SBD/Issue 86/Franchises

Gilbert Arenas' NBA Future In Jeopardy After Felony Guilty Plea

Prosecutors Have Agreed Not To Ask For
More Than Six Months In Jail For Arenas
Suspended Wizards G Gilbert Arenas "pleaded guilty Friday in DC Superior Court to a felony count of carrying a pistol without a license, leaving his NBA career in jeopardy," according to Keith Alexander of the WASHINGTON POST. As part of a plea deal, prosecutors agreed "not to ask for more than six months in jail for Arenas." The sentencing is scheduled for March 26. Arenas has four years and $80M remaining on his contract with the Wizards after this season, and the team in a statement on Friday indicated that it was "disappointed in Arenas." The statement said, "Gilbert used extremely poor judgment and is ultimately responsible for his own actions" (WASHINGTON POST, 1/16). Arenas currently is serving an indefinite suspension from the NBA, and in N.Y., Adam Himmelsbach noted the league is "not expected to issue a final punishment of Arenas until it has completed its own investigation of what occurred" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/16).

TRANSITION OFFENSE: In DC, Michael Wilbon wrote the Wizards "want to distance themselves from Arenas as quickly as possible, and this is surely going to get worse considering management will very quickly seek to void" the remainder of his contract. The difference between the felony and a misdemeanor "could be nearly $100[M], which is a reasonable guess at how much Arenas could lose from his contract with the Wizards and his deal with adidas, which was terminated after Arenas's plea bargain Friday." While it is not a certainty the Wizards will void the contract, "copping to a felony makes it more difficult" for the team to keep ties with Arenas (WASHINGTON POST, 1/16). ESPN's Jalen Rose said, "For the most part, the Washington Wizards have already taken their stance. They're not selling his jerseys anymore, you won't see Gilbert Arenas on any promotions. And a player that you owe $80(M) to, it's hard to have him in uniform out on the floor when you've already shown that you're not going to back him at this point" ("Kia NBA Shootaround," ESPN, 1/15). Arenas stands to lose $9.9M in salary if the NBA maintains his unpaid suspension for the duration of this season, and in L.A., Mark Heisler wrote, "For a dumb joke with four unloaded guns, I'd say justice has been served, or over-served" (L.A. TIMES, 1/17).

REDEMPTION SONG? FANHOUSE.com's Jay Mariotti wrote Arenas' guilty plea will "lead to his divorce from the Wizards and will make him a public-relations nightmare for any team that dares to give him another chance" (FANHOUSE.com, 1/15). But ESPN.com's Marc Stein cited sources as saying that Magic GM Otis Smith, who was "part of Golden State's brain trust when the Warriors drafted Arenas as a second-rounder in 2001, continues to be one of Arenas’ closest confidantes in the league." Sources indicated that it is a "virtual certainty, given the depth of their friendship, that Arenas will lobby Smith to be the GM who looks past the damage this incident has done to Gil's reputation and grants his comeback chance" (ESPN.com, 1/16).

With CBA Negotiations Ongoing,
How Hard Will Hunter Fight For Arenas?
FALLOUT ON A LEAGUE LEVEL: In Boston, Gary Washburn noted this case will have "massive repercussions around the NBA" for several reasons, "most important is its potential effect on collective bargaining negotiations, which are set to resume at the All-Star break in Dallas." The question for NBPA Exec Dir Billy Hunter is "how hard he will fight for Arenas." Sources indicated that the union has "set a maximum of a 30-game suspension it will accept for Arenas," and anything longer will "prompt it to appeal for a reduction." But does Hunter "want acrimonious dealings with Stern on the cusp of negotiations?" Arenas might have to "take the fall not only for his behavior but for his timing." He picked a "bad time to act a fool, when owners are crying broke and want a bigger slice of television revenues" (BOSTON GLOBE, 1/17). NBA player agent David Falk said, "Teams are losing tens of millions of dollars and the expectation is that the owners are going to really try to cut back. So, to me, it's a no-win situation for the players as a group. If Gilbert somehow avoids having his contract voided during arbitration, the owners will turn right around and tighten up the rules so this will never happen again" ("Washington Post Live," Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, 1/15).

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