Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Report: Grand Jury Meets on Arenas; NBA Watches, Waits

PHILADELPHIA -- The NBA remained in a wait-and-see mode a day after Gilbert Arenas spoke to investigators from the Washington, D.C. police and the U.S. attorney's office, then admitted bringing four unloaded guns to Verizon Center last month and apologizing for his "misguided effort to play a joke'' on Wizards teammate Javaris Crittenton.

A grand jury was convened in D.C. Superior Court on Tuesday, however, according to The Washington Post, and prosecutors have begun presenting evidence. The paper reported that it would be an ongoing process, and that it was possible charges could be filed in the case by the end of this week.

Arenas started Tuesday night's game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Wachovia Center, and Flip Saunders was coaching. A published report earlier Tuesday had said that D.C. police would question him that day in the incident between Arenas and Crittenton Dec. 21. "I'm in Philadelphia,'' Saunders said, straight-faced, an hour and a half before the game. Saunders was also with the team at its shootaround this morning.

The same report, on TMZ.com, said that Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld was scheduled to meet with authorities this week.

Arenas' only comment before the game, as he walked onto the court to warm up, was, "The whole story will come out soon.'' Arenas was booed when he was introduced before the game and every time he touched the ball in the first half.

ShareThe NBA has refrained from commenting or making any decisions about the incident on Dec. 21; when asked Tuesday about Arenas' Monday meeting with law enforcement officials and his statement, a league spokesman referred to an earlier statement that said, in part, "We are monitoring (it) closely. We are not taking any independent action at this time.''

In recent years, the league has waited until legal proceedings have been completed before taking disciplinary action in cases involving off-court incidents. When Charlotte guard Stephen Jackson, then with the Indiana Pacers, fired a gun outside an Indianapolis club in October 2006, he was not suspended until the first seven games of the following season, after a June 2007 plea to felony criminal recklessness. That suspension was the longest handed out by the NBA for a gun-related violation.

The previous season, 2006-07, the NBA and players union agreed on a tougher gun policy, strictly prohibiting guns on team or NBA property, while conducting league business or representing the league -- but not putting restrictions on the players legally owning firearms.

However, Arenas admitting to bringing the guns to the locker room adds an element that was not present in previous NBA decisions. Arenas' statement, through the lawyers who represented him with local police and federal investigators, as well as the most recent published accounts of the encounter seem to exonerate Crittenton; it appears that not only did the players not draw guns on each other, Arenas is the only one of the two who had guns in the building. But other parts of his statement might give the NBA enough reason to take action even if charges are not filed, or if only misdemeanor charges are brought.

Of the guns, Arenas said in the statement, "I brought them without any ammunition into the District of Columbia, mistakenly believing that the recent change in the D.C. gun laws allowed a person to store unloaded guns in the District ... Contrary to some press accounts, I never threatened or assaulted anyone with the guns and never pointed them at anyone. Joke or not, I now recognize that what I did was a mistake and was wrong. I should not have brought the guns to D.C. in the first place, and I now realize that there's no such thing as joking around when it comes to guns -- even if unloaded.''

The NBA also declined to comment publicly on the Rev. Al Sharpton's revelation Monday that he had spoken to commissioner David Stern about the Arenas situation, and was calling for a meeting of players, team executives and community leaders "to deal with the violent imagery being perpetrated by players,'' according to a statement from Sharpton.

The Wizards, meanwhile, refused comment on anything involving the Arenas investigation, including the reports of Saunders and Grunfeld being scheduled for interviews. Near the home locker room at Wachovia Center, however, 76ers coach Eddie Jordan -- who coached Arenas with the Wizards for parts of five seasons -- made brief remarks about him, and still managed to step on a verbal landmine.

"When I think of Gilbert, he's a heck of a three-point shooter, he drives to the basket, he's an assassin on the floor, he's a real good player,'' Jordan said. "And that's all I'm concerned about with Gilbert Arenas.'' Seconds later, he re-thought one adjective -- assassin -- and added, "Maybe I shouldn't have used that word. 'On the floor.' "


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