What we know:
- Something happened between Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton on the WIzards' team plane on December 19 and it spilled over into the Wizards' December 21 practice.
- The argument was over some sort of gambling debt. David Aldridge reported that the sum was $25,000, but that seems like chump change for something this bad. Shelden Williams apparently had on his Twitter that the sum was actually $150,000, but he's since deleted that tweet.
- Gilbert Arenas turned in his guns to the Wizards on the day before Christmas, claiming that he wanted to keep them away from his kids.
- The NBA and Washington D.C. authorities are currently investigating what happened.
- Washington DC law requires that you register a gun with DC authorities. ESPN's video reported that Arenas' gun was registered in Virginia. If you are a drug addict or have been convicted for a felony or "certain misdemeanor charges" (according to Aldridge), you can't have a gun, period. It's illegal to have an unregistered gun or a gun that can be concealed. If the gun is possessed outside one's property or "business place," it is a felony where one is subjected to five years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.
- Gilbert Arenas plead no contest to a misdemeanor in 2003 for possessing a concealed weapon while still a member of the Warriors.
- The Wizards didn't mention anything to the league until Gilbert turned in his guns on December 24. Whether this means they "covered it up" or just didn't know remains unclear.
What remains unclear:
- Did they actually pull guns against each other? In other words, is the entire premise true? Yahoo, who broke the story, just says there was some dispute. The New York Post reported that Arenas reached for his gun first and Crittenton followed to defend himself. Comcast SportsNet simply says that neither party brandished a gun (but provides no proof). Aldridge reports that the two players "had a confrontation in which both players had guns in their hands." Marc Stein of ESPN reported that, after the dispute, Arenas simply took his three guns out to Crittenton's locker, told Crittenton to choose one, at which point Crittenton told Arenas he had his own gun. Michael Lee quotes "a person who has spoken with Arenas recently" saying that the two players were just horsing around and were arguing over who had the bigger gun. That's a wide, wide range of possibilities.
- Will the Wizards try to void Arenas' contract? Aldridge reports that most NBA contracts have clauses preventing players from engaging in prohibited offseason activities that are dangerous, pleading guilty or being convicted of a felony or engaging in acts of "moral turpitude." If Arenas is convicted of a felony, there's a clear violation of the contract, and I imagine the Wizards should be able to void it. If not, it's a little murkier, because it's more difficult to prove this incident comes under that clause. (Here's a copy of a standard NBA contract, if you're curious). The other thing is that the non-legal elements of voiding a contract are difficult to deal with, as Tom Ziller discusses here. There's the long legal battle that'll definitely follow once the Players Association gets involved, as well as the stigma that often results from these types of things. Recent history (Monta Ellis, Latrell Sprewell, Jamaal Tinsley) has indicated that teams don't usually succeed in voiding contracts for the "moral turpitude" violation.
- Did Crittenton also have his gun on Wizards property?
- Gilbert has denied the story, but what's his version of what happened? He's promised to clear it up in a couple days, but if you want to be cynical, he could be waiting only so he can confer with his PR representatives to present the cleanest version of the "truth."
- Did the Wizards know about this and cover it up, or did they not know? The New York Post reports the former, which could be true. However, it's worth noting that the locker room was empty when the incident allegedly happened. At the very least, it appears no player has come forward saying they were there. The New York Post found out what happened from Crittenton's childhood friend, who found out from Crittenton. I'm not sure how the other media outlets found out, but considering there's clearly a leak in the New York league office, it could easily have come from there. Lee probably got his information from people close to Arenas. Point is, we don't know if management even knew what happened until today. Is that bad? Sure. But it's not the same as a cover-up. (Also, the whole "Ernie Grunfeld is in trouble" is kind of dopey. Grunfeld was in trouble anyway before this happened. Everyone in the organization is in trouble because there's new ownership coming in, and most of the Wizards' employees are longtime Pollin people. Right now, there's not really anyone who could fire Grunfeld, because of the ownership flux. Eventually? If this situation is true, of course everyone's in trouble. This is embarrassing. But let's not pretend anything is imminent).
- What's Crittenton's role in all of this? Nobody's really been able to talk to him or anyone associated with him, other than the Post with Crittenton's childhood buddy.
What are the possible implications?
- Arenas and Crittenton get suspended, heavily. I imagine that David Stern is going to make an example of both and suspend them for the rest of the season. Anything less would be a huge shock to me.
- Arenas gets convicted of a felony, or at the very least a misdemeanor.
- Same with Crittenton.
- If it's the former, Arenas' contract gets voided, which would put the Wizards sort of into the 2010 sweepstakes, with a combined team salary around $38 million. (Crittenton's contract is up after this year, so the salary-cap implications of voiding his contract are irrelevant).
- People at the top lose their jobs.
- Crittenton's career essentially ends (again, potentially).
- Worst of all, this organization will receive a stigma that is going to be impossible to shake. General managers are going to circle the Wizards' players like vultures and try to nab them for nothing. Free agents are going to pause before signing here. Players are going to feel strange entering that locker room. Potential general managers are going to shy away from taking on this rebuilding project. Employees everywhere within the organization might lose their jobs once new ownership comes in hoping for a fresh start. Again, this is going to happen even if the Wizards void Arenas' contract. The benefits of doing that are to create long-term flexibility, but the stigma that results could make it difficult to capitalize on that flexibility for a long time.
The last point is the saddest for me, besides having to potentially completely reevaluate Gilbert Arenas' place in Wizards/Bullets history. If the incident ends up being embarrassing for Arenas, fine. Both parties will move on, either via a trade or a voiding of his contract. Since this is the NBA, where teams take chances on any type of character if they can play, he'll find another place to play in this league. But the long-term effects for this franchise could last for a while. The Wizards will recover, but now, in addition to a long rebuilding job on the roster, it looks like they'll need to commit themselves to a long rebuilding job on the image of the organization. That image has lasting effects, all the way from office professionalism to player acquisition.