Arenas to meet with law enforcement
Gilbert Arenas continued to dispute media accounts of his recent locker-room confrontation with teammate Javaris Crittenton but conceded Saturday night that he used "bad judgment" just by having three firearms on Washington Wizards property.
Speaking to a group of reporters after the Wizards' 97-86 loss to San Antonio, Arenas also revealed that he is scheduled to discuss the case Monday with authorities. Yet Arenas described himself as "not nervous at all" about the fact that the circumstances of his gun possession and his Dec. 21 encounter with Crittenton at the Verizon Center are at the center of a local and federation investigation.
Amid reports that a $25,000 gambling debt triggered the clash, Arenas denied that as well, saying: "I don't gamble. I don't do anything like that." If he "owed someone money," Arenas said, "I think I'd pay it up."
On Sunday, Arenas was not talking after practice. But Wizards coach Flip Saunders questioned the way in which Arenas is being portrayed. The coach said Sunday that various reports are trying to "lump a lot of things together." He added that such an approach toward Arenas is "not fair to him from that standpoint."
The agent for Crittenton, meanwhile, also disputed the New York Post's original report alleging that Arenas and Crittenton pulled guns on each other in a locker-room standoff. Chicago-based Mark Bartelstein, who began representing Crittenton in December before the incident, insisted in a phone interview Saturday with ESPN.com that his client's name will ultimately be cleared.
Although he declined to discuss specifics in the case, Bartelstein said: "I think that once the investigation is completed and everyone's done their work, it will be shown that Javaris has done nothing wrong. It's just frustrating in today's world that these things spread like wildfire and there's just rampant speculation.
"If you weren't in the locker room, I don't know how the heck you know what happened. I just find it very unfair in today's world the way people just run with a story without making sure they've got all their facts checked. I feel very confident that once the investigation is concluded that Javaris will be shown to have [committed] no wrongdoing."
ESPN.com reported Friday that a dispute that began on the team plane and resumed more than 24 hours later in the team's locker room between Arenas and Crittenton was at the crux of an investigation by local and federal authorities.
Multiple sources told ESPN.com that an argument commenced during a card game on the team's overnight flight back to Washington from Phoenix on Dec. 19 and escalated into a heated exchange between Arenas and Crittenton. The Wizards had Dec. 20 off, but sources say hostilities between the two Wizards guards resumed Dec. 21 in the locker room on a practice day.
Sources say that Arenas, in response to what was said on the flight, placed the three guns on a chair near Crittenton's locker stall and invited him to pick one before practice on Dec. 21. Sources said that Crittenton subsequently let Arenas know that he had his own gun.
The Washington Post reported in Sunday's editions that Arenas, according to sources, was expecting Crittenton to see the guns on his chair as a joke based on the earlier back-and-forth on the plane, during which Crittenton allegedly said that he would shoot Arenas in his surgically repaired knee. But Crittenton, according to Post, reacted angrily and tossed one of the guns to the floor, saying he had his own.
It is not known how many other Wizards players were in the locker room at the time of the incident.
Asked after Saturday's game about guns being drawn, Arenas told reporters: "I can't speak on that. But if you know me, you've been here, I've never did anything [involving] violence. Anything I do is funny -- well, it's funny to me."
Asked if the accounts of what happened have been blown out of proportion, Arenas laughed and said: "A little."
Even if the act of placing guns on Crittenton's chair, as Arenas' comments seem to be suggesting, would have been intended as "horseplay" -- as one source described it in Saturday's editions of the Washington Post -- there is no laughter coming from team officials dealing with Washington's unraveling season. The Wizards fell to 10-21 with the loss to the Spurs after starting the season with considerable optimism after hiring Saunders as their coach and with Arenas returning from two lost seasons thanks to three surgeries on his left knee.
The Wizards and Arenas have maintained since Dec. 24, when the team publicly confirmed that Arenas had stored three guns in a locked box in his locker, that the firearms were unloaded. But the family of late Wizards owner Abe Pollin -- who changed the name of the team from Bullets to Wizards in 1997 because of his grave concern about gun violence -- issued a statement Saturday night chiding Arenas for "extremely poor judgment" for having guns in the locker room in the first place.
"I agree," Arenas said.
Said teammate Antawn Jamison, who also played with Arenas at Golden State: "This is nothing that you joke about at all. I wouldn't [describe] this situation as a Gilbert-being-Gilbert situation. This situation right here, I take it very seriously."
The New York Post, quoting league security sources, reported in Friday's editions that Arenas and Crittenton pulled guns on each other over a gambling debt during the pre-practice confrontation.
The Washington Post quoted Arenas, in response, as saying, "That's not the real story." The newspaper also reported that the argument between Arenas and Crittenton was mostly a show of bravado to prove "who had the bigger gun" and that there was never any intent to physically harm Crittenton, according to a source close to Arenas.
If either Arenas or Crittenton is found to have brandished a gun against his teammate, long-term suspensions and heavy fines from NBA commissioner David Stern are widely considered inevitable, given Stern's well-chronicled determination to snuff out any hint of violence in the league. Stern is bound to take an especially dim view of the whole episode in deference to Pollin, who until his death was as close to Stern as any NBA owner.
The league office, though, is expected to wait to see whether local or federal charges are filed in the case before determining the scale of potential punishments.
"There is an active investigation by D.C. law enforcement authorities, which we are monitoring closely," NBA spokesman Tim Frank said Friday. "We are not taking any independent action at this time."
Arenas eventually turned his three guns in to team security and later told reporters -- after a CBSSports.com report on Christmas Eve revealed that Arenas was being investigated for violating league rules on gun possession -- that he brought them to the workplace because he wanted them out of his house after the birth of his third child Dec. 9. The Wizards, sources said, made their first call to the league office to report the incident.
District of Columbia police officials immediately began looking into the matter and announced in a statement Wednesday, without naming any names or providing further details, that they have begun assisting the U.S. Attorney's Office in a joint probe into "an allegation that weapons were located inside a locker room at the Verizon Center."
Before that statement was issued, Arenas had already admitted to reporters that DC police were investigating the circumstances under which he brought the guns to the locker room.
On Friday and again Saturday night after the game, Arenas took to his Twitter account to fire off a flurry of glib and humorous tweets in what he describes as an attempt to escape the severity of his situation through laughter.
"I'm a goof ball and that's what I am, so even [during] something like this, I'm going to make fun of it and that's how I am," Arenas said. "Some people say I'm not taking it serious, but why be depressed at home when I can just make myself laugh?"
The potential range of punishments for Arenas, however, would figure to be especially severe given the stricter-than-usual gun laws in the District of Columbia and the NBA's rules forbidding gun possession on league property. Arenas has also been suspended once before on a gun-related matter, forced to sit out the season opener of his first season with the Wizards in 2004-05 because he failed to maintain proper registration of handgun in 2003 while playing for the Golden State Warriors.
As such there is already considerable curiosity -- not only in media speculation but among rival teams watching the drama unfold -- whether the Wizards will eventually try to void the remainder of Arenas' mammoth six-year, $111 million contract because of this serious nature of this incident.
ESPN.com reported on Dec. 26
Pollin died Nov. 24 and his family is running the team during the transition to a new ownership group headed by Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonis.
Saturday's full statement from Pollin's family read: "The situation involving an incident in the locker room is troubling to our family, our organization and our fans. We know our fans are frustrated and angry. The fact that guns were brought to the Verizon Center is dangerous and disappointing and showed extremely poor judgment.
"Guns have absolutely no place in a workplace environment and we will take further steps to ensure this never happens again. While the police investigation proceeds, we are limited in what we can say, but we want our fans to know that we will not rest until this situation is resolved and has come to a satisfactory conclusion."
Crittenton has not played this season because of a foot injury and was not made available to reporters before or after Saturday's game. He was seen laughing with Arenas during a second-quarter timeout against the Spurs.
"We were friends before; we're friends now," Arenas said of his relationship with Crittenton. "We don't have no problem."
Marc Stein covers the NBA for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.