A recent article by Michael Lee, delves into what may lie ahead for the Washington Wizards in the aftermath of the Gilbert Arenas/Javaris Crittenton...uh, situation (if only they were flashing their abs). Naturally, Lee looks to the Indiana Pacers for historical reference since the Palace Brawl brought about a comparable season-long suspension. Mere seconds before the brawl, the Pacers had just established themselves as a legit title-contender and certainly the lead dog in the Eastern Conference. Then in the blink of an eye, it was all gone and the Pacers haven't sniffed that lofty status since.
Now with the Wizards facing a similar season-disrupting nightmare, the comparisons to the brawl are flowing along with the warnings of how to avoid the extended nightmare the Pacers have lived through. Reggie Miller maintains that the brawl changed everything for the Pacers and they still haven't recovered. Shoals looks at the Pacers as a cautionary tale for the Wizards not to go overboard in their reaction to this incident and overturn the roster like the Pacers did.
So as a public service for Wizards' fans, I have to make sure they understand that the situation they find themselves in is not even close to what happened with the Pacers. Oh, and by the way, the current state of the Pacers is NOT a direct result of the brawl alone.
Allow me to explain and try to draw parallels to the Wizards.
There was plenty of fallout from the brawl obviously, but in general Pacer fans didn't turn their back on the team as a direct result of the brawl. In fact, there was a little bit of "us against the world" initially because of the perceived inequities in the punishment, considering the failure of security which forced the Pacers to ultimately and literally fight their way off the court to safety. I say perceived because obviously the NBA couldn't suspend anyone on the Pistons' roster because their fans went mob mad and the arena couldn't handle it. Plus, it was easy to look past the rough edges on the Pacers' roster at the time because winning smoothed everything out.
So if it was just the brawl and the Pacers took the hit in the 2006-07 season and then moved on with everything going according to plan, then the team would've survived just fine and maybe even thrived in the years since.
But we all know that's not what happened and so this is where I offer Wizards' fans some hope and explain just what else would have to happen for them to truly compare their situation with the Pacers.
For starters, the Wizards would have to realize that they can't really move Arenas so they might as well support him. The Pacers did just that with Ron Artest. Seemed worth the risk at the time since any sane person would think Ronnie would come back the next season primed and ready to reclaim his reputation as a top player in the league (at least in his eyes). Then with his teammates and organization fully backing him shortly after the start of the season, Arenas would have to flip the WTF switch and demand a trade and in the process muck up another season.
Since Arenas does indeed have a WTF switch ala Artest, the previous scenario isn't out of the realm of possibility, but relax Wizards fans because we're just warming up. There's still much more that would have to go haywire before you can truly compare to the Pacers. And as my comparison continues, I will invoke the names of innocent Wizards who play similar roles basketball-wise to the Pacers who were involved. Obviously, this is not meant to pass judgment on these players.
So, for the sake of comparison, let's say Arenas mucks up next season for the Wiz and ends up forcing a trade that lands a mercenary shooter (like say, Peja Stojakovic) for 40 games who leaves after the season leaving little value behind. So now, with Arenas out of the picture for what would now be the 2011-12 season, the Wizards would open training camp. On the night after the first day of camp, Mike Miller (Stephen Jackson), DeShawn Stevenson (Jamaal Tinsley) and Nick Young (Marquis Daniels) would have to get in a scrape at a strip club involving a disabled man and a couple of guys named Dino and Fingers. Miller would have to fire a few round from his gun to try to disperse the fracas outside before getting run into by Dino's car and flipping over the top. Oh, and Stevenson's buddy from out of town would need to cop to being the only person responsible for a small bag of weed in the glove box of the group's car.
Nothing here was caused by the Palace Brawl.
Now this is where the public perception began bottoming out as it appeared a third season in a row was about to go down the tube before it even started and Artest was no where to be found. Plus, this dredged up the brawl again because Jackson was on probation in Detroit because of his leading role in the brawl and the Club Rio incident violated Jackson's probation. He would have to serve community service and extend his probation. Just a series of lovely stories coming out day after day making more and more fans cringe and look away.
Pretty bad, right Wiz fans? Well, I hope you're comfy because the free fall has just begun. Good news, though! At this point, the Washington Redskins would have to rise up, go on a miraculous playoff run and win the Super Bowl. Such a huge event energizes a city and demands parties of all forms and fashion to properly pay homage to the newly crowned champions. Some of those parties may even take place at a huge country/hip hop bar (I know, but believe me, I'm not making this stuff up) named, oh, I dont know, the 8 Seconds Saloon (they appear to have dropped the hip hop nights since I last checked).
So this place like the 8 Seconds Saloon throws a big party for the loyal Redskins who just won the Super Bowl. The night ends with sirens after DeShawn Stevenson (Tinsley) and Nick Young (Quisy) create a fracas that ends with accusations that they assaulted the bar manager. The whole thing is dragged out with charges of intimidation and disorderly conduct which the bar manager wants none of and eventually ends with probation and community service.
Again, this can't be blamed on the Palace and really became the tipping point in casual fans turning their backs on the Pacers. The fact that the Pacers' players disrupted a party for the Colts with their general knuckleheadedness while the "squeaky clean" Colts are nowhere near the problems, created quite a contrast and continued feeding the public perception that the Colts were doing it the right way with quality players while the Pacers weren't.
For the beat-the-public-perception-while-it's-down portion of things, the Wizards have to fall prey to a series of minor transgressions by JaVale McGee (Shawne Williams) that become almost scary because of who else is involved. Now, getting arrested and charged with operating a vehicle without ever having received a drivers license and two traffic citations -- driving with an expired license plate and failing to signal a lane change -- isn't necessarily minor but they are traffic violations. The juice in the story comes from those along for the ride who were arrested for marijuana and gun charges.
McGee would have to do his best impression of a young and dumb kid who barely even knew the other men he was driving around with that night. Just some friends of family. Oh, and then continue the young and dumb act by missing his court day for the charges.
McGee's next act to shine a poor light on the Wiz would again have to deal with the company he keeps. McGee's house would have to be the target of a stakeout by police in search of a murder suspect from Tennessee. Then, said murder suspect would have to get popped when leaving the house in one of McGee's cars and turn out to be one of those guys McGee barely knew a few months earlier.
Again, not caused by the the Palace Brawl.
Finally Wiz fans, I'll just subject you to one more little problem that wasn't caused by the Palace Brawl, but did help drag down the Pacers. The focus shifts back to DeShawn Stevenson (Tinsley) having trouble find him in the wee hours. After taking in a R Kelly concert and watching a Mayweather fight, Stevenson and friends would head out to a club in the Rolls-Royce.
There were already problems brewing at the club and Stevenson and crew attract some of that trouble after arriving like a glowing target in the Rolls. Before long, Stevenson and crew are fleeing the Rolls in a hail of gunfire outside a 5-star hotel downtown. While Stevenson didn't appear to do anything wrong, his past transgressions grant him little slack and the whole incident is yet another embarrassment for the organization.
Again, not caused by the Palace Brawl.
So, there you have it, Wiz fans. A high-level look at how far you have to go to have the current Arenas situation impact the Wizards in the same way the Palace Brawl hurt the Pacers. The key take away should be that the current situation, just like the brawl, has crumbled the foundation of the team. There's still a chance to fortify the foundation again and move on.
Just make sure there are no other transgressions thrown on top of the current weak foundation. It can't bear the weight of anything further, let alone like the four or five (I try to lose count) letdowns the Pacers tried to pile on the rubble from the Detroit rumble.