Duo suspended

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WASHINGTON, January 28 – National Basketball Association commissioner David Stern Wednesday banned gun-toting Washington Wizards guards Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton for the rest of the season.Stern, who has met with both players over a December locker room incident in which guns were displayed, said both were remorseful.

"Nevertheless, there is no justification for their conduct," Stern said in a statement.

"Accordingly, I am today converting Mr. Arenas’ indefinite suspension without pay to a suspension without pay for the remainder of the 2009-10 season, and am also suspending Mr. Crittenton without pay, effective immediately, for the remainder of the 2009-10 season."

Arenas has already pleaded guilty to a felony gun charge, on which he is to be sentenced next month.

This week Crittenton pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor gun charge and was sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation.

The charges stem from a December 21 locker room incident rooted in a dispute over gambling debts during an airplane flight.

Crittenton and Arenas joked about how they would attack each other, Crittenton saying he would shoot Arenas in the knees.

Two days later, Arenas brought four guns into team’s the locker room and put them on a chair near Crittenton’s locker with a note saying "Pick one" in what he later called a joke.

Prosecutors said Crittenton told Arenas he did not need any of his guns and then brandished one of his own.

Stern said regardless of the legal ins and outs, both players broke league rules forbidding them from bringing weapons to league facilities.

"The players engaged in this conduct despite a specific rule set forth in the collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and the Players Association prohibiting players from possessing a weapon at an NBA facility, and reminders of this prohibition given annually by the NBA to players both in writing and in person," Stern said.

"The issue here is not about the legal ownership and possession of guns, either in one’s home or elsewhere. It is about possession of guns in the NBA workplace, which will not be tolerated."

Stern said in a conference call that he meant for the penalties to carry a message.

"We mean what we say when we say that guns are prohibited from being in our buildings and on team business.

"You will be dealt with harshly because it’s very potentially dangerous to our players, to the other players and to anyone else who might be involved."

Stern had suspended Arenas indefinitely even before his guilty plea – after the player poked fun at the incident.

After Arenas was photographed aiming his finger at teammates as a pretend pistol, Stern said he was "not currently fit to take the court."

The Wizards moved quickly also, taking down a banner outside their arena featuring Arenas, dropping him from a pre-game video and taking his jersey off display in the souvenir shop.

Arenas, 28, has been hampered by knee injuries and has played just 34 games since signing a six-year, 111 million-dollar contract with the Wizards, which is in its second year.

The players union said in a statement that both players "realize that they must be held accountable for their actions."

Arenas has told the union he doesn’t want to challenge the suspension, and the union will abide by his wishes.

Crittenton has not yet decided whether to appeal the severity of the punishment.

"We will be consulting with him as well as his outside counsel and hope to reach a decision shortly," the statement issued by players union chief Billy Hunter said.

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