FAQ: What now for Arenas?
Gilbert Arenas became a convicted felon, but that's about the only thing that changed significantly Friday in the gun possession case involving the Washington Wizards' former All-Star who will be sentenced March 26.
Arenas remains under indefinite suspension by the NBA, which is continuing to conduct its own investigation into the circumstances of the case, and commissioner David Stern has given no indication when he might rule on exactly how long Arenas will remain suspended.
So we still have more questions than answers, but that does not mean those questions shall remain unanswered forever. Based upon conversations with sources throughout the league, this is the way the playing field looks for now:
Q: Are the Wizards going to try to void Arenas' contract?
A: That is an option that has been discussed, but most legal experts believe the Wizards would cost themselves a lot of time and money and would have a poor chance of succeeding if they chose to go down that road.
The last team to attempt to void a contract for a non-drug offense was Golden State, more than 10 years ago, after Latrell Sprewell attacked coach P.J. Carlesimo. An arbitrator later reinstated Sprewell's contract and reduced his suspension. A player has to clear a pretty high egregiousness bar to get his contract voided in the NBA, and few seem to think Arenas' crime was that grave. Remember, it wasn't the gun episode per se that got Arenas suspended, but rather the cavalier way he behaved in the days afterward that caused Stern to act.
Q: But this is a felony conviction. Isn't that enough to violate that morals clause in the standard player's contract?
A: Not at all, according to the players' union. In fact, there is a section of the collective bargaining agreement that specifies a minimum 10-game suspension when a player is convicted of a violent felony, but the operative word there is "violent."
For instance, when Stephen Jackson fired several rounds from a pistol in a strip club parking lot in Indianapolis, he eventually pleaded guilty to a felony endangerment charge, but his suspension was for only seven games -- and that penalty came after his reputation had already been tarnished by his involvement in the infamous Palace Brawl.
Q: So what happens next?
A: Good question. Since the NBA is still conducting its own investigation, and Friday's court proceedings were part of that investigation, Stern still does not have all the information and facts he wants to have at his disposal before deciding on a specific length of suspension. But at a certain point, it behooves everyone to have a time frame attached to that suspension. If the Wizards want to trade him, any team wanting to acquire Arenas will want some kind of an idea if/when he'll be available to play again.
Q: Is there a trade market for Arenas? Or has he poisoned his reputation to such a degree that he has become virtually impossible to trade -- especially with four years and $80 million left on his deal?
A: Usually in a case in which a team and player mutually agree to part ways, the player's agent would act as the broker, trying to find interested teams and piece together different trade scenarios for the Wizards to consider. But Arenas fired his old agent, Dan Fegan, years ago, and is currently without one.
Still, Fegan and Arenas remain close, and it would not surprise me to see Fegan re-enter the picture in some way. But he, like everyone else, needs to know how long Arenas' suspension will last before he can accomplish anything of substance. And if Arenas is facing jail time that would leave him incarcerated when the playoffs begin, that certainly won't make it easier for the Wizards to trade him before the Feb. 18 deadline.
As for his reputation being irreparably harmed, that may be true. But time heals wounds, and Sprewell was welcomed as a hero in New York when the Knicks acquired him from the Warriors despite the fact that one could make the argument that what Sprewell did was more egregious than what Arenas did.
One possibility that might eventually be considered is a buyout, but the Wizards are likely to explore every trade possibility first.
Q: What about the other key player in this saga, Javaris Crittenton?
A: He has been asked to stay away from the Wizards -- he is obliging, and a police search of his home reportedly did not uncover any weapons despite reports that he had a weapon in the locker room. He is in the final year of his rookie scale contract and has been sidelined all year by injuries, so don't expect to ever see him in a Washington uniform.
So in short, Crittenton is in paid limbo; Arenas is in unpaid limbo.