Stern bans Arenas, Crittenton for year
NBA commissioner David Stern suspended Washington Wizards guards Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton for the remainder of the NBA season Wednesday, and ESPN.com learned that Arenas has agreed not to appeal the punishment.
Stern's disciplinary actions were announced Wednesday afternoon after Arenas met face-to-face with Stern for the first time since the gun incident that put Arenas' future with the Wizards in doubt.
The Washington Post first reported the length of the Arenas suspension, and a source with knowledge of the meeting told ESPN.com that Arenas told Stern that he expected and deserved to be suspended for the rest of the season.
Commissioner David Stern suspended Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton for the remainder of the NBA season on Wednesday, effectively handing the Wizards duo the third and fourth longest suspensions in league history not involving drugs, alcohol or gambling.
Another source divulged to ESPN that Crittenton has not yet agreed to accept the suspension and that his counsel and the players union are in discussions on how they might challenge it.
"The NBA has conducted a thorough investigation of events relating to this matter," Stern said. "It is not disputed that, following an argument on the team's flight home from a game in Phoenix, both Mr. Arenas and Mr. Crittenton brought guns to the Verizon Center locker room and -- with other players and team personnel present or nearby -- displayed them to one another in a continuation of their dispute. The players engaged in this conduct despite a specific rule set forth in the collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and the Players Association prohibiting players from possessing a weapon at an NBA facility, and reminders of this prohibition given annually by the NBA to players both in writing and in person.
"The issue here is not about the legal ownership and possession of guns, either in one's home or elsewhere. It is about possession of guns in the NBA workplace, which will not be tolerated," Stern said.
"I have met separately with Mr. Arenas and with Mr. Crittenton. Both have expressed remorse for their actions and an understanding of the seriousness of their transgressions. Both have volunteered to engage in community service in order to turn the lessons they have learned into an educational message for others. I accept fully the sincerity of their expressions of regret and intent to create something positive from this incident.
"Nevertheless, there is no justification for their conduct. Accordingly, I am today converting Mr. Arenas' indefinite suspension without pay to a suspension without pay for the remainder of the 2009-10 season, and am also suspending Mr. Crittenton without pay, effective immediately, for the remainder of the 2009-10 season."
The team said it supported Stern's ruling.
"Their poor judgment has also violated the trust of our fans and stands in contrast to everything Abe Pollin stood for throughout his life," the Wizards said in a statement.
"It is widely known that Mr. Pollin took the extraordinary step of changing the team name from 'Bullets' to 'Wizards' in 1997 precisely to express his abhorrence of gun violence in our community. We hope that this negative situation can produce something positive by serving as a reminder that gun violence is a serious issue."
Asked during a conference call what message the penalties sent, Stern said: "We mean what we say when we say that guns are prohibited from being in our buildings and on team business.
"You will be dealt with harshly because it's very potentially dangerous to our players, to the other players and to anyone else who might be involved."
"I felt that I should do something to keep Arenas from doing even further damage to himself and I told him that," Stern said. "We also try to protect [players] from doing things that are foolish and damaging. I felt that Gilbert was in the process of doing that and it was incumbent on me to stop it."
ESPN.com reported Friday that suspension lengths for Arenas and Crittenton would be announced this week in the wake of a Dec. 21 confrontation in the Wizards' locker room in which both players have admitted to displaying unloaded handguns.
Arenas entered a guilty plea Jan. 15 in District of Columbia Superior Court to a felony weapons possession charge after admitting to bringing four guns into the locker room following a heated argument with Crittenton during a card game on the team plane.
Arenas missed his 12th consecutive game Tuesday night after Stern announced an indefinite suspension on Jan. 6, Arenas' 28th birthday.
Arenas awaits criminal court sentencing on March 26. His sentence could range from probation and community service and a fine to a recommended prison term of up to six months.
The sentence Arenas receives is expected to be the determining factor for the Wizards regarding their intent to void the remaining four seasons of Arenas' $111 million contract, which is valued at just over $80 million. Many league and legal experts contend that the Wizards could not successfully attempt to void Arenas' contract unless he is forced to serve jail time during the NBA season.
"We're still exploring all our options," said Wizards team president Ernie Grunfeld regarding the issue. "We haven't made any decisions up to this point. We're seeing what we can do. I think it's going to be a combination of many things to see which direction we go in."
Crittenton, who hasn't played a single minute for the Wizards this season, met with Stern on Tuesday after being sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation following his guilty plea to a misdemeanor gun charge. Prosecutors agreed to drop a second misdemeanor charge of attempted carrying a pistol without a license.
"[Union director] Billy [Hunter] has been consistent with his message and his tone of really kind of waiting until the NBA comes out with what their position will be going forward and until then we can't respond," players association president Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers told ESPN.com last week.
"It's never happened before, so there isn't anything you can match it to, per se," Fisher said. "If I was commissioner? Well, I'm not privy what he has to balance, what all is at stake in terms of what message he sends to fans, to sponsors, to team owners. So there's a lot more on his plate to contemplate before he makes a decision.
"We respect that process, but from a union perspective we have to protect the short-term and long-term rights of our members, and when members do wrong things or make mistakes, they'll be rightfully punished, and we're just here to make sure that that doesn't go beyond what it should be under the circumstances."
Stern said he and Hunter would meet in the coming weeks to perhaps build a stronger gun policy than the one in the collective bargaining agreement.
Wizards coach Flip Saunders told The Washington Post on Tuesday: "I think right now, the whole situation, we're all pretty much numb to the whole thing. We knew when it got to the point that it got to, nothing good was going to come out of it."
ESPN The Magazine's Ric Bucher contributed to this report. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.