Washington Wizards attempt to deal with suspension of Gilbert Arenas
Thursday, January 7, 2010
The same players who surrounded Gilbert Arenas and laughed while he playfully mimicked shooting them with his fingers on Tuesday took a much more somber tone a day later after Arenas's actions and words led NBA Commissioner David Stern to suspend the three-time all-star indefinitely.
The Washington Wizards received word of the suspension a few hours before losing 121-98 to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena.
"Right now, it's like a black cloud is over us. If it hit us over the head again, we might break," DeShawn Stevenson said. "It's just a lot of stuff we're dealing with right now with Gilbert, we're losing games. We don't know how to react to it. It's my 10th year and I ain't never been in a situation like this."
Arenas, who turned 28 on Wednesday, led the Wizards in scoring (22.6 points) and assists (7.2); he stands to lose about $147,000 per game during this suspension. It doesn't provide any financial relief for the Wizards since that money will instead go directly to the NBA.
The Wizards could also potentially look into voiding the four years and $80 million remaining on his contract, using the "moral turpitude" provision in the collective bargaining agreement. Multiple league sources have confirmed that the Wizards have not ruled out the possibility of terminating Arenas's contract, although they have yet to have internal discussions about it.
Arenas is under investigation by federal and local authorities and the NBA after admitting to bringing four guns to Verizon Center, which violates D.C. gun laws and league rules. In a scathing statement, Stern condemned Arenas's behavior after it was revealed that he got into a dispute with teammate Javaris Crittenton involving guns and said he was "not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game." Stern added that Arenas's conduct in the past few days would "ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse."
The Wizards "fully" endorsed the decision in a statement in which the team criticized Arenas's behavior and that of his teammates before playing the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night. During pregame introductions before the Wizards' 104-97 win against the Philadelphia 76ers, Arenas poked fun at his legal and league troubles.
Stern didn't see the humor in Arenas's antics, either, or when Arenas later called Stern "mean" and said "if I really did something wrong, I would feel remorse."
"Was I surprised? No. Something needed to be done," Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld said of the suspension. "What happened [Tuesday] night was totally unacceptable. The league took action and we supported it. We don't condone it. We take these issues extremely serious."
Cavaliers all-star forward LeBron James said he wasn't surprised that Arenas received the suspension either. "I know Gil loves the game of basketball and for the game to be taken away from you is tough. But you've got to use better judgment sometimes," James said.
Shaquille O'Neal declined comment, by rolling his fingers across his mouth as if he were zipping his zips.
Arenas's teammates, who have played without him for much of the past two seasons as he recovered from a surgically repaired left knee, were left to regroup once again.
"It's tough for me, because we're close friends," Stevenson said. "I just think sometimes things get blown out of proportion. And then you add to it, it's a bad situation. I hope he just learns from it. Gil is a funny-type dude. Sometimes people don't take the things that you do [as] funny. But I love the dude and when the real story comes out, he didn't do nothing bad."
Coach Flip Saunders started Earl Boykins in the absence of Arenas, whose mistake was described by one NBA coach as "the ultimate screw-up." Saunders would not comment on what Arenas did on Tuesday, but he did discuss the challenges that face the Wizards, who were a disappointing 11-21 entering the game against Cleveland.
"Our team has gone through a lot over the years," Saunders said. "You can't worry about players that you don't have due to injury or whatever. Those guys are professional, they have go out and perform at a high level."
Guard Mike Miller, in his first season with the Wizards, said the road ahead just became more difficult. "It's hard, especially because we had such great expectations coming in and haven't had the whole team together the whole year. This is going to prolong that," he said. "It's been one of those seasons. I feel for the organization because they've done everything to put us in position to be successful and it hasn't worked out that way yet."
Stevenson said that some of Arenas's teammates had warned him to tone down his antics. "You can't play with David Stern like that," Stevenson said, "but he's going to be his own person. It's just sad to see something like that, because he has a family and a fiancee. And when you do stuff like that, that's when you hinder your family. I know he don't want that for his kids and his family."
Said team captain Antawn Jamison: "You have to be careful what you do. It's tough to try to turn this thing around. We don't know how long he's going to be out. It's sad. Most important thing is, we just want Gilbert to play basketball again."