After the Wizards dealt Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood to the Mavericks in what was essentially a salary dump, most Wizards fans were hoping that Antawn Jamison would be the next Wizard to leave town -- not on a sour note or because he isn't a talented player anymore, but because this team needs a new direction. Relying on the "Big Three" of Gilbert Arenas, Jamison, and Butler simply wasn't working, and it was time to try something else.
Well, today the Wizards and general manager Ernie Grunfeld decided to do just that by trading Jamison to the Cleveland Cavaliers. In the three-team deal that's being reported right now, the Wizards, in exchange for Jamison and Drew Gooden, will receive Zydrunas Ilgauskas and his $11.5 million expiring contract, a first-round pick from Cleveland, and forward Al Thornton from the Clippers. The Cavs get Jamison and Sebastian Telfair from the Clippers, while the Clippers receive Gooden, who the Wizards briefly acquired in the Mavericks deal.
With the trade, the Wizards gain lots of salary cap room. By dealing Jamison, the Wizards get rid of the remaining two years and over $28 million left on his contract after this season. And after the deals of Josh Howard ($10.9 million), Mike Miller ($9.8 million), Mike James ($6.5 million), Fabricio Oberto ($2.1 million), Javaris Crittenton ($1.5 million), Earl Boykins ($1.2 million), possibly Randy Foye ($3.6 million with a qualifying offer of $4.8 million), and now Ilgauskas all expire, the Wizards will be able to sign a few decent free agents if they desire.
There's no question that Grunfeld has a lot of work to do to fix this team, especially with the years and huge amount of money that is still due to Arenas. But the Wizards do have the rest of the season to see how good some of their young pieces are. Is Andray Blatche ready to step up and take over a leading role on this team? Can JaVale McGee improve his post defense and stop fouling so much? Can Nick Young prove to Flip Saunders that he's more than just a one-dimensional player? Will Foye prove that he can run the point and show that he can be a complementary piece to a winning team? How will Thornton fit in? That's a lot to find out, but those questions will probably need to be answered at some point -- along with figuring out who the next owner of the Wizards is going to be.
With some salary cap flexibility and a likely lottery pick in the upcoming draft, the Wizards have some things going for them. The next few weeks and months may get ugly, and Saunders will surely look frustrated more than a few times, but at least at this very moment there's a bit of hope that something good may be on the horizon for this team.
Oh yeah, and the Wizards actually played the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight, and won, 108-99. With a starting lineup of Foye, Young, Miller, Blatche, and McGee, the Wizards started slow but eventually started to right the ship in the second and third quarters. Blatche had a huge game and led the team with 33 points on 14-22 shooting and also grabbed a team-high 13 rebounds. Miller played a game-high 44 minutes and scored 17 points on just eight shots (and he was a perfect 5-5 from three-point range). McGee, who struggled to guard Al Jefferson in the first quarter, persevered and finished with 14 points (7-10 from the field), 11 rebounds, and five blocks.
As a team, the Wizards shot 47.7 percent from the field and outrebounded the T'Wolves 47-44. The Wizards also shared the ball for once, dishing out 10 more assists than Minnesota (24-14) and turning the ball over four fewer times (15-19).
The Wizards didn't play particularly great defense, and against good teams, such an effort would more than likely result in a loss. But the young guys got to play a bit, especially Blatche and McGee, and the Wizards hustled and moved the ball around. If they're going to play the rest of the season without Arenas, Butler, and Jamison, let them play this way, please.
Contract information via HoopsHype