Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas was suspended without pay by NBA commissioner David Stern on Wednesday for behavior that made him "not currently fit to take the court."
A day after Arenas was photographed before a game in Philadelphia pointing his index fingers, as if they were guns, at his teammates, Stern warned the three-time All-Star that his conduct will "ultimately result in a substantial suspension, and perhaps worse."
Arenas is under investigation by federal and local authorities after admitting to bringing guns to the locker room. Stern originally planned to wait to take action, but he tired of Arenas' behavior.
With each game he misses, Arenas will lose about $147,200 of the $16.2 million he will earn this season in the second of a six-year, $111 million contract. The punishment came on his 28th birthday.
"I feel very badly that my actions have caused the NBA to suspend me, but I understand why the league took this action," Arenas said in a statement through his attorney. "I put the NBA in a negative light and let down my teammates and our fans.
I am very sorry for doing that."
Arenas added that he had called Stern to apologize.
"While I never intended any harm or disrespect to the NBA or anyone else, my gun possession at the Verizon Center and my attempts at humor showed terrible judgment," he said. "I take full responsibility for my conduct."
Arenas originally said he brought four guns to the Verizon Center because he wanted them out of his house after his daughter was born. But two officials within the league who have been briefed on the investigation have told The Associated Press that the incident stemmed from a dispute over card-playing gambling debts and a heated discussion in the locker room with teammate Javaris Crittenton. The New York Post, however, reported that the two teammates drew weapons on each other.
Arenas said in a statement on Monday that he took unloaded guns from his locker in a "misguided effort to play a joke" on a teammate.
"Joke or not, I now recognize that what I did was a mistake and was wrong," Arenas said. "I should not have brought the guns to DC in the first place, and I now realize that there's no such thing as joking around when it comes to guns -- even if unloaded."
Stern said members of the Wizards organization are still being interviewed by law enforcement authorities.
"Some are scheduled for appearance before the grand jury and the investigation is proceeding with the intensity that one would expect for such a serious incident," Stern said.
A Wizards spokesman said Arenas left the team, which is playing in Cleveland, earlier Wednesday but didn't know where he was going.
"It's sad," Wizards guard DeShawn Stevenson said. "You don't want to see a player go down like that. We're a family, and it hurts."
The Wizards supported Stern's decision in a statement attributed to president Ernie Grunfeld and the Pollin family, which owns the team. The late Abe Pollin changed the team's name from the Bullets because of the violent connotation.
"Strictly legal issues aside, Gilbert's recent behavior and statements, including his actions and statements last night in Philadelphia, are unacceptable," the statement said. "Some of our other players appeared to find Gilbert's behavior in Philadelphia amusing. This is also unacceptable."