Amid conflicting reports on what happened in the Washington Wizards locker room, the matter clearly goes beyond the team’s original statement about Gilbert Arenas storing unloaded guns in his locker

–(– 01/02/2010 – Most Popular industry news provided by Financial News USA. Amid conflicting reports on what happened in the Washington Wizards locker room, the matter clearly goes beyond the team’s original statement about Gilbert Arenas storing unloaded guns in his locker.

What began with the NBA looking into a possible violation of its own rules has turned into an investigation involving the U.S. Attorney’s Office and District of Columbia police. The implications are serious, with the legal system, the league and the Wizards in line to take possible action if the allegations prove true.

“We’re all watching this very closely to see how the story develops right now,” Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Saturday. “It’s so early in the story and there’s so much speculation, it’s hard to figure out what’s fact and what’s fiction, but it is a scary thing for the NBA and we all want to see what happens.”

The Wizards said on Christmas Eve that Arenas stored unloaded firearms in a locked container in his locker, with no ammunition. Arenas said he wanted them out of the house after the birth of his latest child.

An official within the league told The Associated Press on Saturday that he was briefed before Dec. 24 by officials reviewing the incident. He said the review included a dispute over card-playing, gambling debts and a heated discussion between Arenas and another player. He said the review did not refer to Arenas and Javaris Crittenton drawing guns on each other – as the New York Post has reported – although he said that doesn’t preclude that it might have happened.

The official spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because he is not an authorized spokesman for the team or the league.

Arenas strolled through the locker room three times while the media was present before Saturday night’s home game against the San Antonio Spurs. Each time he wore enormous headphones and walked with stopping, his only comments referencing the larger-than-usual contingent of reporters.

“Oooh – a lot of you out here today,” he said.

The Wizards were in damage control mode, keeping the locker room open for 30 minutes instead of the league-mandated 45. Meanwhile, on the court, coach Flip Saunders talked about distractions and the effects they can have on a team.

“Any time you have anything off the floor and your players can’t have total focus, then it’s always going to have some,” Saunders said. “You always want to have players be able to worry about what you have at hand, and that’s to go out and prepare and play against San Antonio.”

Saunders said Arenas would play in the game despite a sore left knee.

The nation’s capital has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, and the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement prohibits players from possessing firearms at league facilities or when traveling on any league business. Commissioner David Stern has said players should leave their guns at home and could levy substantial fines or suspensions, pending the outcome of the investigation.

Arenas has been suspended once before because of a gun-related matter. He sat out Washington’s season opener in 2004 because he failed to maintain proper registration of a handgun while living in California in 2003 and playing for the Golden State Warriors.

Depending on the severity of the findings, the Wizards could invoke the morals clause found in standard NBA player contracts and attempt to void the remainder of the six-year, $111 million deal Arenas signed in the summer of 2008.

Such an option might be tempting because the Wizards have yet to get much of a return on the investment. Arenas missed all but two games last season as he recuperated from knee operations, and has struggled to adjust to Saunders’ offense this season.

Despite a healthy core of players and a high-priced roster, the Wizards were 10-20 entering Saturday night’s game.

This year, Saunders made Arenas a team captain, but the point guard has remained as flippant and unpredictable as ever. He made light of his latest plight on Twitter, posting on Friday that he was being portrayed as “the new John Wayne” and that he’s a “goof ball” who doesn’t do “serious things.” His Twitter account was silent on Saturday.

Saunders said Arenas is trying to become a better leader.

“I think he’s gotten to a point now where he’s gotten comfortable where he’s at physically,” Saunders said. “Now we’re going to ask him to be more of a leader.”

Former Wizards owner Abe Pollin, who changed the team’s name from Bullets because of the violent connotation, had little tolerance for player misbehavior. Pollin died in late November, and the team is in ownership limbo while part-owner Ted Leonsis goes through the process of assuming control.

Regardless of the outcome, Spoelstra expects the league to further emphasize player behavior.

“Everything across the league will be heightened, which it should be,” Spoelstra said. “But again, I think everybody wants to see what the whole story is, and every team now certainly will be more aware, more educated and more proactive for everybody’s safety.” About Financial News USA

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