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Wizards’ Arenas opts out of deal

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Gilbert Arenas said Monday night he officially opted out of the final year of his contract with the Washington Wizards. The three-time All-Star filed the necessary paperwork with the NBA on Friday, meaning he will pass up the $12.8 million he was guaranteed next season and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Arenas confirmed he had opted out but would not comment further.

Arenas, who has had two knee surgeries since April 2007 and was limited to just 13 regular-season games and four playoff games this year, had until June 20 to file the paperwork. Despite his limited action this season, Arenas was confident he still would be able to command a top contract, saying in March, "I'm still gonna be the No. 1 free agent. I mean, on a bad leg I average 22."

Teams can begin negotiating with players when free agency begins July 1.

The move comes as no surprise. Arenas announced his intentions after the 2006-07 season and maintained throughout this season he would opt out.

Arenas has said his intent isn't necessarily to leave the Wizards but instead to give himself the opportunity to pursue a long-term max deal. Arenas could sign a six-year contract worth as much as $120 million.

Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld has said throughout the year the Wizards will "do what we need to do to keep [Arenas]."

He also maintained repeatedly that the Wizards are aiming to re-sign their other All-Star free agent, Antawn Jamison.

Arenas does not have an agent and instead will represent himself in the negotiations, saying "I see no point in giving somebody 4 percent of my money" when he can do the work himself.

Meanwhile, the Wizards held their third predraft evaluation session with another six players - including North Carolina's Ty Lawson - in attendance.

Butler guard Mike Green, Ohio State forward Othello Hunter, Clemson forward James Mays, UAB forward Walter Sharpe and Indiana forward D.J. White also worked out for Wizards officials.

Lawson's workout was cut short when he sprained his left ankle. But the Clinton native said he still felt good about his performance up to that point.

Monday's workout was Lawson's first since being arrested and charged with driving after consuming alcohol early Friday morning. He was scheduled to attend a session in Denver that day, but he had to reschedule.

Lawson, who grew up a Wizards fan and said he would love to play for his hometown team, believes the incident shouldn't cause teams to reconsider drafting him.

"I saw the headlines, and it sounded worse than what it was," the 20-year-old said. "I blew a [0.03], so it wasn't [that] I was being irresponsible. It was just not being 21."

The Wizards, who hold the 18th and 48th picks in this year's draft, have additional workouts scheduled every day this week.