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MARK HEISLER / ON THE NBA

Gilbert Arenas takes a shot at humor and misfires

Washington Wizards star will pay a hefty price for an ill-advised skit with teammates before a game.

January 07, 2010|Mark Heisler

Only you, Gilbert Arenas.

Irrepressible to the end -- which Arenas triggered prematurely with a pregame skit Tuesday in which he pretended to shoot teammates -- the Washington Wizards star was suspended indefinitely Wednesday by NBA Commissioner David Stern.

League sources said Stern is prepared to suspend Arenas for the rest of the season, but will let the legal process play out before making a final decision.

Stern intended to let the process play out before doing anything, but that went up in smoke after Tuesday's pre-game introductions in Philadelphia, where Arenas' teammates circled him and he put his thumbs up, index fingers out and pretended to shoot them.

Arenas said his teammates told him "Do it! Do it!"

Added Arenas: "You wonder why I can't be serious?"

Based on Arenas' $16.2-million salary, each game is worth $197,500. Assuming that D.C. authorities had rushed his case through in two weeks, which would have set a land speed record, Arenas could still have played eight games and earned $1.6 million before getting suspended.

So that was an expensive floor show he and his teammates put on.

Stern announced that while it was clear "Mr. Arenas" would get a "substantial suspension and perhaps worse," the player's "ongoing conduct has led me to conclude that he is not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game."

League sources said "perhaps worse" referred to Arenas' legal peril, having acknowledged the guns he had in the Wizards dressing room last month had not been specifically licensed in Washington, as required by local law.

However, no media outlet has confirmed the initial New York Post report that Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton actually drew guns in an argument about a gambling debt.

NBA officials are no longer working on the assumption guns were drawn. Although the legal process is unpredictable, there's no sense in the league office Arenas will do jail time like the New York Giants' Plaxico Burress, who is serving a two-year sentence for illegal possession of a firearm.

Stern's use of the words "ongoing conduct" referred to Tuesday's events when standard NBA operating procedure became inadequate in the face of Arenas' ongoing sense of humor.

Last week when the story broke, the NBA announced it would take no action then, noting an "active investigation by D.C. law enforcement authorities."

Tuesday, an unnamed NBA official told the Washington Post's Michael Lee that Stern still intended to wait until he was comfortable with the information he had received.

Stern apparently decided he was fine with the information at hand within hours of the Wizards' skit, as ushers confiscated posters ("Go Sixers, Time To Disarm Agent Zero") and Arenas noted after Tuesday's game, "Stern is mean."

Raising, or lowering, this saga to the level of a farce, Arenas may be entitled to his you-can't-be-serious disbelief at the Gunfight at the NBA Corral news coverage.

With the image of players pointing guns at each other sure to endure although it's now in dispute, a disturbing story became a horrific one.

Blogger Mike Jones, a former Washington Times beat writer, says someone who was there told him Arenas took three pistols out of his locker, put them in front of Crittenton and told him to take one, as if they were fighting a duel.

Crittenton reportedly demurred, saying he had his own gun. It's not clear whether Crittenton produced a gun or even had one there.

Having unlicensed guns in the dressing room was going to cost Arenas millions but the image of players pointing guns at each other was like feeding the scandal steroids.

Of course, no boom would have been lowered yet if Arenas hadn't had to go on being Gilbert Arenas at this tender moment.

As some "image consultant" is sure to point out on TV, living on the edge isn't recommended in firestorms, and we live in the Age of Firestorms.

mark.heisler@latimes.com

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