Gilbert Arenas all but asked the NBA to forbid him from playing, and now DavidStern has obliged. The commissioner's decision Wednesday to suspend indefinitely the Wizards' All-NBA guard affirms my earlier belief that Arenas will be banned without pay for the rest of the season.
Arenas has a lot in common with Ron Artest, who never seemed to understand why he was penalized so severely for inciting the 2004 Detroit brawl. When Arenas pointed his fingers and fired pantomime bullets at teammates in the pregame huddle Tuesday before Washington's victory at Philadelphia, he was pointing a virtual gun at Stern's head. He was daring the commissioner to respond in kind.
I am not being flippant in expressing concern for Arenas' future. If he is indeed suspended without pay for the remainder of the season, Arenas will lose $9.9 million of his salary (valued at $16.2 million overall this season). Here is a 28-year-old, who spent the past two years working to overcome knee injuries, and now he chooses to provoke his boss by daring Stern to sideline him for yet another season at a cost of almost $10 million.
When Stern declares that a penalty "perhaps worse" than a suspension could arise, he is setting the stage to void Arenas' contract should he be convicted of a felony charge for carrying unlicensed firearms into the District of Columbia. Arenas is owed $80 million over the next four full seasons through 2012-13, but there is no guarantee he will see a penny if he winds up in jail.
It is one thing to be outraged that the player would bring firearms into the locker room, and then reveal those weapons to inflame an argument with teammate Javaris Crittenton. Who knows what might have happened next if the tensions had led to violence? Arenas' stupidity put a lot of people at risk while creating a negative impression of the NBA as a whole.
Instead of feeling shame and trying to make things right, he is now acting, in a very public way, like someone who wishes to do harm to himself. On Tuesday in Philadelphia, he was begging law enforcement to throw the book at him, just as he was begging Stern to relieve him of $10 million and prevent him from playing the game he loves. As this episode unravels, the outrage of his insensitivity toward others turns into sorrow as I see Arenas appearing to destroy a career that held so much promise. He does not appear to understand what he is doing to himself.
More Arenas Coverage
AP:Arenas suspended indefinitely without paySTERN SPEAKS:Commish says continued antics led to Arenas' suspensionMALONE:NBA legend delivers harsh messageWASHINGTON POST:Crittenton loaded, cocked gun during disputeMCCANN:Loaded gun could bring end to Crittenton's careerFANHOUSE:Another Arenas 'joke' caught on cameraGALLERY:Athletes run into trouble with gun-use