It Gets Worse

Just when you thought the he-said-Gil-said tales of the Washington Wizards’ gun woes couldn’t get any worse, Mike Wise of the Washington Post drops a bombshell that almost takes us all the way back to square one:

The dispute between Arenas and Crittenton began on the team plane during a popular card game between players called “Boo-ray.” Crittenton lost roughly $1,100 to JaVale McGee, a Wizards center, in the game, according to a player who watched the game and who also spoke on condition of anonymity. Crittenton, already angry over a dispute over the game’s rules, became irate when Arenas began needling him.

Their barbs escalated to a point where Arenas, smiling, said he would blow up Crittenton’s car, according to two players on the flight, who requested anonymity. Crittenton replied that he would shoot Arenas in his surgically repaired knee.

Walking into the locker room two days after the dispute on the team plane, according to two witnesses, Arenas laid out the guns in Crittenton’s locker. Two other teammates eventually sauntered in and, while Arenas was writing the note in front of Crittenton’s cubicle, in walked Crittenton, according to their account.

Asking Arenas what he was doing, Arenas replied, “If you want to shoot me, I’d just thought I’d make it easy for you.” As other teammates laughed, Crittenton crumpled up the paper, tossed one of Arenas’s guns across the room, where it bounced in front of a team trainer, and said he didn’t need any of Arenas’s firearms because he had his own, according to the witness accounts.

Crittenton then drew his weapon, loaded it and chambered a round, the witnesses said.

Neither witness said the gun was ever pointed at Arenas, but both said Crittenton began singing as he held the gun.

Arenas began laughing, the witnesses said, telling Crittenton, “Look at that little shiny gun,” as two other players slowly retreated to the training room.

Arenas eventually followed. By the time the players came back out, Crittenton was gone.

I won’t bother you with what’s already been written in so many other places, so we’ll assume a few things as fact. Both players exhibited extremely poor judgment. Guns have absolutely no place in the locker room. Gil’s mind is clearly in a place we dare not go, even if we’ve known that for a long time but failed to properly gauge its gravity.

If you would have asked me about this scenario just 24 hours ago, I would have responded with something akin to what Shoals pointed out in fine fashion over at The Baseline: the issue here is not that what Arenas and Crittenton did is wrong on some moral level. It’s dangerous, improper, and unlawful, but let’s not pretend for even a second that NBA players should be expected to be a shining beacon of morality. This is simply two players making incredible errors, and violating laws and breaking rules in the process.

But the moment it was revealed that Crittenton loaded his weapon, this becomes something more. This is two NBA players engaging in an incredibly dangerous act, not simply a string of bad decisions and a couple of guns in a locker. There is no practical joke that ends with a bullet in a chamber, regardless of who is laughing.

There’s still plenty that we don’t know about the situation in question, but witnesses have verified the actions described in Wise’s piece. These are the closest things to facts that we’re going to get, and though there wasn’t a single shot fired, Crittenton’s actions eclipse everything we thought we knew. Now, all of a sudden, Arenas isn’t merely a jokester with a box full of lethal toys, but was actively covering for his perhaps more culpable teammate.

As if it matters at this point, I can’t help but think that this moment signifies the end of Javaris Crittenton’s NBA career. Witnesses in the locker room put a loaded gun in his hands, and that’s an element that no team wants to deal with for the sake of marginal talent. I’ve long been hoping for Javaris to one day put it all together and find a more permanent home in a rotation that fits his talents, but that enterprise is completely futile after these recent events. Crittenton’s name has been dragged through the mud, and if all of the elements of Wise’s story hold up, it’s rightfully so. And if not? Javaris has picked up enough perceived baggage to earn him a spot on the league’s unofficial black list.

Before, I was willing to chalk up most of this fiasco to poor reporting, a bad decision from Arenas, and a stupid mistake somehow blossoming into a media storm. I really couldn’t care less if Gilbert is able to poke fun at himself in the press, or used his hands to mime a couple of pea-shooters for a laugh with his teammates. Those things are a bit disappointing to me as a basketball fan with a keen interest in Arenas’ psyche, but they hardly spark any kind of moral outrage. But this is a series of combustible elements (a loaded gun, money owed, and a few egos in between) that brings everything a step beyond merely unlawful. Both men will undoubtedly face what’s coming to them from a legal standpoint (what exactly that entails going forward, I haven’t a clue) and in terms of punishment from the league (as Gil has already seen), but the revelation of Javaris Crittenton’s role in this ordeal has completely changed the game.

Arenas-Crittenton has morphed into an intersection of a dozen issues (race, crime, morality, etiquette in the workplace, public image, decision-making, and somewhere in there, basketball), and things inevitably get a bit tangled. But making sense of the web requires us to live in the details, and only then will we find clarity in the bigger picture. It’s the difference between Javaris Crittenton having a loaded gun and loading his gun. A subtle difference, I know, but one that exacerbates everything we knew and thought we knew about about Crittenton, Arenas, a handful of guns, a gambling debt, and everything in between.

The fact that Crittenton’s weapon is now missing and may never turn up is certainly relevant to the potential future of his legal proceedings, but for the purposes of this discussion, it’s almost irrelevant. Once that bullet entered the chamber, there was no going back.

Seth Carstens