“If you come here, whatever we have, whatever we get, it’s yours. Just get me out of this MJ horror.” This was Ernie Grunfeld’s pitch for Gilbert Arenas to come to Washington. And if it sounds desperate, it’s because it was. That’s the type of situation the Wizards were in, all thanks to things going sour with Michael Jordan.
We’ve heard the stories about why Michael was hated by his Wizards’ teammates; he was equally demanding but not as transcendent as a player, he enforced championship standards on a group that wasn’t ready for it, and he was “the trash-talking Michael Jordan” in doing so. But how bad did it really get?
It became the Wizards’ culture, making Washington the place where “no free agents were supposed to go.” That’s why they decided to put all of their eggs in one basket and recruit Arenas – the second-best player of the ’03 free-agency class, behind only Lamar Odom. Gilbert was just what the doctor ordered for Washington. He had the basketball abilities and the personality to become the new face of the franchise. Getting a guy of such profile was the organization’s No.1 priority.
So they gave him an offer – $65 million over six years. Arenas inked the contract, giving the Golden State Warriors two weeks to match the offer, given that a 21-year-old guard was a restricted free agent at the time. But that was just a formality since the Warriors had to move at least three players, without taking back any salary, to get far enough under the salary cap to match the Wizards’ offer. Washington pounced on Golden State’s limitations by making offers in the $60 million range, leaving them with no choice but letting their star prospect walk. (the NBA eventually closed this loophole with what is known as The Gilbert Arenas Provision)
Thus the MJ era came to an end, and the Gilbert Arenas era began to take off. And while the latter was mired with ups and downs, at least the “MJ horror” was over. And Agent Zero saw it first hand; MJ’s two-year run with the Wizards made a long-term negative impact on most of the guys he had shared a locker room with.
He wasn’t the GM Michael Jordan; he was the player Michael Jordan. He’s going to push and be competitive, and a bunch of 18,19,20-year-olds; they don’t understand that. That’s what they were crying like, ‘oh man, if that’s the way he talked to us then, what happens if he’s our boss.’Gilbert Arenas, Club Shay Shay
Let me tell you what happens. It’s called the Charlotte Hornets. That’s another MJ horror, only in a different shape and form. Let’s hope it won’t take another Gilbert Arenas to put an end to it. Let’s hope for a better Michael Jordan as the owner since he couldn’t be a better teammate during his farewell tour with the Wizards.