J.R. Smith won’t be available for the start of the season after all.
The NBA has suspended the Knicks’ mercurial sixth man five games without pay for violating the terms of the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program, the league announced Friday.
Smith, recovering from left knee surgery, hoped he would be able to play in the Knicks’ season-opening game Oct. 30 against the Bucks, but that definitely won’t happen now. Smith’s suspension will begin with the first game in which he is physically able to play, according to the league’s release.
Although the league doesn’t divulge specifics about drug-policy violations, the suspension length seems to indicate that Smith tested positive for marijuana. A player is automatically banned five games for a third positive test for marijuana, according to the league’s drug policy.
“There is a collectively bargained process in place, established by the NBA and the players association, and until that process has played itself out, it would be inappropriate for the NBPA or J.R. to make further statements about the matter,” union acting executive director Ron Klempner said in a statement. “We all look forward to a resolution in due course.”
The Knicks had no comment on the matter.
Smith averaged 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds last season, earning the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award. But he came under fire in the postseason after throwing an elbow at then-Celtics guard Jason Terry. Smith was suspended one game and never found his shot after that.
The Knicks made retaining Smith a priority this offseason and re-signed him to a three-year deal worth roughly $18 million in July.
While Smith was with the Nuggets, he was suspended three different times for a total of 20 games.
In 2006, the NBA suspended him 10 games for his involvement in a fight with the Knicks. In 2007, the Nuggets suspended him for three games for being involved in an incident at a Denver nightclub. The league suspended Smith for seven games in 2009 after he pleaded guilty to a 2007 reckless-driving incident.