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Thursday, November 17, 2022

OPINION:

Friday night at Capital One Arena, the Washington Wizards will honor a team that never won more than 43 games in a season and never made it past the first round of three NBA playoff appearances.

They say they are reuniting the so-called “Big Three” — Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison — to celebrate “their contributions to the franchise,” according to the press release.


“The trio played together from 2005-06 to 2009-10 and led Washington to three consecutive playoff appearances (2006-2008),” the release states. 

Their playoff record in those three appearances, by the way? Four and 12.

“Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Wizards brand wouldn’t be complete without honoring the contributions of ‘The Big Three’ and having them all together on the same night makes it even more special,” Wizard president and general manager Tommy Sheppard is quoted in the press release. “Gilbert, Caron and Antawn represent a definitive era for the franchise and they deserve to be recognized for the excitement they generated on the court and the impact they had in our community, both of which led to a new generation of Wizards fans.”

I get for some fans these were the glory days. That’s pathetic. The only thing more pathetic is celebrating them years later as some sort of accomplishment. 

But let’s move beyond pathetic. Let’s graduate to grotesque — celebrating and inviting Arenas to return to the scene of the crime.

Here is the biographical information they included on Arenas in the press release:

Gilbert Arenas averaged 20.7 points, 5.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds in 552 games (455 starts) in 11 seasons with Washington, Golden State, Orlando and Memphis. With Washington (2003-2010), he was named a three-time All-Star (2004-2007) and earned All-NBA team honors in three consecutive seasons (2004-2007). Arenas played for the Wizards for eight seasons, averaging 25.0 points, 5.7 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. Prior to joining the Wizards, Arenas was named the 2002-03 Most Improved Player with Golden State. Throughout Arenas’ time with Washington, he finished top 10 in the league in scoring (2004-05, 4th; 2005-06, 4th; 2006-07, 3rd) and steals (2004-05, 5th; 2005-06, 2nd; 2006-07, 4th) and top-five in three-point field goals made (2004-05, 5th; 2005-06, 2nd; 2006-07, 1st). He was originally selected with the 31st overall pick in 2001 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors.”

Here is what they didn’t include: Arenas nearly destroyed the franchise. There have been many versions of the day in 2009 that Arenas brought guns into the Wizards locker room. Here’s one from one of his teammates who will be recognized Friday along with him — Caron Butler, from his 2015 book “Tuff Juice: My Journey from the Streets to the NBA,” wrote about the card game dispute that escalated into a life-and-death scenario:

“I’ll see your (expletive) at practice and you know what I do,” Gilbert said.

“What the (expletive) you mean, you know what I do?” replied Javaris.

“I play with guns.”

“Well, I play with guns, too.”

Two days later, Arenas showed up in the locker room in the District, where such activity is a felony, with four guns, laid out for all to see for themselves:

“Hey, MF, come pick one,” Gilbert told Javaris while pointing to the weapons. “I’m going to shoot your (expletive) with one of these.”

“Oh no, you don’t need to shoot me with one of those,” Javaris said. “I’ve got one right here.”

He pulled out his gun, cocked it and pointed it at Arenas.

Once the news broke about this stunning incident, the franchise nearly collapsed under the criticism. Arenas, whose career was already on the decline due to knee injuries, was suspended for much of the 2009-2010 season, charged with felony gun possession and wound up serving 30 days in a halfway house. A year later, he was traded to the Orlando Magic, and he was out of the league by 2012.

This remains disturbing enough 13 years later. But it turns out there are more tales of Arenas gun play while he was the star celebrated by this franchise.

Last month on Vlad TV, former Wizards teammate Nick Young shared this Arenas tale: “My dumba— ended up bringing the BB gun to the gym just to scare him, just to play around with him. But it was a gun, an NBA gun rule meeting. So, I’m in the meeting and Gil go into my locker room, take my gun, come into the guns meeting, shoot me with my gun in front of everybody while they’re talking about gun rules and stuff. … Nobody said nothing.”

Nobody said nothing then. Nobody will say nothing now.

The franchise whose name was changed by the late owner Abe Pollin in 1997 because “the name ‘Bullets” is no longer appropriate for a sports team is now honoring a player who celebrated guns and bullets so much he brought them into Pollin’s building.

This celebration is about the 25th anniversary of that name change.

That’s disgusting.

Here’s the grotesque: According to an Oct. 31 team press release, the team has launched “the Peace Tees campaign for the 2022-23 season. Proceeds from sales of the Peace Tees campaign will be donated to the Alliance of Concerned Men.

“The Wizards have teamed up with ACM, an organization dedicated to promoting understanding, peace, and harmony to continue to raise awareness and funds to prevent gun violence in Washington, D.C.

Please note the reference to “prevent gun violence.” Maybe they’ll put a shirt on Arenas.

I have called owner Ted Leonsis “Transparent Ted” because he promised transparency when he took over ownership of the Wizards in 2010 and rarely delivered it. I’m thinking “Tone Deaf Ted” might be a better fit.

Hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.


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