THURSDAY, 7:58am: Marijuana is the drug that prompted the suspension, a source confirmed to Bonnell, who writes in a full piece.
WEDNESDAY, 2:03pm: The NBA has suspended Al Jefferson five games for a violation of its anti-drug program, the league announced via press release. Neither the league nor the Hornets have specified the nature of the violation, but the program calls for a five-game suspension upon a player’s third positive test for marijuana. A suspension of at least 20 games is mandated when a player tests positive for performance-enhancing drugs, so it appears that’s not the case for Jefferson. He’ll serve the suspension once he returns from the strained left calf that’s kept him out since the end of last month, notes Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer (on Twitter).
“We are disappointed in Al’s decisions that led to this suspension. As an organization, we do not condone this behavior,” the team said in its announcement of the punishment. “We have addressed this with Al. He is regretful and understands that we expect him to learn from this mistake.”
Jefferson, a Jeff Schwartz client, is poised to hit free agency in the summer, so the suspension is ill-timed. The 30-year-old is making $13.5MM this season in the final year of the three-year, $40.5MM contract he signed with Charlotte in 2013. NBA suspensions are generally unpaid and cost players 1/110th of their salary for each game they miss. So, it looks like Jefferson will be out $613,636.
“I want to apologize to the Hornets organization, our owner, my teammates and my coaches for the poor decision that I made,” Jefferson said in a statement that the team released. “I know I have let people down, especially the Hornets fans that have been so supportive of me since I arrived in Charlotte two years ago. I am blessed to be able to play the game that I love for a living and I do not take that for granted. From the bottom of my heart, I am truly sorry, and I am committed to making smarter decisions in the future.”
Jefferson has already missed three games because of his injury, which he suffered in the team’s win over the Bucks on November 29th. The Hornets said the next day that he was expected to miss between two and three weeks. Charlotte, a surprising 12-8, has started Cody Zeller in his absence. The team is without Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for the rest of the season but is otherwise without long-term injury concerns.