Arenas suspended indefinitely

Updated: January 7, 2010, 7:33 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- Gilbert Arenas tried joking about his gun trouble. NBA commissioner David Stern found none of it funny.

Arenas was suspended indefinitely without pay Wednesday by Stern, who determined the player's behavior made him "not currently fit to take the court."

[+] EnlargeGilbert Arenas
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty ImagesGilbert Arenas apologized after he joked with Washington teammates before Tuesday's game at Philadelphia.

A day after the Washington Wizards guard was photographed before a game in Philadelphia playfully pointing his index fingers in a gun imitation 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 into the Wizards' locker room. The Wizards' troubles may not end there. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that according to firsthand accounts, teammate Javaris Crittenton, whose disagreement with Arenas reportedly fueled the incident, loaded and cocked his own gun in response to Arenas. In text messages, Crittenton called that account "false," according to the report.

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 spawned. After meeting with investigators Tuesday, Arenas said he feared Stern more than the authorities because the commissioner was "mean."

But Stern apparently had enough of Arenas' often-flippant response to a situation that has dealt the league a public relations blow.

League sources said Stern's decision to suspend Arenas now, rather than await the results of local and federal investigations, was a direct result of Arenas' comments and attitude. Those sources also said it's "fair to say" Arenas' actions on Tuesday expedited the process. League officials were incensed by the way Arenas mocked the reactions of the media and public toward his behavior on his Twitter page and in comments to reporters -- even before Tuesday's actions in Philadelphia, the sources said.

"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. "Accordingly, I am suspending Mr. Arenas indefinitely, without pay, effective immediately pending the completion of the investigation by the NBA."

The Wizards said they supported the suspension, calling Arenas' behavior "unacceptable." According to The Washington Post, Arenas said he "respected" Stern's decision.

"He is the same man who put me on my second All-Star team after I got snubbed by the coaches," Arenas said, according to the report. "That decision came down for me. He made a tougher decision today that went against me. And I have to accept it."

Crittenton could be facing more trouble as well.

The New York Post last week had reported that during the incident, Arenas and Crittenton had drawn weapons in the locker room and pointed them at each other. Arenas later disputed that account, saying he had taken the unloaded weapons out of his locker to play a joke on a teammate.

Two officials within the league, however, who were briefed on the investigation, told The Associated Press that the incident stemmed from a dispute over card-playing gambling debts and a heated locker-room conversation with Crittenton.

The Washington Post, citing two firsthand accounts of the incident, reported that after Arenas laid out four guns in Crittenton's locker with a note that said "pick one," Crittenton brandished his own weapon, loaded it and chambered a round.

According to both witnesses, the gun was never pointed at Arenas, but Crittenton began singing as he held it. Arenas then laughed, telling Crittenton, "Look at that little shiny gun," as two other players retreated to the training room, the newspaper reported.

According to the report, two of five people in the locker room at the time, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Arenas did not make that detail public in order to protect Crittenton, telling his teammate he would take full responsibility for the incident.

But Arenas disclosed Crittenton's loaded gun in his interview with investigators on Monday, the newspaper reported, citing a person with knowledge of Arenas' testimony.

Mark Bartelstein, Crittenton's agent, declined to comment, according to the report. But Crittenton, who has kept a low profile as the incident has unfolded, responded in a series of text messages.

"I have done nothing wrong. Let the investigation process take its course and you will see that," he said, according to the report. "My name is dying in this situation."

With each game he misses, Arenas, who turned 28 on Wednesday, 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. As of Wednesday he had $9,429,505.41 remaining for this season.

"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."

It is rare for contracts to successfully be voided in the NBA. As such, the Wizards plan to wait out the legal process before deciding whether they will attempt to void Arenas' contract, one source close to the situation told ESPN.com's Marc Stein.

NBA suspensions for on-court violations that last more than 12 games can be appealed and heard by an independent arbitrator. Yet it remains to be seen if Arenas' case, which involved transporting firearms from his home to the Verizon Center before the confrontation with Crittenton on a practice day, is judged to be an on-court incident.

"Surprised? No," Cavs All-Star forward LeBron James, in reference to the suspension, said after Cleveland's victory over Washington on Wednesday night. "Honestly, I'm not. People have been asking me my opinion and what I thought would happen. I didn't know it would be that extreme. I didn't know he would be suspended indefinitely. It's definitely tough. I know Gil and he loves the game of basketball, and that's for anybody, to have the game be taken away from you like that, I know it's tough.

"But you've got to use better judgment sometimes."

One source with knowledge of the Wizards' thinking said that Arenas' teammates who participated in the pregame gun simulation against Philadelphia have been told they will be fined.

Two sources said the fines were expected to be in the $20,000 to $25,000 range.

Arenas originally said he brought four guns to the Verizon Center because he wanted them out of his house after his daughter was born.

Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that some of Arenas' closest friends had urged him in recent days to curtail his excessive use of Twitter and his ongoing nonchalant commentary about the incident.

But Arenas resisted those pleas, saying over and over that relying on humor was the only way he knows how to deal with crisis.

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.

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.

A Wizards spokesman said Arenas left the team before Wednesday's game but didn't know where he was going.

"It's sad," Wizards guard DeShawn Stevenson said. "You don't want to see a player go down like that. We're a family, and it hurts."

The Wizards supported Stern's decision in a statement attributed to president Ernie Grunfeld and the Pollin family, which owns the team. The late Abe Pollin had changed the team's name in 1995 from the Bullets because of the violent connotation.

"Strictly legal issues aside, Gilbert's recent behavior and statements, including his actions and statements last night in Philadelphia, are unacceptable," the statement said. "Some of our other players appeared to find Gilbert's behavior in Philadelphia amusing. This is also unacceptable."

Union executive director Billy Hunter said the players' association will wait until the investigation is complete before taking any action.

Since the firearms language was strengthened in the 2005 collective bargaining agreement, NBA players are subject to discipline if they bring guns to the arena, practice facility or an offsite promotional appearance. That gave Stern the option of taking action now instead of waiting until the completion of the criminal case, as he usually does.

Information from ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein, ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard and The Associated Press was used in this report.

ALSO SEE