Arenas, Crittenton can come back next season ... but for whom?
The NBA's decision to suspend Washington Wizards guards
Stern, league sources said, has been brimming with anger recently, not only over the reckless behavior with firearms displayed by Arenas and Crittenton in December but also Arenas' subsequent mocking of the incident, specifically a gun pantomiming spectacle in Philadelphia a few days after news of the altercation broke. Some league sources are surprised the punishment didn't exceed the season-long suspension and push Arenas' ban into the 2010-11 season.
Still, Stern made it clear during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday that the suspensions for Arenas and Crittenton were for the duration for the 2009-10 season and that, barring further incident, both players would be eligible to play in the '10-11 season without any preconditions.
The question now is, for whom? Crittenton's contract with Washington expires after the season and his production in his first two seasons (5.3 points, 2.6 assists with three teams) coupled with the negative PR that will accompany him on his next stop means he will likely have to earn a job in the 2010 summer leagues. Though Crittenton, who may appeal the league's suspension, could be reinstated to the Wizards before the end of the season, it is highly unlikely he will ever wear a Washington uniform again.
Arenas' situation is far dicier. At a press conference on Wednesday, Wizards GM
However, the NBA's ruling may preclude the Wizards from doing just that. Sources familiar with the situation told SI.com that by accepting the league suspension, Arenas was now protected by the "One Penalty" clause in the collective bargaining agreement that prohibits a team from penalizing a player who has already been disciplined by the NBA. Though the clause contains language that allows teams to impose an additional punishment for an "egregious" act or for conduct "lacking in justification," an NBA source said union lawyers have been meeting for weeks about Arenas' future and believe the Wizards have no grounds to void his contract. Should the Wizards try to go ahead with voiding the deal, union lawyers are extremely confident they would win in arbitration and Arenas' contract would be reinstated.
That leaves the Wizards with three options. They could try to negotiate a buyout with Arenas and recoup some of the money he is due over the next four seasons. During his press conference, however, Grunfeld said that a buyout "had not been talked about" and that the Wizards "have not considered that."
A trade is still an option. Despite his struggles integrating into
Bringing Arenas back next season is another option, though hardly a palatable one. League sources said Grunfeld was shopping Arenas before the December incident. And Arenas has told confidants that he has no desire to play for Washington again. His relationship with Grunfeld, which was once considered one of the strongest player-executive relationships in the NBA, has eroded to the point that the two have barely spoken over the last two months.
Ironically, Wednesday may have been the best day Arenas has had in weeks. If Arenas -- who has been advised during this crisis by his former agent, high-powered player rep
The NBA made its statement on Wednesday. And Arenas has made his. A lot of questions have been answered. But plenty more still remain.