- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 27, 2010

WASHINGTON | The locker room guns saga isn’t anywhere close to being over for the Washington Wizards, even with the news that Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton are suspended for the rest of the season.

Team president Ernie Grunfeld isn’t ruling out the possibility of voiding the remainder of Arenas’ $111 million contract. The season is a mess, and Arenas’ situation will have a significant effect on the team’s plans at the trade deadline. Plus, any moves involving Arenas will be influenced by the punishment he receives when he is sentenced March 26 for felony gun possession.

“We’re still exploring all our options,” Grunfeld said shortly after NBA commissioner David Stern announced the suspensions for Arenas and Crittenton on Wednesday. “We haven’t made any decisions up to this point. We’re seeing what we can do. I think it’s going to be a combination of many things to see which direction we go in.”

Arenas is in the second year of a six-year deal, and any attempt to cancel the remainder of the contract would meet with stiff opposition from the players’ union. Executive director Billy Hunter warned the union “will respond aggressively to any improper attempt by the team to impose additional penalties.”

Either way, the Wizards are hamstrung as the Feb. 18 trade deadline approaches. With a 14-30 record, Grunfeld could be looking to unload worthy assets such as Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler. Yet is was Arenas, who had played little over the previous two seasons because of a knee injury, who led the team in scoring and assists at the time he was suspended.

“Obviously it hurts a team. We made a major commitment to Gilbert. He is our franchise player,” Grunfeld said. “From a competitive standpoint when you lose 23 points and seven assists and someone who can make plays down the stretch, that hurts a ballclub. You have to look at things a little bit different, of course.”

Crittenton’s suspension is largely immaterial to the team. He was a sub who hadn’t played this season because of a foot injury. Grunfeld said he is allowed to negotiate with other teams about a possible trade involving Arenas during the suspension. He also revealed the Arenas has been working out with team trainers at a location away from the Verizon Center.

Otherwise, Grunfeld and the Wizards have kept their distance from their three-time All-Star, removing his likeness from nearly every nook and cranny of the arena. Grunfeld cited examples of how the team has supported Arenas in the past, but he added: “When something serious like this happens, people have to be responsible for their actions. Bringing guns into the locker room, bringing guns in the workplace, is not a responsible act.”

Arenas, for his part, is making no effort to try to return to the Wizards this season. A statement from his lawyer said Arenas has asked the players’ union not to challenge the suspension.

Grunfeld said the team acted quickly when it first heard that guns were in the locker room — the result of a spat between Arenas and Crittenton last month — and shared what it learned with the NBA and police. Six players have been punished in connection with the series of events, including four players fined $10,000 for helping Arenas make fun of his plight before a game at Philadelphia.

“This was an isolated incident,” Grunfeld said. “Players get counseling every year, the NBA comes in with security meetings every single year, and we are having internal counseling, too, because this is a devastating type of situation not only for our players but for our staff and everybody that’s involved in the whole situation, and we don’t take it lightly at all.”

Grunfeld said the Wizards have contacted local groups about educating youngsters about gun safety.

“Having said that, we still have games to play,” he said. “We have to move forward. The rest of these players will really have to band together.”



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