NEW YORK — Even in a world long gone mad . . . what an unfathomable, boundary-crossing, guns-in-the-Wizards locker-room Gilbert Arenas-Javaris Crittenton grudge confrontation story.
Covering and following the NBA almost requires mucking from one mire (referee Tim Donaghy betting on games) to the next, resulting in grave consequences to those who have the most to lose.
Judging strictly by newspaper, Internet and talk radio reaction by fanatical and casual basketball fans alike, the outbreak of insanity is incalculably damaging the league’s image and product.
If for some indeterminate reason, Arenas doesn’t wind up doing hard time for bringing three guns to the work place, thereby violating District of Columbia laws, the Collective Bargaining Agreement and common sense, this wangster still must be ejected from David Stern’s game . . . permanently.
Same goes for Crittenton should it be determined he reached for one of Gilbert’s guns or was holstering his own heat; both scenarios are looking less likely the more that’s learned from those in the know.
In that Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson got suspended 73 and 30 games, respectively, for going into The Palace stands unarmed, the “upshot” for presenting arms in an intimidating way in the locker room should qualify Arenas as a missing “piece” to Washington’s skewed puzzle.
Not that it’s a revelation NBA players own guns. Some are even licensed. Numerous players have them in glove or hidden compartments of cars (Scottie Pippen) just in case there’s trouble (Jackson’s Indianapolis parking lot incident) and some smuggle them into locker rooms.
It took more than a minute for the league and the NBA Players Association to ban that practice but it still regularly happens, I’m informed.
(FYI: contrary to union executive director Billy Hunter’s notion that pulling out guns in the locker room and menacing each other is unprecedented in the annals of professional sports, it is part of ABA lore. The infamous John Brisker and an ex-football player, who was trying out for the Pittsburgh Condors, got into a fight one afternoon and each went to their cars for equalizers. When they appeared at opposite ends of the facility, guns drawn, coach Jack McMahon screamed, “Practice is through for the day.”)
Bulls assistant Johnny Bach told me years ago of walking into their dressing room during the team’s championship seasons and red dots (plural) would appear on his chest. Finally, Phil Jackson ordered players to leave their toys, er, protection at home.
We’re all very much aware Delonte West, whose criminal case is ongoing, got nabbed last summer by Maryland police for his extremist behavior of shouldering multiple arms . . . while zigzagging through traffic on a motorcycle.
If that’s not troubling enough, consider the fact West has depression problems and suffers from mental illness.
What’s to prevent him from concealing weapons in his Cavaliers workout bag and sneaking them into the arena or practice complex, and, on a particularly moody blues day, blasting everybody in sight?
Does Cavs’ security check the bags of players and other team personnel when they enter those buildings?
Are they required to empty their pockets and walk through a metal detector?
Or are they allowed to waltz past guards at the door because they are who they are? What are team policies throughout the league?
What about all professional sports?
Apparently, we already know the Wizards’ guidelines. Obviously, security does not thoroughly examine players, if at all; otherwise Arenas would not have been able to stash three guns in his combination lockbox and remove them when his teammate demanded payment for a gambling debt.
Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld maintains no ammo was turned into local police, only the hardware.
That hardly means Arenas didn’t have bullets on the premises.
Another teammate easily could have hidden bullets in his locker in case his friend needed them.
What if Arenas, whose behavior is habitually quirky, making me suspect he has a loose connection, indeed had ammo and came to work one day despondent over something?
What if someone even loonier than Arenas somehow got hold of one of those guns one dark night and came out of the locker blasting away at fans?
What’s the policy throughout the league (professional sports) concerning charters that take off from hangars removed from where the public must endure tight security?
These are some uneasy thoughts weighing me down since learning of the actions of at least one dumb-dumb Bullet, er, Wizard.
I’m saving my snide remarks for a later day.
Peter Vecsey covers the NBA for the New York Post.