Finally, Gilbert Arenas’ quirky practical joking side is no longer a laughing matter. The NBA slapped agent less than zero with an indefinite suspension to police a fugitive of authority who is on the verge of ruining an organization.
The Washington Wizards face of the franchise has been a train wreck waiting to happen since he came to the nation’s capital. In his rookie season he was late to the season finale and brushed it off by saying a chicken truck turned over and he couldn’t get to the arena on time. He inserted himself into the lineup without consulting his previous coach on several occasions. Arenas also created a distraction during the playoffs by instigating a beef between LeBron James and DeShawn Stevenson at Love nightclub after injuring his knee during the 2007 season. He would later tell the Washington Post you know you have arrived when you make a Michael Jackson, Prince, or Jay-Z record.
Never once did the organization wield a firm hand of justice to reign in their all star. In fact, they have been complicit in creating the Arenas monster that is so out of control he felt he could store guns in the Verizon Center. If the organization – Vice President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld in particular – had stepped in and suspended him for a series of belligerent acts in the past this fiasco may have never gotten to the point of becoming a civic embarrassment.
When Eddie Jordan hired Randy Ayers as his defensive guru the in house rumors started when Arenas supposedly asked him, “Are you an Ernie [Grunfeld] guy or an Eddie [Jordan] guy?” as he drew a battle line in the sand for commanding presence in the locker room. A former executive tells the story of how Arenas embarrassed former assistant coach Harvey Grant for not paying back a loan which ultimately cost him his job.
That’s Arenas – a immature millionaire child – who was not mature enough to handle his all star success and the responsibility that goes along with it. He never wanted to embrace being a constructive leader and seems to have taken pride leading younger impressionable players like Stevenson and Nick Young to the tattoo parlor and barber shop. At least next year at media day he won’t be a catalyst for the rebirth of the gumby hairdo.
But nothing compares to the arrogance or outright stupidity of Arenas before Tuesday’s game in Philadelphia. Barely 24 hours after giving a statement to federal and district law enforcement officials to point his fingers in a gesture where he mocks firing hand guns was the last straw for the NBA. Commissioner David Stern took the suspension power away from the Wizards and slapped him with an unpaid vacation that could be terminal.
When Arenas signed his $116 million dollar deal two summers ago – after opting out of deal with a bad knee – I remember a thought provoking sports talk host on WOL-AM saying, “this is like giving the keys of your new Bentley to a kid who just got his learner’s permit and turning him loose on New York Ave”. This just in…he crashed and there are casualties.
If you don’t reign in a petulant child he becomes a contemptuous adult. Arenas has been giving given a pass on his defiance for too long and been able to laugh off his disruptive behavior.
This time, however, it appears the joke is on him.