Gilbert Arenas tried joking about his gun trouble. David Stern found none of it funny.
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.
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 text message left for Arenas by The Associated Press was not immediately returned.
A Wizards spokesman said Arenas left the team, which is playing in Cleveland, earlier Wednesday 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 changed the team's name 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 or practice facility, or even 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.
Arenas' suspension deprives the Wizards of their top scorer and on-court leader. As it is, coach Flip Saunders' first season with the team has been a struggle: The Wizards entered Wednesday's game at Cleveland with an 11-21 record and in last place in the Southeast Division.
It caps a remarkably swift and long fall from the top of the game for Arenas, a three-time All-Star who averaged 28.4 points in 2006-07 and 29.3 in 2005-06 and whose carefree demeanor was a hit with fans — but not Stern.
Taking on nicknames such as Agent Zero and Hibachi, he would predict a 50-point game and deliver. He would produce highlight-reel buzzer-beating shots, turning his back to the net and raising his arms in triumph before the ball was through the net.
But Arenas tore up his left knee during a game in April 2007, leading to the first of three operations on that knee in the span of 11/2; years.
He played in only 13 games in 2007-08, and only two games last season. He was healthy from the start of the current season and had been showing flashes of his previous brilliance, scoring 45 points in a game against Phoenix last month.
AP Sports Writers Howard Fendrich and Joseph White in Washington, an AP freelance writer Jason Lloyd in Cleveland contributed to this report.