No Longer Gilbert’s Arena

By Carla Peay, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: January 17, 2010

Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas in happier times,before his legal troubles put his career in jeopardy. Photo by John E. DeFreitas.

Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas in happier times,before his legal troubles put his career in jeopardy. Photo by John E. DeFreitas.

WASHINGTON (BASN) — The oversized banner that once covered the side of Verizon Center is gone, as are the pictures that graced the walls, and the jerseys for sale in the hallway kiosks.

His likeness has been removed from the opening montage played before every game, and his locker is empty, save the nameplate above the abandoned wooden stall.

Three-time All-Star guard Gilbert Arenas, once considered the face of the Wizards franchise is effectively gone, and unlikely to return to an NBA arena wearing a Washington uniform.

The details are well known to all sports fans by now – that Arenas brought unloaded guns into Verizon Center, ostensibly to keep them away from his three young children, but kept them in his locker instead of immediately turning them over to security.

The guns were used in the worst practical joke ever played, when Arenas placed the guns in the locker of teammate Javaris Crittenden with a note that said “pick one” after the two had a dispute over a gambling debt a day earlier.

Initially, NBA commissioner David Stern took no action and neither did the Wizards organization; both content to see where the criminal investigation led. But Arenas either failed to realize the seriousness of the crimes he could be charged with, or he used his self-described “goofball” humor as a shield.

But no one was laughing at Gilbert-the quirky this time.

Two more incidents led Stern to suspend Arenas indefinitely – a pre-game team photo taken at a game in Philadelphia against the Sixers in which Arenas is making like Wyatt Earp by pointing his fingers like pistols, and post game interview in which Arenas suggested that when the truth came out, he would expect an apology, because “he did nothing wrong.”

Oh, and the “[David] Stern is mean”, comment likely didn’t help his cause.

The following day, Stern handed down the suspension, releasing a statement which read in part, that Arenas was “not fit to take the court in an NBA game.”

Ouch!!

Finally, Arenas had his day in court. On January 15, Arenas pleaded guilty in D.C. Superior Court to one count of carrying a gun in the District without a license.

Prosecutors have recommended the low end of the sentence, with is no more than six months, but the judge could sentence Arenas to the maximum if he chooses, which is five years.

Sentencing is scheduled for March 26.

Following his plea, his soon-to-be-former team issued a statement that was as short and to the point as you can get. It read “Gilbert Arenas has been a cornerstone of the Washington Wizards for six years. We are deeply saddened and disappointed in his actions that have led to the events of this afternoon. Gilbert used extremely poor judgment and is ultimately responsible for his own actions.”

Double Ouch!!

So now, the waiting game begins. Arenas waits for a judge to decide his fate. The Wizards wait for a new owner to take over for the late Abe Pollin, most likely Ted Leonsis, and for the inevitable rebuilding of the Wizards to begin.

Stern waits until Arenas is sentenced, to see what comes after an indefinite suspension. And a city that had so much hope for their basketball team waits until this disaster on the court is blown up and reconstructed form the ground up.

Whether or not Arenas’ finally “gets it” is a subject of much debate here in our nations’ capital. Those of us who have covered him for years enjoyed the walking sound bite, the amusing antics, the unbridled, childlike joy with which he played the game. He was funny, personable, amusing and engaging.

To say nothing of the all-star talent. Gil’s got game.

At the same time, we wondered about the over the top practical jokes, the bizarre stream of conscious blog entries and Twitter posts, the immaturity, and the me-first, team-second, defense-last attitude that was all a part of the Agent Zero Package.

It didn’t seem to fit with an athlete that threw his jersey into the stands after games and gave so generously to charitable causes, including perhaps his most popular program “Scores For Schools”, where he donated $100 per point scored to a local school.

Most of all, we all wait to see if the man who once espoused his own Zero to Hero philosophy; a man who came from a troubled childhood to NBA success can put his life back together for the sake of himself and his three children.

There is no diminishing the gravity of his mistake, or the severity of his crime, but at age 28, there should be a second act for Gilbert Arenas. The Wizards could seek to void his $111 million contract, which has around $80 million left, under the “moral turpitude” clause.

If so, the union will fight it, and a settlement will likely be reached, and barring a lengthy sentence which no one really expects him to get, Arenas will return to the NBA next season playing for a team that will give him a chance, because it’s still about talent.

But his new team won’t get “Hibachi” and they won’t get Agent Zero. They won’t get the quirky, immature jokester who doesn’t know when he’s gone too far. They will get a grown up Gilbert Arenas that the fans in Washington never got to see. We got Gilbert the kid.

His new team and new city will get Gilbert the man.