Posted on: January 27, 2010 10:38 pm

Gilbert: What's next?

Just as Gilbert Arenas had little choice but to accept a season-long suspension from David Stern on Wednesday, the three-time All-Star will be a helpless bystander in negotiations that will determine his future in the NBA.

Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said after the suspension was announced that the team wasn't ruling out any options, including termination of Arenas' contract, which has four years and $81 million left after this season. An attorney familiar with the negotiations that resulted in Arenas accepting the rest-of-the-season ban without appeal said it's understood among the parties that such a stiff penalty would just about rule out a successful attempt by the Wizards to void his deal.

"One of reasons the punishment was so severe is that the NBA recognizes that the Wizards probably won't be able to void the contract," the person said.

But Arenas feels abandoned by the Wizards, and particularly by Grunfeld, who orchestrated the decision to turn Arenas over to legal and NBA authorities on Dec. 24, the same day CBSSports.com first reported that Arenas was the target of a firearms investigation. While some in the organization hold out hope that the relationships can be repaired -- a result that would make it easier for the Wizards to get fair value for him in a trade -- the fallout from this incident will be too much to overcome.

"How do you bring him back in that locker room?" the person familiar with the situation said. "And what's the next step? Is it a trade? You can't realistically expect to patch that up, no matter what anybody is saying. That relationship’s fractured."

As things stand now -- a little more than three weeks before the Feb. 18 trade deadline -- the Wizards will have to accept that they won't get fair value in an trade for Arenas. Short of a trade, the only solution to rid the Wizards of Arenas -- and vice versa -- would be a buyout reaching into the tens of millions. With the transfer of ownership from the family of the late Abe Pollin to prospective majority owner Ted Leonsis still up in the air, that's not a realistic option, either.

What happens to Arenas' salary? He will forfeit 1/110th of his $16.2 million base salary per game, a total of $7,065,634. According to a person familiar with CBA provisions for suspended players, the money typically is divided evenly between the NBA and players association charitable foundations. The league and union also could agree to let the Wizards keep the money, the source said. In either case, the Wizards get no break on their luxury tax bill.

Which somehow seems poetic. The Wizards haven't caught a break since they signed Arenas to the six-year, $111 million deal in the first place.

Category: NBA
Posted on: January 27, 2010 12:11 pm
Edited on: January 27, 2010 6:46 pm

Arenas suspended for rest of season (UPDATE)

NEW YORK -- Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton, whose dispute involving guns on NBA property plunged the league into another image crisis, were both suspended for the rest of the 2009-10 season Wednesday.

NBA commissioner David Stern announced the suspensions in a strongly worded news release after meeting with Arenas at the NBA offices for a little more than an hour. Then, he blistered both players on a national media conference call, saying he's "simply not going to tolerate" guns on NBA property.

"We mean what we say when we say that guns are prohibited from being in our buildings or on team business," Stern said. "And when you violate that prohibition, you will be dealt with harshly."

Crittenton, the other party in the Dec. 21 argument at Verizon Center in Washington, met with Stern Tuesday. Both players have pleaded guilty to gun charges as a result of the incident.

“This is about the health and safety of our players – all players, as well as the overall image of our players," Stern said.

Sources told CBSSports.com that Arenas agreed not to appeal the suspension as a way to avoid a potentially longer sentence of a full 82 games, which would have stretched into next season. Stern denied there was any such agreement. Arenas, 28, a three-time All-Star and one of the most flamboyant performers in the league, will lose more than $7 million in salary and still faces possible discipline from the Wizards.

The Washington Post first reported the agreement between Stern and Arenas, who was accompanied in the meeting with Stern by his criminal defense attorney, Ken Wainstein, but not by any representatives from the players association.

Stern negotiated the suspension details with Billy Hunter, the executive director of the players association, over the past several days, but the collective bargaining agreement gave him sole discretion to deliver a suspension of any length under Article 35(d) of the NBA Constitution. The two also discussed strengthening the league's gun policy during negotiations on a new CBA, which are expected to begin in earnest during All-Star weekend in Dallas Feb. 12-14.

"We’re going to make, I would guess, an even stronger statement on the subject than is being made with the penalties being announced," Stern said.

Arenas arrived in New York shortly after 11 a.m. and went straight to the NBA offices on Fifth Avenue, where Stern had been waiting to speak with him before rendering his decision. According to a source, it was the first time Arenas had spoken with league officials about the Dec. 21 dispute.

Crittenton pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor gun charge stemming from the argument. Arenas previously pleaded guilty to a felony charge of carrying a pistol without a license and will be sentenced March 26.

Stern acknowledged that his decision to suspend Arenas indefinitely on Jan. 7 was a direct result of his conduct in the wake of the firearms investigation, which was first reported by CBSSports.com on Dec. 24. In the days after details of the incident became public, Arenas took to his Twitter page with wild, rambling statements and stated publicly in locker-room interviews that he'd done nothing wrong. His career careened out of control on Jan. 5, when in the pre-game huddle in Philadelphia he pantomimed shooting his teammates with finger guns. That, Stern said, was the last straw.

"I felt that I should do something to keep Gilbert from doing even further damage to himself," Stern said.

If Arenas accepts the suspension without appeal, he will miss 48 games -- the third-longest non-drug related suspension in NBA history, following Ron Artest (73) and Latrell Sprewell (68). Under provisions that call for him to forfeit 1/110th of his $16.2 million salary, Arenas' lost income will be $7,065,634.

Stern said he has not personally counseled the Wizards on whether or how it might be possible to void Arenas' contract, which has four years and $81 million remaining after this season -- though he acknowledged that such conversations would take place among attorneys for the parties involved.

The Wizards have taken no official steps indicating their intention to void Arenas' contract, which would be a tall order. Language in the CBA protects players from being punished by the league and the team for the same offense, except under "egregious" circumstances. Stern reiterated Wednesday that the league suspensions are "irrespective of any action the team might take."

"You’ll have to ask a lawyer," Stern said. "I'm just the commissioner. And I'm sure if you ask 10 lawyers, you’d get 10 different descriptions. That’s how those guys are. So I don’t want to practice law on this phone call other than to say the team is a separate issue."

The Wizards issued a statement saying the players "violated the trust of our fans," and that their "poor judgment ... stands in contrast to everything Abe Pollin stood for throughout his life."

Arenas, whose relationship with most members of the Wizards' hierarchy is fractured, has told confidants that he believes he's finished in Washington.

One legal fight that Arenas may have avoided is a potential grievance over his suspension. If he compels the players' association not to appeal, there will be no need for an arbitrator to rule on whether Arenas bringing guns to the Verizon Center locker room constituted an on-court or off-court offense. Suspensions in excess of 12 games for on-court offenses can be appealed to a grievance arbitrator; for all other matters, Stern is the arbitrator.

And he spoke Wednesday, loud and clear. 

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com