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My opinion on the Gilbert Arenas controversy

The storm of negative publicity that has shrouded the Washington Wizards for the last few weeks came to a head this week when point guard Gilbert Arenas was suspended indefinetely without pay amid allegations that he threatened team-mate Javaris Crittendon by storing guns in his locker over a $25,000 bet.

According to the Washington Post, Arenas laid out four guns in Crittendon’s cubicle with a note saying “Pick One”. This led to NBA commissioner David Stern imposing an unlimited suspension on Agent Zero. In a statement released this week Stern said:

“The possession of firearms by an NBA player in an NBA arena is a matter of the utmost concern to us. I initially thought it prudent to refrain from taking immediate action because of the pendency of a criminal investigation involving the office of the United States attorney …. Although it is clear that the actions of Mr. Arenas will result in a substantial suspension, or perhaps worse, his ongoing conduct has led me to conclude that he is currently fit to take to the court of an NBA game. Accordingly, I am suspending Mr Arenas indefinetly, without pay, effective immediately pending the completion of an investigation by the NBA.”

If only Arenas had kept his mouth shut. The league probably would have let the legal process go on till a ruling had been made, but Agent Zero practically begged for a lengthy suspension and to forfeit millions of dollars. From the John Wayne references made on Twitter to the completely unnecessary and stupid pantomime firing on his teammates in the pre-game circle before the game against Philadelphia. It’s like common sense went out of the window, and frankly, Arenas deserves everything he gets.

But in a story that seems to be constantly twisting and turning, rumours that Crittendon responded to Arenas threats by brandishing his own gun, loading it and then chambering a round. If this is true, then Crittendon’s hostile reaction is much worse than Arenas’ initial actions. If a gun was actually loaded, then no one can downplay the “it was just a joke, no guns were loaded” angle. Also, Crittendon could be kicked out of the league, as well as face serious legal prosecution.

Arenas allegedly tried to cover for Crittendon, he originally withheld details of the seldom-used guard’s actions in order to protect him from prosecution, saying he would accept full responsibility for what happened that day. Whatever allegedly happened, you do not bring guns, unloaded or not, into a locker room. Arenas’ actions were unacceptable and he should have known better than to act in such an inappropriate way.

Since signing a 6 year, $111 million deal in 2008, Arenas has spent most of his time on the sidelines, only playing 47 games in the last three seasons because of a knee injury (13 games in 2007-08, 2 games in 2008-09 and 32 games this season). Not exactly value for money. And with Arenas returning from injury this season, combined with All-stars Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, and new arrivals Randy Foye and Mike Miller, the Wizards had high hopes for this season and were hoping to challenge the top three teams in the East. Currently at 11-22 and well out of the playoff picture, the Wizards are struggling big time, trailing the likes of the Knicks, Bobcats and Bucks in the standings.

I think Arenas is going to be made an example of, if prosecutors find him guilty of possessing illegal firearms, then I can see the NBA voiding his huge contract, something I can imagine the Wizards would be glad to get rid of if they keep constantly underachieving. And with the firearms charges hanging over Cleveland guard Delonte West due to be reach court soon, this has brought more negative attention to the NBA, and threatens to ruin it’s clean-cut image, embodied by well-behaved superstars like Chris Paul, Lebron James, Brandon Roy etc.