League Commissioner David Stern suspended Arenas indefinitely on Wednesday without pay, saying he is "not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game," and that the guard's actions "will ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse."
"I feel very badly that my actions have caused the NBA to suspend me, but I understand why the league took this action," Arenas said in statement released by his attorney Wednesday evening. "I put the NBA in a negative light and let down my teammates and our fans. I am very sorry for doing that."
Federal prosecutors have convened a grand jury to explore an incident involving Arenas and handguns in the team locker room. Arenas spoke to prosecutors about the incident for two hours Monday.
Tuesday night might have been the last straw as far as the league was concerned. A Getty image shot during pre-game warmups in Philadelphia showed Arenas smiling and pointing his fingers at teammates as if they were guns. Arenas later tweeted about the incident, saying "I know everybody seen the pre game pics..my teammate thought to break the tention we should do that..but this is gettn way to much. I wanna say sorry if I p***ed any body off by us havin fun...I'm sorry for anything u need to blame for for right now."
That incident, and his teammates' reaction, didn't sit well with Wizards management.
“We fully endorse the decision of the NBA to indefinitely suspend Gilbert Arenas," the team said in a statement. "Strictly legal issues aside, Gilbert’s recent behavior and statements, including his actions and statements last night in Philadelphia, are unacceptable. Some of our other players appeared to find Gilbert’s behavior in Philadelphia amusing. This is also unacceptable. Under Abe Pollin’s leadership, our organization never tolerated such behavior, and we have no intention of ever doing so.”
"Our organization came out with a statement and we abide by that statement," Wizards coach Flip Saunders said before Wednesday night's game in Cleveland. "As a team, as a coach, we can't worry about that right now. We have to worry about going out and performing with the players that we have."
Stern said he didn't take immediate action against Arenas because of the pending criminal investigation.
"Although it is clear that the actions of Mr. Arenas will ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse, his ongoing conduct has led me to conclude that he is not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game," Stern said in a statement. "Accordingly, I am suspending Mr. Arenas indefinitely, without pay, effective immediately pending the completion of the investigation by the NBA."
Arenas said he called Stern Wednesday and hopes to talk to him soon.
"While I never intended any harm or disrespect to the NBA or anyone else, my gun possession at the Verizon Center and my attempts at humor showed terrible judgment," Arenas' statement read. "I take full responsibility for my conduct."
Reports published in the New York Post say Arenas pulled the guns on teammate Javaris Crittenton during a dispute over a gambling debt.
On Thursday the Washington Post provided more accounts of the incident:
According to two first-hand accounts of the confrontation, Crittenton responded to Arenas's action -- which included laying the four unloaded weapons in Crittenton's cubicle with a note that read, "Pick One" -- by brandishing his own firearm, loading the gun and chambering a round.
Two of the five people in the room that morning, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Arenas had originally not disclosed Crittenton's action to protect the little-used guard from prosecution and had told Crittenton he would assume full responsibility for the actions of both players that day.
Arenas has denied the New York Post report, calling the incident a "misguided effort to play a joke" on a teammate. He said he never threatened or assaulted anyone with the guns and never pointed them at anyone.
"As I have said before, I had kept the four unloaded handguns in my house in Virginia, but then moved them over to my locker at the Verizon Center to keep them away from my young kids. I brought them without any ammunition into the District of Columbia, mistakenly believing that the recent change in the DC gun laws allowed a person to store unloaded guns in the District.
Joke or not, I now recognize that what I did was a mistake and was wrong. I should not have brought the guns to DC in the first place, and I now realize that there’s no such thing as joking around when it comes to guns — even if unloaded."
The grand jury will decide whether Arenas should face criminal charges.
The NBA said Wizards personnel continue to be interviewed by law enforcement authorities and that some are scheduled for appearance before the grand jury.
Complete David Stern Statement:
"The possession of firearms by an NBA player in an NBA arena is a matter of the utmost concern to us. I initially thought it prudent to refrain from taking immediate action because of the pendency of a criminal investigation involving the office of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia and the Metropolitan Police Department, and the consideration of this matter by a grand jury sitting in the District of Columbia. For the same reason, I directed the Wizards to refrain from taking any action.
"Although it is clear that the actions of Mr. Arenas will ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse, his ongoing conduct has led me to conclude that he is not currently fit to take the court in an NBA game. Accordingly, I am suspending Mr. Arenas indefinitely, without pay, effective immediately pending the completion of the investigation by the NBA."