Washington Wizards Fine Four Players $10,000 apiece
Four players have been fined $10,000 apiece for making fun of a serious situation. The coach has banned gambling on the team plane and has told his story to law enforcement authorities. Some of his players are doing the same.
The team is doing its best to remove all traces of Gilbert Arenas from the Verizon Center, the place where he infamously brought some guns to work.
It’s been no fun being a member of the Washington Wizards.
“It was foolish, stupid, immature,” said guard Randy Foye, one of the four players fined Friday night, “but I’ve got to be a man and accept my penalty and I apologize to the fans and the organization for behaving in that manner.”
Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee and Nick Young also were docked by the team for their lightheaded participation when Arenas pointed his index fingers at teammates as if he were firing a pair of guns during an on-court huddle before Tuesday night’s game at Philadelphia. A photo shows most of the Wizards players smiling or laughing, but the four players were deemed the worst offenders.
“We never meant to make light of the situation,” Jamison said.
Arenas was banned indefinitely by the NBA on Wednesday while under investigation by federal and local authorities for possible violations of the strict gun laws in the nation’s capital. He has acknowledged keeping guns in his locker at the Verizon Center and taking them out in a “misguided effort to play a joke” on a teammate.
Coach Flip Saunders said he met with the grand jury investigating Arenas on Thursday, and some of his players were giving their versions of the story on Friday between the morning shootaround and the game against the Magic. Foye said he met with authorities for some two hours, and DeShawn Stevenson said Fabricio Oberto did as well. Stevenson said he met with his lawyer and will go before the grand jury soon.
“I just went in there, everything I said was truthful,” Foye said without elaborating. “I was honest with authorities.”
Saunders also confirmed he banned gambling on the team plane on Dec. 21, the date of the locker room confrontation between Arenas and Javaris Crittenton in which Arenas pulled out guns he was keeping in his locker. Various reports have given conflicting details of what happened between the two players, but their dispute began during a card game on a trip home from the West Coast two days earlier.
Saunders said he instituted the ban because gambling “led to a confrontation” and he wanted “to avoid those situations” from happening again.
“You can only give people what they can handle, and obviously we didn’t handle it very well,” guard Mike Miller said. “It’s on each organization. They made a stance here—and it’s probably a good stance.”
The photograph from the Philadelphia game was one of the final straws for commissioner David Stern, who had intended to wait until the legal process played out before taking action against Arenas. Instead, Stern announced the suspension the following day, declaring Arenas “not currently fit to take the court” and warning of potentially worse sanctions down the road.
The Wizards have done their best to get Arenas out of sight, if not out of mind. The team has told him not to attend practices, games or other team functions and has removed a huge banner featuring his photograph from the facade of the arena. He has also been edited out of the pregame video played before the start of the game, and Arenas-related merchandise items—including those coveted No. 0 jerseys—are no longer for sale in the building.
The Wizards, whose team president before the season of spoke of wanting “to do some damage” in the playoffs, improved to 12-22 with the win over Orlando but remain in last place in the Southeast Division. Foye, who started at point guard in Arenas’ place, had 20 points and six assists.
Arenas was one of three team captains—although there was always debate as to whether he was suited for that role—but Saunders said he will not name a replacement. Jamison and Caron Butler are the other captains.
Then there’s the future of the roster as a whole. The Wizards could try to void the remainder of Arenas’ six-year, $111 million by invoking a morals clause, and team president Ernie Grunfeld might break up the rest of the struggling team as the trade deadline approaches.
“It’s going to affect not only the people’s lives involved, but our lives as well,” Jamison said. “We don’t have one of the best players in the league, that’s affecting everybody. Changes might happen, that’s affecting everybody.”