Gilbert Arenas' Continued Antics Gave Stern No Choice But Suspension

Bryan Toporek@@btoporekFeatured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2010

When you're facing potential felony gun charges, what's one of the last things you should do?  Pose with your hands shaped like fake guns, aimed at your teammates?

Tell that to embattled Washington Wizards point guard Gilbert Arenas.  

The picture says it all, as Gil decided to continue to make light of his current legal situation last night during warmups by doing exactly that.

And now, less than 24 hours later, he's been indefinitely suspended from the NBA by commissioner David Stern.

As a quick recap: Arenas is facing possible felony gun charges for bringing three guns from his home to his locker at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C., and using them to "play a joke" on teammate Javaris Crittenton. 

Well, that joke certainly backfired.  After days of Arenas trying to make light of the situation, Stern decided enough was enough and suspended Agent Zero before the law could pass judgment.

"Although it is clear that the actions of Mr. Arenas will ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse, his ongoing conduct has led me to conclude that he is not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game," commissioner David Stern said in a statement on Wednesday. "Accordingly, I am suspending Mr. Arenas indefinitely, without pay, effective immediately pending the completion of the investigation by the NBA."

His "ongoing conduct?"  That doesn't sound like Stern's just punishing him for bringing a gun onto the Wizards' premises.  

That sounds like Stern's laying the hammer down on a self-professed "goof ball." 

At first, Arenas didn't seem to grasp the gravity of the situation, instead joking about it on his Twitter account.  He rang in the new year with this Tweet : "i wake up this morning and seen i was the new JOHN WAYNE..lmao media is too funny," and followed it up with "i understand this is serious..but if u ever met me you know i dont do serious things im a goof ball this story today dont sound goofy to me."

After meeting with legal authorities on Monday, Agent Zero released a statement that had a much more repentant tone than his Twitter posts from over the weekend.   

"As I have said before, I had kept the four unloaded handguns in my house in Virginia, but then moved them over to my locker at the Verizon Center to keep them away from my young kids," the statement read. "I brought them without any ammunition into the District of Columbia, mistakenly believing that the recent change in the DC gun laws allowed a person to store unloaded guns in the District. On Monday, December 21st, I took the unloaded guns out in a misguided effort to play a joke on a teammate. Contrary to some press accounts, I never threatened or assaulted anyone with the guns and never pointed them at anyone. Joke or not, I now recognize that what I did was a mistake and was wrong. I should not have brought the guns to DC in the first place, and I now realize that there's no such thing as joking around when it comes to guns—even if unloaded."

But then a day later, he cocks his index fingers and thumbs in the shape of guns, with a huge smile plastered on his face.

You really understand how serious this is, Gilbert?

Here's how serious it is: You signed a six-year, $111 million deal before the 2008-09 season, coming off two knee surgeries.  The 11-23 Wizards, who are pretty clearly going nowhere this season, have no incentive to try keeping this core of Arenas-Jamison-Butler together.  

And while Jamison and Butler are tradeable assets (the Cleveland Cavaliers would jump through flaming hoops to pair Jamison alongside LeBron James), Gil's injury history and questionable behavior, paired with his mega-contract, make him one of the most untradeable players in the NBA.

So why joke around about a gravely serious situation, giving Wizards management more doubt about your long-term future with the team?

The Wiz have likely already begun investigating the possibility of voiding Arenas' contract , saving themselves nearly $90 million over the course of the next four and a half years.  

Thanks to the NBA collective bargaining agreement, which states that if a player "at any time, fails, refuses, or neglects to conform his personal conduct to standards of good citizenship, good moral character, and good sportsmanship..." the team can void his contract without reproach.  That's the same collective bargaining agreement that banned firearms from all team-related activities, including bringing them on site to a team's arena.

And now, instead of keeping his mouth shut (who in God's name is his lawyer that's not advising him to do this?!), Arenas has been firing off (no pun intended) through the media.

But by trying to recreate the Any Given Sunday touchdown dance before yesterday's game against the Sixers, Arenas demonstrated that he clearly isn't taking this gun matter as seriously as an owner would expect.

In a story that just keeps getting weirder by the day, Arenas justified his actions on his Twitter account following the game.

"I know everybody seen the pregame pics...my teammate thought to break the tention we should do that..but this is gettn way to much," he wrote . He followed it up with another stroke of brilliance : "I wanna say sorry if I pissed anybody off by us havin fun...I'm sorry for anything u need to blame for for right now." 

Gil...do yourself a favor, take responsibility for your actions, and realize that stunts like pointing finger guns at your teammates aren't going to help your situation any.  I can't imagine people are blaming you for the Titanic sinking, for 9/11, or for the plane that almost blew up on Christmas...but you've rightfully caught flak for bringing guns into your workplace. 

Any average citizen that pulls out three guns at his workplace and puts them near a fellow employee, even as a joke, would be fired instantly.

So Billy Hunter, president of the NBA's Player Association?  I think it's time to start gearing up for a looooong battle.

Because if Arenas keeps pulling stunts like the one he pulled last night, the Wizards would be crazy not to attempt to void his contract. 

Luckily for Arenas, commissioner Stern's decision to suspend him indefinitely could be a blessing in disguise.  

The NBA could be protecting Gil from self-inflicting any more damage.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.