NBA suspends Arenas for rest of season
League sources told Yahoo! Sports that Stern had been considering two suspension scenarios for the former All-Star: the remainder of this season or a full 82-game ban that would extend into next season. Sources said players union executive director Billy Hunter and union attorneys had negotiated the suspension terms with Stern over the past several days. If the union vowed to appeal the shorter penalty, sources said, Stern was prepared to suspend Arenas for the full 82 games.
Legal counsel made it clear to Arenas prior to his Wednesday meeting with Stern that he risked the longer suspension if he didn’t accept a ban for the remainder of this season. The Washington Post reported that Arenas told Stern he would ask the union not to fight the suspension.
“The issue here is not about the legal ownership and possession of guns, either in one’s home or elsewhere,” Stern said in a statement formally announcing the suspension. “It is about possession of guns in the NBA workplace, which will not be tolerated.”
Including the 12 games he has already missed, Arenas will be suspended for a total of 50 games, costing him nearly $7.4 million in lost salary.
Crittenton’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, said they have yet to decide whether to appeal the suspension.
“We appreciate that the NBA took their time in making a decision and gathering as much information as they could, and now, we want to take a deep breath and assess it before we jump out and make any kind of decision,” Bartelstein said.
The players union had held out some last-minute hope that Stern would allow Arenas to return to the NBA sooner than next season if the union would concede to amending the current Collective Bargaining Agreement to include a zero-tolerance gun policy. No formal proposal on the specifics of possible penalties for the policy was exchanged, sources say, but the union was open to the idea had the commissioner been willing to shorten the suspensions of Arenas and Crittenton.
Arenas entered a guilty plea on a felony gun charge after bringing four firearms into the Washington Wizards locker room following a Dec. 21 locker-room dispute with Crittenton over a card game. He will be sentenced on March 26.
Stern gave Arenas an indefinite suspension on Jan. 6 because of the guard’s repeated attempts to make light of the incident with Crittenton.
Crittenton pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge on Monday and received probation. He met with Stern on Tuesday in New York.
The union had raised the idea with Stern about crafting an immediate amendment to the CBA that would detail specific penalties for bringing guns into any NBA facility or function, including locker rooms, buses and planes.
Dan Fegan, one of the NBA’s top player agents who has been working as one of Arenas’ advisers, told Yahoo! Sports earlier Wednesday, “It’s a shame that a series of serious lapses in judgment will have such dramatic consequences for Gilbert, but this incident provides a singular opportunity for the union and NBA to focus not on punishment as a deterrent, but implement a zero-tolerance gun policy with clearly defined major penalties for even minor infractions. Let’s treat the system, not the symptom.”
The Wizards are still determining whether they will pursue voiding the remaining $80 million on Arenas’ contract. The union voted to fight such an attempt.
“We fully expect that this matter is now concluded at the league level and we will respond aggressively to any improper attempt by the team to impose additional penalties,” union executive director Billy Hunter said in a statement.