- The Washington Times - Friday, July 4, 2008

Washington Wizards All-Star guard Gilbert Arenas informed team president Ernie Grunfeld on Thursday he will re-sign with the team, agreeing to a six-year deal worth $111 million.

Arenas, who is in China doing a promotional tour with Adidas, had received a max contract offer from the Wizards worth $127 million over six years Tuesday. He also received a five-year, $101 million offer from the Golden State Warriors, the team that drafted him out of Arizona in 2001.

But Arenas said he never considered the Warriors’ offer, feeling an allegiance to the Wizards for giving him his first big contract - a $65 million deal in 2003 - and because during the last five years he has become one of the league’s elite scorers.

During a Tuesday morning meeting, Arenas told Grunfeld he would re-sign with the Wizards for less than the max.

He also informed Grunfeld he wanted to wait until the NBA released the upcoming year’s salary cap and luxury tax figures Tuesday so he would know the team’s financial situation and wouldn’t cripple the team financially in the future by signing a max deal.

Arenas told the team he would “leave money on the table” so the Wizards would have flexibility to make other moves in free agency.

But after two days of mulling over the offer and considering how he could “help the team,” Arenas decided to inform Grunfeld of his decision.

“[The Wizards] offered me the max, and I’m basically giving back $16 million,” Arenas said. “This is in line with what I’ve been saying the whole time. You see players take max deals, and they financially bind their teams. I don’t wanna be one of those players, and three years down the road your team is strapped and can’t do anything about it.

“What can I do for my family with $127 million that I can’t do with $111 million?” he added.

The Wizards went over the salary cap to re-sign team captain Antawn Jamison to a four-year $50 million deal Monday. They could have remained under the league luxury tax if they re-signed Arenas to the max but couldn’t have acquired any other players or attempted to re-sign reserve guard Roger Mason Jr., who also is an unrestricted free agent.

“Now we can add another piece,” Arenas said. “Now we have the flexibility to re-sign [second-year shooting guard] Nick Young in a few years when his contract’s up because the guys like Nick and Andray Blatche and [2008 first-round pick] JaVale McGee are our future.”

Arenas said Grunfeld still needs to go over the numbers to figure how the team will disperse the $111 million and that there are other details for Grunfeld to work out, but the key components have been taken care of.

“It’s a relief,” Arenas said. “It was a burden at the same time. Your whole city is depending on you, wondering if you’re going to make the right decision. I’m a franchise player, and sometimes franchise players need to make franchise decisions.”

Arenas came to the Wizards in 2003 after two seasons with Golden State. After his initial season in the District, Arenas morphed into one of the league’s most prolific scorers, averaging 25.5, 29.3 and 28.4 over the 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons, respectively.

But with less than a month left in the 2006 campaign, Arenas suffered a torn meniscus and underwent season-ending surgery. That summer he said he would opt out of his contract the following year in pursuit of a long-term maximum-dollar contract.

Arenas stuck with his plan despite having to undergo a second surgery on the same knee in November. He missed 69 games while recovering.

But injury didn’t dissuade Arenas from opting out. And as the season drew near its completion, he said he considered a long-term deal more important than a top-dollar contract. Aware that the Wizards would have to re-sign Jamison, Arenas said he would take less money if it meant retaining the team captain.

Arenas remained true to his word and took less than the max.

“I had to show my respect for the team,” Arenas said. “This is the team that gave me a chance. From Day 1, [Wizards owner] Abe Pollin told me I was his guy and I was going to lead his team. I was 20 years old, and he told me that. Now they gave me the max, they recognize me as a max player and they gave it to me, and I’m taking that max and giving $16 million back to the team.”



Click to Read More

Click to Hide