The Wizards removed a large Gilbert Arenas banner outside the Verizon Center in downtown Washington, D.C., yesterday, thus distancing themselves even further from the gun-toting guard.
Arenas has been suspended indefinitely without pay by the NBA pending the ongoing investigation by federal and local authorities into an incident in which he displayed four guns in the locker room during a dispute with teammate Javaris Crittenton on Dec. 21.
There has been talk that the Wizards might try to use a morality clause to void the remaining four years and $80.1 million left on Arenas' contract, which has fueled a debate about whether the three-time All-Star's career could be in jeopardy.
Knicks president Donnie Walsh - who has firsthand experience at what Ernie Grunfeld and the Wizards are in the midst of right now (recall the name "Ron Artest'' and a little skirmish with fans in Auburn Hills) - says he doubts Arenas will wind up with an untouchable label.
"That's what they told me about Artest. 'Oh, you'll never trade him.' But you do," said Walsh, who was an executive with the Indiana Pacers at the time of the "Malice at the Palace,'' which resulted in Artest's suspension for the rest of that season.
Walsh also went through his own gun-related incident in October 2006 when former Pacer Stephen Jackson fired his gun into the air outside an Indianapolis strip club. The NBA suspended Jackson for seven games because of his actions, and Walsh wound up trading him.
"People wanted to run him out of town," Walsh said. "Then he went to Golden State and became 'Captain Jack.' "
Now he's with the Charlotte Bobcats, who faced the Knicks Thursday night at the Garden. Even Jackson says what Arenas did was wrong.
"Guys have got to protect themselves, but it makes no sense to have a gun in the locker room with teammates," Jackson told reporters on Jan. 2, a day after the Arenas story came to light. "There's no reason to get so mad you'd want to pull a gun on a teammate.
"Even I can't imagine that. No way would I ever think about that - bringing a gun to a game, or into the locker room. Nothing should make you that mad."
Knicks guard Larry Hughes, who is a close friend and former teammate of Arenas (he also wears the same No. 0 in homage to his friend), chose his words carefully when asked about the fallout.
"You have to suffer the consequences," Hughes said. "That's just what it boils down to . . . He understands he messed up. Once you mess up, you can't really monitor or say what you feel the punishment will be. You just have to take it and deal with it."
Hughes went on to surmise that the point had been made. "We'll probably never see anything like this happen again," he said.
Some would say the real point is that it never should have happened to begin with.
Walsh said he asked Knicks director of security John Donahue to address the team and remind the players about the NBA's rules and, more importantly, New York City laws, "and to let them know, and they know, you can't bring a gun into the facility and you're in New York, you can't carry a gun."
It is Donahue's job to know which Knicks players own guns, and Walsh is aware of the list. "We know," Walsh said. "I don't study it every day, but that's why I have faith in John, because he knows."