Gilbert Arenas’ suspension is being termed as indefinite by the NBA. However, speculation is rampant that the Washington Wizards guard has played his last game of this season.
On Wednesday, commissioner David Stern suspended Arenas, who is under investigation by both federal and local authorities in Washington, D.C. for reportedly brandishing a weapon in the Wizards’ looker room following a practice the day before Christmas at the Verizon Center.
Arenas said he was just playing a joke that went bad. However, he incurred Stern’s wrath by using his forefinger and thumb to pretend he was shooting his teammates prior to the Wizards’ game on Tuesday night at Philadelphia and continued to make light of the situation on his Twitter account after the Wizard arrived in Cleveland early Wednesday morning.
“The possession of firearms by an NBA player in an NBA arena is the matter of utmost concern to us,” Stern said in a statement. “Accordingly, I am suspending Mr. Arenas indefinitely, without pay, effective immediately pending the completion of the investigation by the NBA.”
Arenas will lose approximately $147,200 for every game he misses as his salary is $16.2 million this season in the second year of a six-year, $111-million contract.
Those with knowledge of Stern’s thinking believe the commissioner will come down extremely hard on Arenas and force him to sit out the remainder of the season. Stern has never been a fan of the free-spirited Arenas and a season-ending suspension would also serve as a tribute to late Wizards owner Abe Pollin, who changed the franchise’s name from the Bullets in 1998 because was so against violence.
One rumor about Arenas that has been dispelled is that he had been running roughshod over Wizards coach Flip Saunders in practice and basically did whatever he wanted. Those around the Wizards say Saunders is in control of the situation even though his team is a disappointing 11-22.
Though he is their leading scoring, losing Arenas may not have as large of an impact on the Wizards’ lineup as it would seem.
Arenas is averaging 22.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 7.2 assists and 36.5 minutes a game with a 103 Offensive Rating and a 110 Defensive Rating. Journeyman Earl Boykins, who took Arenas’ place in the lineup for Wednesday night’s 121-98 loss to the Cavaliers, is averaging 8.1/1.5/3.2/19.0 with a 107 Offensive Rating and a 113 Defensive Rating.
The Arenas story is still far from complete, and took another turn Wednesday night when the Washington Post's Mike Wise reported that Wizards teammate Javaris Crittenton--with whom Arenas was reportedly feuding--loaded his own gun after Arenas displayed his unloaded guns during the incident. Crittenton has not yet faced any punishment from the league.
Bench Help Wanted in Memphis
The Memphis Grizzlies are looking to trade for bench help in an effort to bolster their push for a potential playoff spot. That would have been hard to fathom in the preseason but the Grizzlies are 17-17.
Memphis had a deal in place in which they would have acquired guard Nate Robinson from the Knicks for guard Marcus Williams and a draft pick. Because Robinson is a veteran playing on a one-year contract who will have Bird Rights at season's end, he had the right to veto the trade, as he reportedly did.
The Grizzlies prefer to avoid adding salary beyond this season because they will make a strong attempt to re-sign forward Rudy Gay as a restricted free agent in the summer. Gay has already turned down a contract extension that reportedly started at $10 million in the first season. Center Marc Gasol and forward Zach Randolph become free agents in 2011.
“We would like to add to our offensive firepower off the bench but we want to do so on our terms,” Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said. "We don't want to complicate our long-term team salary obligations.”
Dallas' Protest Denied
The Houston Rockets won’t have to worry about losing a game in the standings to their Southwest Division rival Dallas Mavericks. The NBA denied the Mavericks’ protest of the Rockets’ 116-108 victory in the Dec. 18 game in Dallas.
The league disallowed the Mavericks’ protest over a technical foul call on Erick Dampier with 1:01 remaining, ruling that it was a judgment call by the officials and not a misapplication of the rules. Rockets coach Rick Adelman said he never seriously thought his team might have to return to Dallas to replay the final 61 seconds.
“You have so many instances in games over the years and over the years that you start doing something like that and you're going to have every game protested with the hope that things could change,” Adelman said. “I did not think they were going to uphold that and that’s good. I don’t want to go back to Dallas, at least not in the regular season.”
Financial Woes Hitting Bobcats on the Floor
The Charlotte Bobcats are reportedly losing tens of millions of dollars a year. A telling sign that the franchise is in financial trouble is that the Bobcats have been reluctant to sign a backup to power forward Boris Diaw, even for the minimum salary.
Though the deadline for guaranteeing salaries for the season passed Wednesday and teams can now sign players to 10-day contracts, coach Larry Brown does not expect to getting additional help.
“I don't think (the deadline) makes any difference at all because there are a lot of guys out there you could have brought in without a guarantee,” Brown said.
John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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