Charlotte Hornets center Al Jefferson will be suspended without pay for five games by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-drug policy.
Jefferson will serve the suspension once he recovers from the calf injury that has sidelined him the past four games. The Hornets projected he would miss two to three weeks with the injury.
“I’m a man and I have to take full responsibility for my actions,” Jefferson said during a media availability before Wednesday’s game against the Miami Heat. “I have to ask for forgiveness and put it behind me and try to move on.
“Sometimes you’ve got to get knocked on your head for your eyes to open up; to handle certain situations.”
Jefferson said he was first made aware he had failed a drug test about two weeks ago. The league informed him and the Hornets Tuesday that the suspension was coming.
Jefferson becomes a free agent in July after the three-season contract he signed in the summer of 2013 expires. It is unclear how this suspension might affect the Hornets’ interest in re-signing him, but the team issued a statement saying it doesn’t condone Jefferson’s behavior.
“We are disappointed in Al’s decisions that led to this suspension. As an organization, we do not condone this behavior,” the team statement read. “We have addressed this with Al. He is regretful and understands that we expect him to learn from this mistake.”
This is the second time in as many seasons the NBA has suspended a Hornets player. Last season the league suspended small forward Jeff Taylor 24 games after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor domestic violence in Michigan. Taylor now plays for Real Madrid in Spain.
Jefferson was arrested for driving under the influence in the winter of 2010 outside Minneapolis when he played for the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Timberwolves suspended him two games after that incident.
Jefferson declined to specify what the drug test revealed. A source familiar with the current situation said marijuana is the substance this time connected to Jefferson.
Based on wording in the collective bargaining agreement, a five-game suspension indicates Jefferson was likely already in the marijuana-related league protocol. Under terms of the CBA, a first violation places you in the league’s program. A second violation would result in a $25,000 fine. A third violation would result in a five-game suspension.
Under the league’s anti-drug policy, which started in 1983, players are subject to six random urine tests per year – four in the season and two in the off-season. The league tests for more than 160 banned substances.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell