Wojnarowski: With Orlando Magic, Gilbert Arenas Struggles On and Off the Court

In a column published hours after the Orlando Magic's seventh straight loss to a winning team, Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski writes about how Gilbert Arenas' struggles have affected the Orlando Magic in their pursuit for a championship, not even two months after President of Basketball Operations Otis Smith agreed to take on the three years and $60 million remaining on Arenas' contract via trade with the Washington Wizards. The Magic acquired Arenas, says Wojnarowski, to take a step forward in the championship hunt, but instead of lifting the team, he's bringing it down:

The future of the Magic hangs on the perilous possibility of Arenas’ ability to transform himself, his game, and make the biggest trade in franchise history something besides the biggest mistake in franchise history. With three years and $60 million left on his contract, there’s one guarantee: Unless Arenas makes profound progress, he may linger on the Magic roster well beyond Dwight Howard, who can become a free agent in the summer of 2012.

Indeed, Arenas has shot 35.5 percent from the field, scoring 209 points on 217 shot attempts, since joining the Magic. Though averaging a solid 4 assists a game as a backup point guard, he's also committing 2.2 turnovers, harming his efficiency. A negative on defense unless he's checking Nick Young, his former Wizards teammate and a close friend, Arenas has not impressed on either end of the floor in Orlando pinstripes.

Worse, Arenas' off-court issues intersected with his basketball life earlier this week when the mother of his children, Laura Govan, had him served with child-support and custody papers on Arenas' way to Orlando's locker room at halftime of a game against the Miami Heat. Wojnarowski also covers why the Magic don't need this distraction, saying, "the Magic desperately need Arenas’ full focus" but he's instead "calling into D.C. radio shows" to discuss the ongoing drama between him and Govan.

In trading for Arenas, Wojnarowski says, Smith tied Arenas' fortune to Howard's future in Orlando, which is admittedly cloudy at present. Wojnarowski reports Howard has his eye on the L.A. Lakers and New York Knicks as potential free-agent destinations in 2012, when Orlando will still owe over $43 million to Arenas and at least $11.8 million to Hedo Turkoglu. Those two players will be 30 and 33, respectively, when Howard decides whether to remain with Orlando.

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