Gilbert Arenas: The Fallout
In case you missed it (and shame on you if you did): Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas reportedly pulled a gun on teammate Javaris Crittenton during a Christmas eve locker room argument over a gambling debt. On Friday, Arenas pleaded guilty to the felony charge of carrying a pistol without a license in the District of Columbia as part of a plea bargain in D.C. Superior Court.
What does this mean for Gilbert Arenas? It means he may be to go to jail. He will be free until his March 26 sentencing. A jail term of up to 6-12 months would be realistic. Beyond that, it means his life has been turned completely upside down – an image destroyed, a career in jeopardy, and a wallet perhaps $80 million lighter (see below) – because of one bad decision from an otherwise largely untroubled, albeit eccentric, person.
What does this mean for a Heat team in desperate need of a quality point guard?
The one-word answer: nothing.
For Arenas to even be an option for the Heat, several obstacles would need to be overcome.
Arenas would need to not be in jail. Obvious point. We will know more on March 26.
Arenas would need to be reinstated from his indefinite suspension. That’s not likely to happen for the rest of this season. In suspending Arenas, Commissioner David Stern tern is acting upon powers afforded him by the CBA, which states the following:
The Commissioner shall have the power to suspend for a definite or indefinite period, or to impose a fine not exceeding $50,000, or inflict both such suspension and fine upon any Player who, in his opinion shall have been guilty of conduct that does not conform to standards of morality or fair play, that does not comply at all times with all federal, state, and local laws, or that is prejudicial or detrimental to the Association.
The CBA grants Stern the right to keep Arenas out for as long as he deems appropriate.
The Wizards would need to void Arenas’ contract. The Wizards, $9 million into luxury tax territory despite a 12-26 record (fourth worst in the NBA), would stand to benefit substantially from voiding Arenas’ bloated contract. Arenas has four years and $80 million left on his six-year, $111 million deal.
To void the contract, the Wizards would need to rely upon the following section of the CBA:
The Team may terminate this Contract upon written notice to the Player if the Player shall: (i) at any time, fail, refuse, or neglect to conform his personal conduct to standards of good citizenship, good moral character (defined here to mean not engaging in acts of moral turpitude, whether or not such acts would constitute a crime), and good sportsmanship, to keep himself in first class physical condition, or to obey the Team’s training rules.
Despite published reports, the Wizards do not need a felony conviction to pursue a termination… though a conviction would certainly help.
It’s not as easy to void a contract as it would seem. The precedent for termination in the NBA is exceedingly limited. The Golden State Warriors terminated guard Latrell Sprewell’s $32 million contract in 1997 after he physically attacked his coach P.J. Carlesimo, only to have it overturned in arbitration. Pacers forward Ron Artest went into the stands during a game in 2006 in what was the biggest brawl in NBA history and didn’t get his contract terminated.
The Heat would need to be willing to take on Arenas. The Heat are certain not to risk their free agency plans on Arenas, so a 2009/10 signing is unrealistic.
As far as next season and beyond, Arenas is going to try to resurrect his career somewhere. But he faces an uphill battle. While he is still just 28 years-old, injuries have almost completely robbed him of the explosiveness which once made him such a dangerous offensive weapon. He’s had three surgeries on his left knee in an 18-month span between April 2007 and September 2008. It is not entirely clear what type of player will remain when he fully recovers.
Look for Arenas to remain a Wizard. His contract will be nearly impossible to void, and even more-so to trade.
It shouldn’t matter much to Heat fans. Arenas’ character is not as troubling as the media would have you believe. But the reality is that he’s always been a high-scoring, low-efficiency player – not exactly what the Heat should be looking for even when he is at his best. And having now lost his biggest weapon, his best days are certainly behind him.