NBA: Players say guns are not an issue

By Terry Foster and Vincent Goodwill

Detroit News

Published: Monday, Jan. 11 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

Auburn Hills — Marvin "Bad News" Barnes played for Pistons teams in the early 1970s nicknamed the "Detroit Hoodlums" because at least four players routinely brought guns into the dressing room for protection.

They weren't afraid of teammates, but wanted to protect themselves from the streets of downtown Detroit, which had a bad reputation for crime.

Barnes told aol.com he carried an unregistered .45-caliber pistol and .38 snub-nosed revolver.

"If the .45 jammed, I would have the .38 as backup," he said. "It was automatic."

The days involving athletes with guns is back in the news in the NBA, thanks to Wizards star Gilbert Arenas. But current Pistons say the Wild West days Barnes described don't exist. They are calling the news involving Arenas an isolated and unfortunate incident created by a player more interested in pulling pranks than a gun.

"I don't think it's a league issue," Pistons center Kwame Brown said. "It's one isolated situation. If it happened more than one time, I guess it would be a league issue, but it hasn't."

The Pistons play the Wizards tonight in Washington, but Arenas won't be in the building because he was indefinitely suspended by commissioner David Stern for carrying four unloaded guns into the dressing room, a violation of league rules. He faces felony gun charges that could land him in jail for up to 10 years.

The NBA bans weapons on league property, which includes arenas, practice facilities and any related event or appearance.

Arenas' teammate Javaris Crittenton also could face charges as police investigate the incident.

"It is a world issue," Pistons center Ben Wallace said. " This is a country that gives you the right to bear arms, but you got to go through the process to do so. We get scrutinized a little bit more (because we're in the limelight), so we got to do a better job of policing ourselves."

Arenas, others break rules

That, however, is the question: How does the league police this issue?

Most Pistons players said they have permits to possess weapons, but mostly keep them at home for protection.

Not everyone, however, abides by those rules. Some isolated gun incidents have hurt the league's image:

Cavaliers guard Delonte West was pulled over in September for speeding on his motorcycle. He was carrying two loaded handguns, a loaded shotgun and a bowie knife.

Pacers guard Stephen Jackson was suspended seven games after he fired five shots into the air during a 2002 incident outside an Indianapolis night club.

In 2006, Blazers guard Sebastian Telfair was suspended two games for attempting to board a team plane in Boston with a loaded gun in his luggage. He claimed he grabbed the wrong bag and that the gun belonged to his girlfriend . No charges were filed.

In 2007, Telfair was docked three games when police found a loaded weapon in his car.

In 2002, Warriors forward Chris Mills attempted to block the Blazers team bus with his vehicle after a fight with Bonzi Wells. Witnesses said Mills was carrying a weapon.

"It's always something," current Pistons commentator and former Bad Boy Rick Mahorn said of the NBA's perception. "In the 80s, we were a drug league. But you have to be professional at all times, you can't be half-in, half-out."

And that leads to Arenas.

The recent incident started over gambling on a team flight from Phoenix to Washington. According to witnesses, Crittenton and JaVale McGee were playing a card game and Crittenton complained about some of the rules and losing $1,100.

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