It is more than a little ironic that Gilbert Arenas is making headlines for alleged firearms offences.
After all, he is the biggest star on a franchise that once changed its moniker from Bullets to Wizards because Washington is one of the most violent cities in North America.
He is also a guy who slipped all the way to the second round of the 2001 NBA draft because teams weren’t sure whether he was a point guard or a shooting guard ... guess that question has been answered now.
Arenas first started attracting the wrong kind of attention when it was revealed on Christmas Day that authorities were investigating him for storing firearms in the Wizards locker room. Arenas owned up to that, but subsequent reports arose New Year’s Day that the three-time all-star was being investigated for allegedly drawing one of the weapons in the locker room on his also-wielding teammate Javaris Crittenton over a $25,000 US gambling debt.
This, of course is a serious matter and Arenas, who along with Crittenton has denied the most brazen aspects of the story, could see his lucrative contract (four years with more than $80 million remaining) voided by the Wizards if he ends up in jail. The Wizards would love such a scenario, since Arenas has played just 15 games the past two years because of knee injuries and is always a threat to go down again. But that fallout is highly unlikely despite D.C.’s tough gun laws. A long suspension, however, is all but a given at this point.
This is another significant black eye for the NBA, which somehow avoided coming out a lot worse than it could have from the Tim Donaghy crooked ref affair.
Revered Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan is well aware of the stakes, telling the Deseret News: “These guys have a tremendous image to try to improve on all the time because, you know, these buildings we play in are not all full,” Sloan said. “When (negative) things draw more attention to what’s going on than the game itself, then we’re probably going in the wrong direction — and I don’t think that’s good for basketball.”
Sloan is correct and, if the whole story is true, then the book absolutely should be thrown at Arenas. Goodbye career, hello jail time. But, if one delves into Arenas’ history — who he is and where he is from — as well as his numerous defences on Twitter yesterday, the most logical conclusion is that this was probably a poorly thought-out joke that is going to cost him dearly.
Arenas has always been an oddball. Raised by his dad after his drug-addicted mother left him as a child, Arenas is the guy who nicknamed himself “Hibachi” and “Agent Zero,” the strange cat who pumped oxygen into his home to improve his stamina and who spent a million bucks on his 25th birthday party. Arenas is a little off, for sure, but it has always been in a friendly, look-at-me, Weird Al sense, and not as a misbehaving knucklehead, aside from his 2003 one-game suspension for failing to properly register a handgun.
Arenas is saying as much, and so are his friends.
“I’m a goofball and that’s what I am, so even (during) something like this, I’m going to make fun of it and that’s how I am,” Arenas, who refused to comment further yesterday, told reporters Saturday. He also denied that the true story has come out, but admitted he used “bad judgment” by storing the guns in the locker room in the first place.
Arenas allegedly taunted the bench-warming and much lower-paid Crittenton during an airplane card game and refused to settle his debt, which led to the locker room incident which was either shenanigans, or much more serious, depending on who you believe.
“I think this was just a really bad joke that went too far and has gotten too much attention,” Arenas’ University of Arizona teammate Richard Jefferson told the San Antonio Express News after talking to Arenas early Saturday.
“People are trying to make it out like it was guns drawn in the locker room on each other. It wasn’t that type of dispute. At no point do I think either of those guys was thinking about, or planning on, harming each other.”
Arenas and Crittenton will tell police their stories today, but seemed to be getting along well during Saturday’s 97-86 loss to the Spurs.
“We were friends before; we’re friends now,” Arenas said after the game.
“We don’t have no problem. I can’t speak on (the pulling of guns). But if you know me, I’ve never did anything (involving) violence. Anything I do is funny — well, it’s funny to me.”
But not to the NBA, its fans or the police, as Arenas will soon find out.