Kwame Brown’s name sprang to mind when the Washington Wizards won the top pick in the 2010 NBA draft.
Kwame Brown is a name I closely associate with a Washington team which has managed to piddle away just about all of its good fortune in the past decade.
Kwame Brown. That name that should remind everyone near the District just how little the No. 1 overall pick can help.
John Wall, this year’s presumed No. 1 pick out of the University of Kentucky, does not appear to be much like Kwame Brown.
Having led his team to the Elite Eight while garnering Player of the Year considerations, Wall is already a better finished product than Brown was after years in the pros.
But Wall is not LeBron James, either. Wall is not a player who will single-handedly turn the foundering Wizards around. He is certainly a piece of the puzzle. Maybe even a cornerstone, but there are still many moves to be made and many holes to plug before anyone can dare think of the Wiz as a legit NBA contender.
For starters, what do you do with the team’s old cornerstone: Gilbert Arenas?
With Wall likely assuming the job at point guard, do you shift Arenas to the 2 and hope his propensity to dominate the ball won’t overshadow the newcomer? Or do you trade him for (very) diminished returns after he comes back from his punishment for bringing a gun into the Wizards’ locker room?
Arenas still has some value. Until the firearm foolishness he was proving that he – finally – was back to form after missing roughly the last century with knee problems.
In an offseason that will be dominated by LeBron James and his fellow uber unrestricted free agents — Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson and (potentially) Dirk Nowitzki — Arenas is more of an afterthought until teams like the New York Knicks start striking out with those stars and start seeking another player with star potential as a consolation prize.
What the Wizards will get in return for a player with recurring knee problems, recurring problems with his off-court judgment and a recurring paycheck (with four years and a cool $80 million left on that deal) is, shall we say, uncertain. But the team may find Arenas’s continued presence in the locker room and on the court to be an even greater uncertainty.
I think that at his best Gilbert Arenas is a great player who can be a true asset to his community off the court. He can take over games and be absolutely charming in-person.
At his worst, though: Well, just refer to the past two years for his downside. It’s tough to build a team around a player as volatile as Arenas. And that brings me back to our boy Kwame.
You see, to me, Gilbert Arenas is an extension of Kwame Brown. Kwame Brown is everything wrong with the Wizards. His name was etched in our minds before Gilbert’s, and Kwame’s curse, may loom over Chinatown long after Gilbert leaves the District.
Kwame Brown isn’t just a person, he’s a symbol of a way of life in the NBA.
Kwame Brown represents futility. Kwame Brown represents unfulfilled potential. Kwame Brown represents promise completely wasted because of poor judgment.
And that significance extends beyond Kwame Brown to the organization which hitched itself to his dubious star and which has similarly squandered the past two decades.
But now, the Wizards have received a gift so great that even they shouldn’t be able to screw up. With new ownership coming in, it’s time for the ineptitude to stop.
There is nothing to suggest that Arenas can take this Wizards team to a championship. Surrounded with far better talent than he will be next season, the Wiz have scratched out a second-round playoff appearance just once since he joined the team. That’s not good enough.
If I’m the Wizards, I trade him for whatever I can get. Even if you can just dump the contract, you take your lumps next season while Wall grows into the starting role, draft in the lottery again next season and use the money you saved from Arenas on a 2011 free agent class that could include Maryland natives Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant.
Wall may not represent the coming of the messiah, but he is a fresh start. And given the futility of the past few years, the Wizards would do well to clear the way for him.