NEW YORK - Gilbert Arenas tried joking about his gun trouble. NBA commissioner David Stern found none of it funny.
Arenas was suspended indefinitely without pay yesterday by Stern, who determined the player's behavior made him "not currently fit to take the court."
A day after the Washington Wizards guard was photographed before a game in Philadelphia pointing at teammates with his index fingers, as if they were guns, Stern warned the former All-Star that his conduct would "ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse."
Arenas is under investigation by federal and local authorities, Stern said in a statement. "Accordingly, I am suspending Mr. Arenas indefinitely, without pay, effective immediately pending the completion of the investigation by the NBA."
With each game he misses, Arenas will lose about $147,200 of the $16.2 million he will earn this season in the second of a 6-year, $111 million contract. The punishment came on his 28th birthday.
"I feel very badly that my actions have caused the NBA to suspend me, but I understand why the league took this action," Arenas said in a statement through his attorney. "I put the NBA in a negative light and let down my teammates and our fans. I am very sorry for doing that."
Arenas added that he had called Stern to apologize.
"While I never intended any harm or disrespect to the NBA or anyone else, my gun possession at the Verizon Center and my attempts at humor showed terrible judgment," he said. "I take full responsibility for my conduct."
Arenas originally said he brought four guns to the Verizon Center late last month because he wanted them out of his house after his daughter was born. But two officials within the league who have been briefed on the investigation have told the Associated Press that the incident stemmed from a dispute over card-playing gambling debts and a heated discussion in the locker room with teammate Javaris Crittenton. The New York Post, however, reported that the teammates drew weapons on each other.
Arenas said in a statement Monday that he took unloaded guns from his locker in a "misguided effort to play a joke" on a teammate. "Joke or not, I now recognize that what I did was a mistake and was wrong," Arenas said. "I should not have brought the guns to DC 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."
Stern said members of the Wizards organization are still being interviewed by law-enforcement authorities.
"Some are scheduled for appearance before the grand jury and the investigation is proceeding with the intensity that one would expect for such a serious incident," Stern said.
Arenas has been suspended once before because of a gun-related matter. He sat out Washington's season opener in 2004 because he failed to maintain proper registration of a handgun while living in California in 2003 and playing for the Golden State Warriors.
A text message left for Arenas by the Associated Press was not immediately returned. A Wizards spokesman said Arenas left the team, which was in Cleveland for last night's game, earlier yesterday but didn't know where he was going.
The Wizards supported Stern's decision in a statement attributed to president Ernie Grunfeld and the Pollin family, which owns the team. The late Abe Pollin changed the team's name from the Bullets because of the violent connotation.
"Strictly legal issues aside, Gilbert's recent behavior and statements, including his actions and statements last night in Philadelphia, are unacceptable," the statement said. "Some of our other players appeared to find Gilbert's behavior in Philadelphia amusing. This is also unacceptable."