This story angle seemed so 2000s, but sadly, the NBA drags a concerning issue into the new decade. One of the league's biggest stars, Gilbert Arenas, is under investigation for a gun-related incident that could result in more than just a suspension.
Arenas, who already was under scrutiny by the league, District of Columbia police and even federal authorities for storing unloaded handguns in a locked container in his stall in the Wizards' locker room, and teammate Javaris Crittenton reportedly had a locker-room confrontation that involved one of those guns Dec. 21.
The NBA won't take any action until the police investigation is completed, but there already are whispers that Arenas could be in the type of trouble that puts him into the Latrell Sprewell/Ron Artest stratosphere.
It already has been suggested by longtime NBA writer David Aldridge in a story on NBA.com that the Wizards could seek to void the remainder of a six-year, $111-million contract Arenas signed in 2008. Every player's contract has a "morality clause" that allows a team to void the contract.
The fact that Arenas had the guns in the locker room - which, it should go without saying, is a violation of NBA rules - has everyone on alert in the NBA office. Reports are surfacing from ESPN.com and elsewhere that the situation wasn't as dramatic as what initially was reported by the New York Post, which said Arenas and Crittenton pulled guns on each other. The latest word, according to Washington-based reporter Mike Jones, is that the day after Crittenton threatened to shoot Arenas in his bad knee - during an argument over a gambling debt - Arenas laid out his guns on a chair and jokingly told Crittenton to choose one.
Jokingly or not, the fact that Arenas had guns out in the locker room at Verizon Center - in downtown D.C., no less - is a major concern.
And the struggling Wizards, who thought they would be contending in the East this season instead of 10 games under .500, could use the situation as a way to get out from under Arenas' hefty contract. He has put up decent scoring numbers (22.7 points and 6.9 assists per game) but is shooting only 41.1 percent from the field and clearly struggling to find chemistry with Caron Butler.
It wouldn't be unprecedented if the Wizards did try to void Arenas' deal and save the money (and the awful public-relations mess), but it won't be easy. The Warriors in 1998 tore up Sprewell's contract (three years, $23.7 million remaining) after he attempted to choke coach P.J. Carlesimo, but after an arbitration battle, the NBA had to reduce its suspension and inform the Warriors that Sprewell's deal could not be terminated. The Knicks then traded for him and Sprewell helped lead them to the NBA Finals a year later.
Would the Knicks revisit history? It is doubtful. But it has been well known throughout the league that general manager Ernie Grunfeld - who opted to trade the fifth overall pick in the last draft (which turned into Ricky Rubio) to the Timberwolves for veterans Randy Foye and Mike Miller - is open to trading everyone on its roster and blowing the whole thing up.
There have been reports that the Wizards would even make a deal with the Rockets for Tracy McGrady's $23.2-million expiring contract, which would open up a great deal of salary-cap space to rebuild the team in 2010.