- The Washington Times - Friday, June 15, 2007

Gilbert Arenas culled from Latrell Sprewell’s tired material in saying his decision to opt out of his contract with the Wizards after next season is based on securing the financial future of his two children.

To which can be said: Give me and all the other workaday lugs a break.

Earth to Arenas: With your $64 million contract, you already are in a position to give your children advantages that you never had. It turned out fairly well for you. It gave you a deep hunger. The wealth of the Hiltons produced the opposite effect on Paris.

This is not to object to an athlete looking to squeeze every last penny out of a team. That is the American way. We do not live in a socialist’s paradise, where everyone lives in egalitarian harmony, which is to say everyone lives in poverty.

We live in a free marketplace, and if Arenas is inclined to test what his unique talents might bring on the open market, good for him. That is the game. That is what we all do. We all want to be paid, and the more we are paid, the better.

Just leave the children out of it. Whenever you hear adults discussing how it is all about the children, you know it is time to secure your wallet. It is rarely about the children. It is usually about the adults saying it is about the children.

Here is another thing that is becoming annoying — the implied notion that Ernie Grunfeld and Eddie Jordan will be held accountable if Arenas decides the team lacks championship-quality personnel.

Arenas conveniently overlooks the obvious, which is: This is his team, his coach, his city.

If the team has been found wanting the last two seasons, that is partly because Arenas refuses to devote himself to the defensive end of the floor and because he and Caron Butler were sidelined with injuries during the playoffs this past April.

Arenas has been desperate to be viewed as an elite player since coming to Fun Street four years ago. And he has achieved much of what he has sought in becoming a three-time All-Star and All-NBA selection.

But Arenas has a responsibility with those honors. He has to show us he can lead the Wizards to the conference finals or NBA Finals. He cannot run away from the responsibility by suggesting he will continue to monitor the progression of the Wizards.

Please. Who does LeBron James have playing alongside him?

A rookie named Boobie. A Lithuanian past his prime. A Brazilian in a fright wig. Somebody named Sasha. The modestly serviceable Drew Gooden. The 94-year-old Eric Snow. Donyell “Glued to the 3-Point Line” Marshall. And Larry “I Used to be Somebody” Hughes.

James and the Cavaliers would be unbeatable in the conference the next few seasons if Butler and Antawn Jamison were on their roster.

The long-term prospects of the Wizards are encouraging as it is, so long as Andray Blatche continues to develop, Oleksiy Pecherov meets expectations and Grunfeld possibly lands a gem in the NBA Draft later this month.

It is true the center by committee of Brendan Haywood and the Poet is no longer tolerable.

Even so, Arenas and the Wizards must know they were not leading the conference at the All-Star break by accident.

If Arenas opts out of his contract and leaves the Wizards next summer, what he really will be saying is, “I am not good enough to lead a team deep into the playoffs.”

Otherwise, his recent pronouncement contradicts his past comments of wanting to spend the rest of his career here and one day seeing his jersey hanging from the rafters and claiming not to want a maximum contract because of the limitation it puts on a franchise in landing top-level personnel.

Arenas either accepts the challenge of being the franchise player of the Wizards or doesn’t.

If he goes elsewhere, it will be as a nice regular-season player who could not get it done in the postseason with the Wizards.

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