‘Twas quite a day before Christmas for the Washington Wizards.
Multiple reports claim an argument between Wizards guards Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton ended with guns owned by Arenas being displayed in the locker room at the Verizon Center following a practice on Christmas Eve afternoon. Crittenton allegedly was upset that Arenas refused to pay a $25,000 gambling debt incurred during a poker game. The New York Post also reported that Crittenton had a gun and the two players pulled them on each other, though this scenario has not been substantiated by other sources.
With more details coming to light, the question no longer is if the NBA will discipline Arenas and Crittenton. Instead, the question is whether Arenas and Crittenton will face criminal charges and perhaps even do time behind bars. The District of Columbia has very strict laws governing the possession of firearms.
D.C. police are investigating the incident and investigators are expected to take statements from Arenas and Crittenton today.
Arenas downplayed the incident, saying, “I can’t speak on that but if you know me, you’ve been here. I’ve never did anything (involving) violence.”
The NBA has a policy prohibiting players from having guns at arenas or team-sanctioned events. Thus, it seems certain Arenas will face a league suspension, at the very least.
The Wizards privately are hoping the situation reaches a point where the NBA allows them to void Arenas’ contract as there is $92 million left on his $116-million deal. Arenas was limited to a combined 15 games the past two season because of knee problems and has come back to average 22.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 35.6 minutes with a 102 Offensive Rating and a 110 Defensive Rating this season.
Arenas’ problems stretch beyond the gun incident. He has been posting a bizarre string of messages on Twitter in recent days and the Internet has been rife with reports that Arenas’ finance, Laura Govan, has been trading steamy text messages with Cleveland Cavaliers center Shaquille O’Neal. Govan was once O’Neal’s personal assistant.
Not surprisingly, guns have become the talk of the NBA during the first few days of 2010.
“I’m shocked,” New Jersey Nets guard Rafer Alston said, reacting to the Post's story. “I mean, if one person brought it, you might understand a little, but two persons brought them and drew them on each other? What are we in, the Wild, Wild West?”
“It is a scary thing for the NBA and we all want to see what happens,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I think everybody wants to see what the whole story is. Every team now certainly will be more aware, more educated and more proactive, for everybody’s safety.”
NBA officials brief all 30 teams on league regulations regarding firearms before each season. That is why some coaches, such as the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kurt Rambis, don’t feel compelled to lecture their players.
“The league has rules regarding firearms,” Rambis said. “The team has rules regarding firearms. Even Target Center has rules about firearms. Everybody knows the rules.”
Vandeweghe's Focus on the Court
Kiki Vandeweghe is serving in the dual role of general manager and coach for the Nets for remainder of the season after Lawrence Frank was fired as coach following a 0-16 start. Vandeweghe admits performing both jobs has taken away some from his GM duties.
“My primary focus is now on the court,” Vandeweghe said. “I do try on a regular basis to keep in touch with teams and try and see if we can improve our team. If we can improve it without impacting next year, you always try and do that. To me, if we can add assets going forward that's important.”
The Nets have the worst record in the NBA at 3-30 and are trying to develop a young core group of players that includes Brook Lopez, Devin Harris, Yi Jianlian and Courtney Lee. Thus, Vandeweghe--who shares decision-making responsibilities with team president Rod Thorn--isn’t actively seeking trades like the GM of a contending team would, especially because New Jersey wants to have as much room under the salary cap as possible to pursue free agents in the summer.
“We’re not looking to bring in veterans to take the time of young players,” Vandeweghe said. “If we can augment, we'll augment. We fought hard and obviously sacrificed a lot to maintain the cap space. Right now it would be silly to do anything to turn back that.”
Carlisle Not Getting Comfortable
Rick Carlisle was recently asked if he felt more comfortable in his second season as the Dallas Mavericks’ coach. After all, the Mavericks are 23-11 and atop the Southwest Division standings.
However, comfortable turned out to be the wrong adjective to use.
“I don’t like the word ‘comfortable,’” Carlisle said. “You don't want to be comfortable because if you're comfortable then complacency and things like that can creep in.”
Thus, Carlisle would prefer to be the opposite of comfortable, even inventing a word to describe it.
“You’ve got to maintain a healthy ‘uncomfortableness’ every day,” he said. “You've got to have the right kind of mindset to come in every day and try to get better.”
Kaman Faces Uphill Battle for All-Star Honors
Los Angeles Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy believes center Chris Kaman is worthy of being selected to his first All-Star Game. Kaman has a 20.3/9.2/1.9/36.8 line with a 102 Offensive Rating and a 106 Defensive Rating.
However, Dunleavy is also realistic enough to understand that the Clippers’ 14-18 record isn’t helping Kaman’s chances of being on the Western Conference roster for the Feb. 14 game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“If we get into contention, people will look at him,” Dunleavy said. “If his numbers outdistance everybody, I think he could get in. If it’s close, it will be tough for him unless we move up (in the standings).”
John Perrotto is an author of Basketball Prospectus.
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