The NBA has suspended two players, Utah Jazz's Thabo Sefolosha and the Dallas Mavericks' Nerlens Noel, for five games each after both ballers tested positive for marijuana three times.
First reported by Yahoo! Sports analyst Shams Charania on Tuesday, the pair of cannabis-related suspensions comes less than two weeks before the NBA playoffs tip off, and will force both players to miss the remaining games of the season.
For Noel, who is on the last year of his contract with the already-eliminated Dallas Mavericks, the suspension is predicted to effectively end his tenure with the team, and could potentially limit the back-up center's outside options in the free agent market during the upcoming offseason.
In Utah, the underdog Jazz are still scrapping for a higher seed in the Western Conference playoff picture, but have been doing so without Sefolosha for four months, as the forward underwent MCL surgery in January. Still, even while recovering from his enjory, Sefolosha was subject to the NBA's repeated drug tests, and will now serve his suspension during the next five games he is physically able to play.
Per the league's substance abuse policy, both players will serve their suspensions without pay and must complete the NBA's in-house substance abuse program. If either player tests positive for marijuana in the future, they will be subject to a 10-game suspension.
Cannabis has been on the NBA's banned substance list for decades, but recently both retired and active players and coaches have spoken up about their experiences with the controversial plant. Many athletes are even pushing for medical marijuana to be embraced by the otherwise-progressive league.
At the beginning of this current NBA season, retired forward Al Harrington debuted a short documentary in which the former pro discussed how medical marijuana helped him recover from his own basketball-induced knee injuries.
In an interview with MERRY JANE earlier this year, Harrington said that cannabis use has been and remains widespread across the NBA, with role players and All-Stars alike partaking in the sweet leaf for both medicinal and recreational purposes.
Since Harrington's October documentary debuted, active head coaches Steve Kerr and Jeff Van Gundy have publicly expressed their support for bringing medical marijuana into the league's treatment routine, while Minnesota Timberwolves All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns has taken up a similar mantle from the active players' side.
Despite the increased advocacy, current NBA commissioner Adam Silver has yet to make any significant moves towards league-wide cannabis reform, with Noel and Sefolosha's recent suspensions signaling just how much work is still left to be done. In a season marked by salient cannabis activism, the NBA will unfortunately head into the playoffs with a cloud of smoke hanging over its head.
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