Today's a big day, with free agency beginning and all, and there already has been some surprising moves announced. But let's talk about Jamison's extension from yesterday, because it's official, and it implies a problem we might be seeing more of in the next few weeks. I wrote a piece at the beginning of the year talking about how salaries should be curtailed in light of the current luxury tax crunch so many teams are facing (I also mistakenly blasted Kyle Korver - oh yeah.) The main point was rather simple: only pay top dollar for the very best talent, especially when you're bidding against yourself.
Ernie Grunfeld apparently didn't take heed. What team besides the Wizards was going to give Antawn $50 million over four years? There's no way the Sixers or Grizzlies would have, they're both rebuilding, and that was really Washington's only direct competition for Jamison's services. So basically Grunfeld had all the leverage going into this negotiation - and didn't take any advantage of it. This is a classic case of salary cap mismanagement, evoking immediate memories of Otis Smith's misguided generosity towards Rashard Lewis last year. It's not surprising, but always kind of disappointing.
If there's one thing I don't get in today's NBA's fiscal climate, it is why you would overpay a player who doesn't need to be overpaid. Jamison is not a peerless talent -he's probably the Wizards' third best player, and he's 32 at the beginning of this deal. Grunfeld should have at least offered Jamison a few less greenbacks so it would be more palatable to throw money in Arenas' direction. Or - if he was really forward thinking - he would have let the market dictate whether he would have signed either Jamison or Arenas, and acted accordingly to get better talent if his stars decided to move elsewhere (and be vastly overpaid.)
Listen, the Wizards just aren't that good - I don't care if Eddie Jordan coached the All-Star game a few years ago. These guys aren't gonna get through the Celtics, Pistons, Cavs, Magic, etc. They might get through one, but they won't get through all of them. Forking over $170 million to Gilbert and Antawn all but guarantees adequacy from the Wiz over the next few years. So congratulations on that, Mr. Grunfeld, we'll see how many other GMs have joined you in this dubious club by summer's end.