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Arenas suspension: How long is "indefinite"?

By Chris Sheridan

The story of the day on the Gilbert Arenas suspension comes from Mike Wise of the Washington Post , who reports that Arenas has told police and federal prosecutors that Javaris Crittenton pulled out his own handgun, chambered a round and began singing during his Dec. 21 confrontation with Arenas in the Wizards' locker room.

Meanwhile, the question of the day -- something I touched on this morning on SportsCenter -- is, how long will Arenas' indefinite suspension last?

The only man who can provide an accurate answer to that question is NBA commissioner David Stern, and the fact of the matter is that Stern himself won't know the answer until he has a clearer picture of exactly what transpired on the day in question. The U.S. Attorney's office in Washington, which is leading the main investigation, will provide some answers, and a grand jury will determine whether it appears a crime was committed, and whether that alleged crime was a felony or a misdemeanor under D.C.'s strict anti-handgun laws. Also, the NBA is conducting its own investigation.

So until those investigations are complete, Stern is on safe ground under terms of the league's collective bargaining agreement letting Arenas twist in the wind for the next few weeks, and it behooves him to clam up on the matter and get it out of the spotlight -- even if that entails keeping everyone guessing how long Arenas' suspension will last, or whether Arenas' actions were grave enough to merit the Wizards' trying to terminate his contract.

The Wizards' ownership situation is in a state of flux following the death last year of Abe Pollin, who was the league's longest-tenured owner. Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has a 40 percent stake in the team and holds an option to purchase controlling interest in the franchise should the Pollin estate choose to sell. But for now the franchise remains in the hands of the Pollin family, and Pollin's widow, Irene, and her two sons, Robert and James, are getting much of their legal guidance from Stern's office.

A ban on players carrying weapons into team facilities was added to the collective bargaining agreement in 2005, and the language is pretty straightforward:

From Article 6 of the CBA, which deals with player conduct:

Section 9. Firearms.

(a) Whenever a player is physically present at a facility or venue owned, operated, or being used by a Team, the NBA, or any League-related entity, and whenever a player is traveling on any NBA-related business, whether on behalf of the player’s Team, the NBA, or any League-related entity, such player shall not possess a firearm of any kind. For purposes of the foregoing, “a facility or venue” includes, but is not limited to: an arena; a practice facility; a Team or League office or facility; an All-Star or NBA Playoff venue; and the site of a promotional or charitable appearance.

(b) Any violation of Section 9(a) above shall be considered conduct prejudicial to the NBA under Article 35(d) of the NBA Constitution and By-Laws, and shall therefore subject the player to discipline by the NBA in accordance with such Article.

And what, you ask, does Article 35(d) say?

Here it is, in all its glorious legalese:

"The commissioner shall have the power to suspend for a definite or indefinite period, or impose a fine not exceeding $50,000, or inflict both such suspension and fine upon any player who in his opinion: (i) who shall have made or caused to be made any statement having, or that was designed to have, in effect prejudicial or detrimental to the best interests of basketball or the Association, or a member, or (ii) shall have been guilty of conduct that does not conform to standards or morality or fair play, or that does not comply at all times with federal, state and local laws, or that is prejudicial or detrimental to The Association."

It also should be noted that Arenas' actions, because they happened at practice and not at a game, do not fall under the section of the labor agreement regarding penalties at the commissioner's disposal for on-court misconduct. In those cases, suspensions of more than 12 games can be appealed to an impartial arbitrator.

So to summarize, "indefinite" means exactly that. And until all the facts are known, "indefinitely suspended" is the limbo in which Gilbert Arenas shall remain until Stern decides otherwise.

(You want an over/under? I'll set it at 30 games, which would cost Arenas about $4.5 million in lost salary. That should be enough to teach Arenas that guns, gunplay, gun glorification and disrespect for authority are matters not to be treated lightly.)

As for the Crittenton side of the equation, the Wizards are hoping that Mount Stern does not erupt again in response to what the Washington Post is reporting, because an indefinite suspension of the third-year guard (should Stern choose to impose one) could make Crittenton more difficult to trade. The thinking in Washington's front office is that Crittenton, with his expiring $1.48 million contract, could be a key piece to a puzzle in terms of making salaries match if the Wizards find a trade they like prior to the Feb. 18 deadline.