jason Kidd and Kurt Rambis make quite a trio.

The Lakers’ new head coach, Vogel is only one year removed from guiding Orlando to a 25-57 record. The Magic’s roster seemed to be the main culprit when they fired him, but Steve Clifford led a similar roster to a 42-40 record. That certainly didn’t reflect well on Vogel.

Ditto how the Bucks responded to Kidd’s departure. After going 44-38 and losing in the first round last season, Milwaukee ascended to 60-22 and is leading the Eastern Conference finals this season under Mike Budenholzer. Yet, Kidd – who’ll assist Vogel – was clearly a priority for the Lakers.

In 2011, the Timberwolves finished 17-65 and fired Rambis. Minnesota went 26-40 the following year under Rick Adelman. After bouncing around other jobs, Rambis is now playing a leading role in Rob Pelinka’s front office.

Every team changes between seasons. Players come and go. Those who stay get older and develop. Injuries happen inconsistently. The NBA hardly runs controlled experiments on coaches.

But these situations don’t instill confidence in Vogel, Kidd and Rambis. That they’re all working together now is remarkable.

Vogel has the most prominent role. Fortunately for the Lakers, he’s also the one least likely to be defined by his fixed-after-he-left tenure. Before Orlando, Vogel had plenty of success with the Pacers.

Kidd also did some positive things with the Bucks. Rambis…

People can learn from their mistakes. Second chances are sometimes warranted.

But the Lakers have LeBron James, whose prime years are dwindling. They’re a prestigious franchise in a premier market. High-end coaches and executives are particularly important and attainable.

The Lakers have given power to this group – maybe for good reason, maybe not.

I hope they explain why today, though there are several other issues they’ll have to address, too.