- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2006

Gilbert Arenas has elected to exercise his star power, as stars often do in the NBA.

He remains disappointed in the first-round playoff exit of the Wizards and the persistent speculation involving the future of coach Eddie Jordan.

The decision of Arenas and his agent to go public with their concerns follows the championship ascension of Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.

Wade, like Arenas, is 24 years old but well ahead of his contemporaries in establishing a legacy.

That realization undoubtedly is gnawing on the competitor in Arenas, who has every reason to believe he is at the skill level of all the emerging stars in the NBA.

But he knows he cannot reach the NBA’s brightest stage with a feeble frontcourt, no more than Wade could.

His message is clear enough.

One side of him wants to spend the rest of his career with the Wizards. He imagines seeing his jersey hanging from the rafters of Abe Pollin’s house on Fun Street.

Yet he cannot imagine himself being satisfied with a team that merely makes the playoffs. And he certainly cannot imagine having someone on the bench other than the coolheaded Jordan.

The tenuous position of Jordan has been cited anew following the departure of Larry Brown in New York.

The talk-show crowd has put together Jordan’s murky status and the availability of Brown and come up with a fire-and-hire sequence that possibly would inspire those who flock to Tony Cheng’s neighborhood.

That speculation is perfectly understandable, considering Jordan’s failure to secure a contract extension after leading the Wizards to the playoffs in consecutive seasons, a first for the franchise in 18 years.

A contract extension for Jordan is still possible and would silence the chattering in the media.

It also would rebuke the few in the locker room not at all dismayed by the prospect of a coach laboring in the last year of a contract.

The few know it is far easier to fire the coach than the inept taking up space on the floor.

Arenas is loyal to a fault, as we discovered from his silly arrest in Miami.

His loyalty to Jordan corresponds to his rise as a two-time All-Star.

The two men trust one another, and that trust is especially useful on the rare occasions the relationship is challenged by the proceedings on the floor.

Jordan never has been afraid to bench Arenas for an extensive period on the rare nights the guard is enduring a protracted airhead condition.

The inner airhead of Arenas manifests itself with the careless pass or the occasional game in which he appears to be in a haze.

Arenas accepts coaching and the responsibility of being the team’s face. His work ethic is well-documented. His devotion to Jordan is commendable. His challenge to Ernie Grunfeld is misplaced.

Grunfeld has more than a little experience in building championship-contending teams. He knows all about the team’s deficiencies in the frontcourt. It is hardly top-secret stuff.

Yet finding that next piece is never as easy or simple as Scott Jackson’s call-in general managers make it out to be.

It would be just great if Grunfeld could trade the Poet for Kevin Garnett straight-up. That, unfortunately, is forgetting the economics of it and the needs of Kevin McHale.

Grunfeld considers the two consecutive playoff berths a step, not a cue to be complacent, as Arenas should know.

Grunfeld has made a series of high-profile moves the last three summers that have pulled the Wizards out of the muck of yesteryear.

Arenas’ threat to opt out of his contract in two seasons is no doubt prompted by the frustration of a first-round playoff exit, the potential lame-duck status of a coach he respects and the championship of a contemporary.

His opt-out threat is not necessarily idle, given his willingness to be arrested in order to cover the backside of a teammate.

Yet if Grunfeld’s past is an indication, help eventually should be on the way.

As for Jordan, he has earned a contract extension.

The only question is whether Grunfeld is inclined to grant him one.

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