NEW YORK - Gilbert Arenas tried joking about his gun trouble. David Stern found none of it funny.
Arenas was suspended indefinitely without pay Wednesday by the NBA commissioner, who determined the player’s behavior made him “not currently fit to take the court.”
A day after the Washington Wizards guard was photographed before a game in Philadelphia pointing his index fingers, as if they were guns, at his teammates, Stern warned the former All-Star that his conduct will “ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse.”
Arenas is under investigation by federal and local authorities after admittedly bringing guns to the Wizards’ locker room. Stern originally planned to wait to take action, but he tired of Arenas’ behavior.
On Tuesday, a day after meeting with law enforcement officials, Arenas said he feared Stern more than the authorities because the commissioner was “mean.”
Though Arenas first apologized Monday for his poor judgment and promised “to do better in the future”, he also joked on Twitter about the incident and the media firestorm it created. That was exactly the wrong tact for Stern, whose league has taken another public relations hit.
“The possession of firearms by an NBA player in an NBA arena is a matter of the utmost concern to us,” Stern said.
“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,” Stern said in a statement. “Accordingly, I am suspending Mr. Arenas indefinitely, without pay, effective immediately pending the completion of the investigation by the NBA.”
With each game he misses, Arenas will lose about $147,200 of the $16.2 million he will earn this season in the second of a six-year, $111 million contract. The punishment came on his 28th birthday.
“I feel very badly that my actions have caused the NBA to suspend me, but I understand why the league took this action,” Arenas said in a statement through his attorney. “I put the NBA in a negative light and let down my teammates and our fans. I am very sorry for doing that.”
Arenas added that he had called Stern to apologize.
“While I never intended any harm or disrespect to the NBA or anyone else, my gun possession at the Verizon Center and my attempts at humor showed terrible judgment,” he said. “I take full responsibility for my conduct.”
Arenas originally said he brought four guns to the Verizon Center because he wanted them out of his house after his daughter was born. But two officials within the league who have been briefed on the investigation have told The Associated Press that the incident stemmed from a dispute over card-playing gambling debts and a heated discussion in the locker room with teammate Javaris Crittenton. The New York Post, however, reported that the two teammates drew weapons on each other.
Arenas said in a statement Monday that he took unloaded guns from his locker in a “misguided effort to play a joke” on a teammate.
“Joke or not, I now recognize that what I did was a mistake and was wrong,” Arenas said. “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.”
Stern said members of the Wizards organization are still being interviewed by law enforcement authorities.
“Some are scheduled for appearance before the grand jury and the investigation is proceeding with the intensity that one would expect for such a serious incident,” Stern said.
The Washington Post, citing two firsthand accounts of the confrontation, reported on its Web site that Crittenton brandished his own gun and loaded a clip of ammunition into it. Arenas spoke to the district attorney about Crittenton’s loaded gun, a person with knowledge of Arenas’ testimony told the Post.
Crittenton told the Post in a series of text messages that the account was “false.”
“I have done nothing wrong. Let the investigation process take its course and you will see that,” Crittenton told the Post. “My name is dying in this situation.”
Arenas has been suspended once before because of a gun-related matter. He sat out Washington’s season opener in 2004 because he failed to maintain proper registration of a handgun while living in California in 2003 and playing for the Golden State Warriors.
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