NBA: Charlotte’s Jefferson banned five games

NEW YORK – Charlotte Hornets center Al Jefferson, sidelined another week or two by a left calf strain, was issued a five-game suspension by the NBA on Wednesday for violating terms of its Anti-Drug Program.

Jefferson, who was hurt in the first quarter of a November 29 game against Milwaukee, will miss the first five games for which he is eligible and physically able to play.

Jefferson is averaging 13.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 blocked shots a game for Charlotte. He boasts career averages of 16.9 points and 9.0 rebounds over 12 NBA campaigns with Boston, Minnesota, Utah and Charlotte.

No details were given about the nature of the violation or the medication involved, a typical move under US medical privacy laws. But under terms of the NBA-union anti-drug deal, players are banned five games after a third positive marijuana test.

”We are disappointed in Al’s decisions that led to this suspension,” the Hornets said in a statement. ”As an organization, we do not condone this. We have addressed this with Al. He is regretful and understands that we expect him to learn from this mistake.”

Jefferson issued an apology for making a poor decision but gave no further insight or details.

”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 his statement. ”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.”

In the worst-case scenario under current medical expectations, Jefferson would miss the remaining 11 games of 2015 and could return at Toronto on January 1.

Should he become healthy sooner, he might back for a December 26 home game against Memphis.

The Hornets are 12-8 and have won seven of their past nine games, losing only to unbeaten defending NBA champion Golden State and reigning Eastern Conference champion Cleveland.

Charlotte stands level fourth in the East, only one loss behind Miami for the Southeast division lead.