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.
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On Tuesday, a day after meeting with law enforcement officials, Arenas said he feared Stern more than the authorities because the commissioner was “mean.”
Although 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.
“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 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 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.
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.