Friday, January 29th, 2010 at 1:13 pm  |  52 responses

Links: Righting Wrongs

Fri-Day! Yes!

by Lang Whitaker

When NBA Commissioner David Stern announced this week that Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton would both be suspended for the remainder of the NBA season, he noted that yes indeed, he was setting a precedent and sending a message.

“The issue here is not about the legal ownership and possession of guns, either in one’s home or elsewhere,” Stern said in a statement. “It is about possession of guns in the NBA workplace, which will not be tolerated.”

If this is where Stern wants to make a stand, nobody is going to challenge him on this, at least not publicly. Stern knew it would be nearly impossible to screw this up, to over-punish these players. And the players, at least thus far, seem to understand that at this point, it’s in their best interest to shut up and publicly take their medicine. For now.

What I’m curious to see is, what happens next?

The Wizards held a press conference after the suspension was announced, and as Michael Lee noted in the Washington Post…

There has been speculation that the Wizards would try to terminate Arenas’s deal under the “moral turpitude” clause in the Uniform Player Contract, but multiple sources claim that the team has not discussed that option — although it hadn’t been ruled out. In a news conference on Wednesday evening, Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld said, “We haven’t made any kind of decisions, but we are exploring all our options.”

Talking about keeping your options open!

“According to multiple sources, Lang Whitaker has not even discussed cheating on his wife — but it hasn’t been ruled out.”

The Wizards obviously are only certain about one thing: They’re not certain about anything. Two years ago they made a sizable, long-term commitment to Gilbert Arenas. The Washington Wizards organization, led by the very same team president Ernie Grunfeld quoted above, told Gilbert Arenas that they didn’t want him to play for any NBA team other than them. And that if Gilbert would commit to playing for them for the next six years, they’d pay him $125 million.

And you know what Gilbert did? He told the Wizards that was too much money: “I looked at like this: There is nothing I can do for my family with $127 million that I can’t do with $111 million. I mean, college is expensive but it ain’t that dang expensive. Now, we have room to add a piece. There is a window of opportunity for us. Adding key pieces leads to championships and that’s what we all want.”

But is that really what the Wizards want? In the years since then, the economy has gone to hell. Teams and corporations are looking to save dough left and right imposing layoffs, cutbacks, unpaid vacations.

Looking at it as purely a basketball decision, would a team want to get rid of a guy who’s still two years shy of 30 years old, who leads their team in points per game and assists per game? Of course not.

But as a financial decision, would a team in the midst of a recession want to get out of a contract where they owe about $80 million to a guy who hasn’t played like a franchise player? Of course they would.

The Wizards willingly entered into a deal with Gilbert Arenas, a deal that it’s now obvious wasn’t a very good one, at least as far as the Wizards are concerned. And now, at least it seems to me, the Wizards see a glimmer of light, a way to escape. If they can figure out some way to terminate his contract, they save $80 million. They’re not going to be any worse without him. If the Wizards can dump his deal, they basically get to hit the reset button on whatever that mess was they were trying to build there.

But that’s not how it’s supposed to work. If you’re an NBA team and your GM makes some bad moves, too bad! Nobody forced the Wizards to offer that contract to Gilbert Arenas. Certainly the Wizards had to be aware that at the very least, the Gilbert Arenas business wasn’t the most stable business to be in. But this was their choice, their decision. Nobody held a…wait, never mind.

Nobody is denying that Gilbert Arenas screwed up. Regardless of the particulars, regardless of the inconsistency of the punishment from the League, he brought a gun into the Wizards locker room. This is something you are not allowed to do. Yesterday David Stern told him what his punishment from the League will be. He’s already lost sponsors, lost fans, lost money. In a few weeks he’ll face a judge and face his punishment from the government.

Just like there are for Gilbert and Javaris right now, there are consequences for NBA teams that make dumb choices. Nobody seems totally sure of what might happen if the Wizards pursue having Gilbert’s contract terminated. The Warriors, you might recall, tried to have Latrell Sprewell’s contract tossed out on the same basis, that his behavior violated the morality clause in the contract. And a judge decided that whatever the vague “moral turpitude clause” means, you have to do something worse than choking your coach and throwing a punch at him.

If it comes down to it and I was sitting in judgment of Arenas v. Wizards, my ruling would be based more on common sense than the law, two things that aren’t always mutually exclusive. The Wizards seem to looking for a way out of a $111 million mistake they made by capitalizing on a mistake Gilbert made. But to me, your own dumb choices shouldn’t be erased by someone else’s dumb choices.

It’s what they taught us as kids: Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Not even in the NBA.

• Also, don’t mess with David Stern.

• I was the guest this week on Blogs With Balls radio. Lots of talk about lots of stuff.

• And here’s this week’s internet segment from The Beat.

Also, just found out we’ll be doing a couple of broadcasts of The Beat live(!) from Dallas over All-Star Weekend. That should be fun. I’m going to rent one of these to wear.

• I’ve never really weighed in on this Paul Shirley guy. He was a below-average NBA player who couldn’t find a full-time gig with a team as a 12th man. He caught on briefly with the Phoenix Suns a few years ago and started blogging for their website during the Suns’ run through the Playoffs, and it was good stuff, compelling content about what was happening behind the scenes with the players and coaches. It also probably ended his run with the Suns, because nobody likes a narc.

And then he wrote this.

Shirley followed that up with what he titled A Reaction. In his “reaction,” he writes “it was not my intent to suggest that I don’t care about the fate of Haiti, or that I am not sympathetic to the people who make up the huge numbers and heartbreaking images we see flashed across our television and computer screens.”

Well, then maybe you shouldn’t have written all the things you just said you weren’t trying to say.

I don’t think Paul Shirley is a heartless person; I think Paul Shirley is just a maladroit writer. I saw so many people over the last two days, on Twitter and on various websites, saying Shirley should be beaten up, or harmed, or aborted, etcetera. And I just felt like people were going too far.

His column was reprehensible. I couldn’t have disagreed with it any more than I did. In fact, when I first read it, I read it twice because I was sure there was some irony or sarcasm or something in there that I was missing. But no, it was just bad.

And worse, according to Shirley, at least if we are to believe his “reaction,” he managed to offend a majority of people and still never effectively get his point across.

In his “reaction,” Shirley writes, “…my goal was to question the psychology of donating, the way we react to natural disasters and the nature of responsibility leading up to and immediately after those disasters. Regardless of the outcry that followed, I think I did those things.”

He did none of those things. After reading his columns, I still don’t know what Shirley thinks, and I’m still not sure why I should care about what Paul Shirley thinks about a tragic situation just a few miles from here.

But if what he mentioned really were his goals, then after reading the results of him trying — twice, no less — to get his points across and failing wildly, then he’s as clumsy a social commentator as he was a basketball player.

• Speaking of bad writing, will everyone out there who writes, or fancies themselves a writer, please read this. As the person who takes the initial stab at copy-editing every story that goes into SLAM, please, everyone, especially if you write for SLAM, please read it.

• Oh Greg Oden, how could you pose for a picture like this?!

(What, you were expecting some other kind of photo?)

Just saying.

• Sorry Vikings fans, but this was pretty funny.

• BTW, did you know LeBron is a Free Mason? Yeah, don’t think so.

• Gary Coleman’s mug shot is terrifying. Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout, police officer!?

• Finally, want to know why I think NBA players are best athletes in sports? Because this guy is one of the best NFL prospects on the planet.

(Then again…)

• That’s it. Have a great weekend everybody.

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  • http://www.twitter.com/Th3_R3al_Chris Th3_R3al_Chris

    Oh my God! No wonder he is so talented and athletic. Lebron signed a deal with the devil. Him and Jay-Z are brothers to the Anti-Christ and if we don’t wake up they are going to eventually rule the world someday. This is all a conspiracy, people. Open your eyes!

  • Milan

    Great Links to end the week.

  • Hangtime Hec

    I hope your being sarcastic Real Chris. I love conspiracies, but you tend to forget about the real world and make up your own silly reality. That Greg Oden link had me rolling. Great Job again, Lang.

  • http://www.twitter.com/Th3_R3al_Chris Th3_R3al_Chris

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixhSOjrHcec Kobe is part of the Illuminati too! Proof is in this link I found on Youtube!!!

  • David

    i’m so glad that wasn’t some other kind of Oden pic.

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.co BETCATS

    I think Ryan Jones needs to come in here and clear up the Lebron-Freemason thing NOW.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ Tariqُُ

    I agree with you, Lang. I don’t think Paul Shirley is a heartless person. But at the same time, I don’t think his problem is that he’s a clumsy writer. It’s not like he has some kind of profound thought in his head that he just can’t get across because of his ineffectiveness with a pen. It’s just that racism and xenophobia, in my opinion, don’t always operate in grandiose ways. In other ways, not every form of racism expresses itself like Nazism or the KKK or something extreme like that. Sometimes it’s more subtle. Sometimes it’s just some fleeting thought in your head that you never even realized that you had. And sometimes when you try to articulate it, it comes out clumsy and illogical and it doesn’t make any sense, because racism, by definition, is illogical. You just said that you enjoyed Shirley’s writing when he blogged about the Suns. Why wasn’t he a “maladroit writer” then?
    Listen, I agree that people tend to vilify guys like Shirley when I’m sure that there others who have much more hatred and darkness (no pun intended) in their hearts. It’s just that Shirley made the mistake of putting these illogical, ill-conceived thoughts out there for all the world to see. It doesn’t necessarily make him any worse than you or me. It just exposed to some degree the illogical prejudice that exists to some degree in his heart.
    And the fact that he tried to justify it and explain it away only makes it worse.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ Tariqُُ

    *In other words…

  • http://www.realcavsfans.com Anton

    Shout out to RealCavsFans.com

  • http://slamonline.com Mo Money Bizzes

    Weak sauce son. And how to use a semicolon is some high school shizz. Doesn’t mean much, though, cuz half these slamonline writers probably didn’t even go to high school.

  • Fat Lever

    Vintage Links. Nice. “We can’t move forward without first acknowledging our past”…or some ish like that.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Lang Whitaker

    Hey Mo Money, I referenced you on that podcast I linked to.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Good stuff, Lang. I finally found some posters to update your background on “The Beat.” Check your desk Monday…

  • Hangtime Hec

    So I guess he wasnt being sarcastic then.

  • http://www.twitter.com/Th3_R3al_Chris Th3_R3al_Chris

    I’m still naming my first born Mo Money Bizzes.

  • http://slamonline.com Adam Fleischer

    So do we think Greg Oden has already done what his shirt says to the girl in that particular picture? Enjoyed the column, Lang.

  • http://slamonline.com Mo Money Bizzes

    Good looks, lang. I’m on top o’ da world! David Aldridge Monday column voice. Da Beat goes on and on and on and on. Can I get a column on here or should I hit up Dime or another corny-azzz site? Y’all know how I do, no follow friday.

  • http://www.nba.com/playerfile/sean_marks/index.html Michael NZ


  • http://www.nba.com/playerfile/sean_marks/index.html Michael NZ

    The art on that oatmeal site never fails to crack me up. Especially those tapeworms.

  • http://www.michaelcho.com M Cho

    Interesting perspective on the Wizard’s mess. As for Paul Shirley, I think the guy was just trying to write one of his usual snide, sarcastic, “I’m smarter than you” articles and didn’t realize that you can’t make fun of human misery and tragedy on a such a grand scale and get away with it. The fact that he thought he could is evidence of his lack of foresight and empathy. In the end, both the Wizard’s situation and Shirley’s is about accountability for your actions.

  • http://www.slamonline.com melvin ely

    I am not a violent person either by nature or inclination, but I disagree with Lang; (see what I did there???) Paul shirley does deserved to be harmed. Ignorance of the simplest rules of basic human decency does not excuse you from getting beaten for violating them.

  • Hangtime Hec

    Beating the Crap out of Shirley doesn’t make us any better than him. It wouldn’t solve anything or give him any sort of enlightenment. A better revenge would be him losing everything,losing all relationship with his family and fall into a life of poverty. To fully understand that type of lifestyle and hardship. That would be the ultimate punishment.

  • the voice of reason

    love how people are incapable of seperating logical arguments from emotional situations. ‘people should be more responsible for themselves’, ‘we should teach them how to best use that money, rather than letting an already corrupt government spend it unwisely and make the same mistakes’, ‘knowledge is more important in preventing this than money in reacting to it’. these arent ‘evil’ concepts, no matter how you react emotionally to a current situation.

  • Ronald

    Love the semi-colon article. They should hire the writer to write english cirriculums in schools. Best way to learn. Also, are u also responsible for the poor editting work that Slamonline articles go through?

  • http://Www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    Great Links, Whitaker. Can’t wait for your wifey to read that part about the possibility of you cheating, Langstarrr. You know how women love to hear their men make light of that subject… Hehe Seems like you picked up a groupie in Mo Money….

  • http://Www.lkz.ch Darksaber

    2nd time this week a Slam writer has made me aware of the oatmeal site; it’s time to bookmark it. (hey melvin, see what i did right there? Eh, eh?)

  • http://slamonline.com tealish

    You guys kill me. Paul Shirley deserves to be harmed because of words he wrote? He deserves to be aborted? Really? Guess what, those are pretty disgusting words too; I wonder what sort of punishment should fit that crime.

  • http://www.need4sheed.com Tarzan Cooper

    the semi-colon stuff was quite remedial. gary coleman pic was horrificly terrifying. he looks like zedevil. speaking of, lebron is a pawn of the illuminati. he is a part of the large distraction project. whats up with the fat boy and greg oden pics lang? feelin a certain way today? dont ask; dont tell.

  • http://www.need4sheed.com Tarzan Cooper


    great, great link here. K-RINO grand deception.

  • http://www.need4sheed.com Tarzan Cooper


    another great one, K-RINO the serpent. everyone MUST watch both of these.

  • http://www.nba.com/playerfile/sean_marks/index.html Michael NZ

    @tealish: Agreed. Its a weird double standard by some isn’t it?

  • underdog

    “But as a financial decision, would a team in the midst of a recession want to get out of a contract where they owe about $80 million to a guy who hasn’t played like a franchise player?” – Rashard Lewis, anyone?

  • bambé

    I just saw lang in nba action…..

  • kid juicey

    @ Osborne: when is 136 dropping

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    What’s all this about semi-colons?

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Seriously, what is it with the semi-colons? What article?

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ Tariqُُ

    By the way nice Spivak reference; I can’t stand her writing.

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    @kid juicey: on site and in NYC this upcoming week, should be on stands everywhere by 2/10. All say this much: it features the most famous photographer we’ve ever used, and man is the shot impressive.

  • http://www.nba.com/playerfile/sean_marks/index.html Michael NZ

    Atiba isn’t your most famous?!

  • Kid Juicey

    @ Osborne: Good looks getting back to me didn’t expect it.
    Fired up for the new ish. Thanks !

  • Jon

    That Paul Shirley article is nonsense. Helping someone in need shouldn’t be questioned, nor should he question others when all he does is sit there. I don’t have much but I sold whatever luxury items I have such as most of my PS3 games (apart from NBA 2K10 :p) and couple items too. I feel insulted that he would question me when he sits in his armchair typing away in total comfort. That being said, I do agree with one thing. Unlike Katrina, Haiti is in a disaster zone and constantly fitting 10 million people in there and re-building unstable houses again and again is questionable. Oh well, too late for me. My money has already been donated.

  • chintao

    Teddy’s a Raptor fan; he should know that dinosaurs are all about high-fives.

  • http://www.slamonline.com melvin ely

    @tealish: actually I was half-joking when I said that, I had hoped that quip about the semicolon was enough to convey that. Sorry if that post came out all messed up and combatant. But, please re-read his article. Now, center your attention on his letter to Haiti. Then imagine if he was saying that garbage to you face-to-face instead of behind the veneer of internet blogging. Wouldn’t you want to punch him in the face as well?

  • Lebran

    Paul Shirley spouted (MOSTLY) crap (how he manages to BLAME the people of Haiti for the disaster is bewildering), but i DO agree with the premise as a rational and logical human being, rather than a spoonfed google junkie, that just giving and giving and giving, rather than teaching and informing is one of the most misconstewed human virutes.

    Microcosm: Give a 12 year old boy $1,000,000 dollars and see what he does with it.

    Then teach another 12 year old about about saving, investing and living, then allow him to live within his own means.

    See which 12 year old has a more productive life.

    You all know the answer and as far away as this comparison may seem, it is not always productive to just give and give and give and give. Especially at a rate that is unsustainable over the long term.

    If someone gave you $1,000,000 dollars, and said you had to go and spend that entire million dollars on a house in malibu, they would actually be doing you more harm than good. The cost of sustaining that property would cripple you in weeks. It is a long term subtraction by addition.

    In terms of development, Haiti is definately a middle class 12 year old boy.

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ Tariqُُ

    Lang, how many maladroit posters do you see?

  • http://slamonline.com tealish

    @melvin: Half joking? Half serious? I don’t know how you actually feel, but your comment wasn’t the only one I was referring to. There was also an article written by a SLAM writer that wished for Paul Shirley to have been aborted. The writer’s name escapes me. (Zirin maybe? Not sure). Countless other things of a violent nature have been said. I’ll assume these are all jokes. Either way, despicable words are despicable words — whether they are directed towards someone who spoke (or wrote) despicable things themselves, or not.

  • http://hoopistani.blogspot.com The Hoopistani

    that greg oden t-shirt is gold

  • http://shawn-kemps-offspring.blogspot.com/ Tariqُُ

    tealish: Zirin was on point. Contextualize.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Oh, for some reason the link didn’t appear until now; you punks weren’t helpful at all.

  • http://slamonline.com tealish

    Nah, we just disagree.

  • http://idunkonthem.blogspot.com/ albie1kenobi

    thanks Lang for the semi-colon link; i’m definitely using it for a piece i’m writing right now.

  • Hoodsnake

    Mo Money Bizzes please stand up!