Portland Trail Blazers guard Terrel Harris has been suspended for five games "for violating the terms of the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program," the league announced Monday.
Harris, who turns 26 on Aug. 10, joined the Blazers in July after finishing last season with the New Orleans Hornets. The newly christened Pelicans made Harris a late addition to the three-team deal that imported Tyreke Evans and rookie center Jeff Withey, sent Greivis Vasquez to the Sacramento Kings and shipped Robin Lopez and Harris to Portland. Sacramento also got a future second-round draft pick from Portland in the swap.
The league's announcement didn't identify the substance for which Harris tested positive. Based on the penalty structure laid out in the joint anti-drug policy, though, it seems unlikely it was a steroid or performance-enhancing drug — players who test positive for a so-called "SPED" get a 20-game suspension for their first violation. (Hey, there, Hedo.) Ditto for what the policy defines as "drugs of abuse" — a list that includes, but is not limited to, methamphetamine, MDMA, cocaine, GHB, LSD, ketamine, PCP, benzodiazepines and opiates — because those carry immediate dismissal and disqualification from the NBA.
The policy's section on discipline does, however, include this passage:
If a player tests positive for marijuana, or if he is convicted of, or pleads guilty to, the use or possession of marijuana, he will be required to submit to treatment, counseling, and aftercare testing in the Program. A second violation will result in a $25,000 fine, and any subsequent violations will result in a suspension that is 5 games longer than the player’s immediately-preceding marijuana suspension.
So, there's that.
NBA players are subject to six random tests each season and offseason — four during the season and two in the offseason. They may also be subject to "reasonable cause testing," triggered when an "Independent Expert" decides there's reasonable cause to test a player for a banned substance — that player is then subject to four extra random tests over a six-week span.
For more on how the suspension impacts Terry Stotts' squad in Portland, here's Mike Tokito of The Oregonian:
Although Harris is on the Blazers’ current roster, he is not expected to be part of the team’s long-term plans. The 6-foot-4 Harris is a shooting guard, a position the Blazers can use Wesley Matthews, Will Barton, Allen Crabbe, C.J. McCollum and Nicolas Batum at. [...] Harris' contract will not be guaranteed unless he is still on Portland’s roster past Oct. 31.
The NBA's punishment will be for the first five games of next season "for which he is eligible and physically able to play," the league said.
Given the roster glut, the lack of substantial guarantees on his deal deal (even if he's on the roster as of Oct. 31, only $150,000 of his $1.15 million deal is locked in, according to ShamSports.com's salary database) and the inauspicious beginning to his career in the Pacific Northwest — which may wipe away the positive impression Harris left by scoring 25 points and snagging six rebounds in Portland's Las Vegas Summer League finale — that could very well be a team other than the Blazers.
After going undrafted out of Oklahoma State in the 2009 NBA draft, Harris has played for six teams in four years, going from France to the D-League to Germany and back, with three brief NBA cups of coffee — one with the Miami Heat in late 2011-12, another with the Heat in early 2012-13 and the hitch with the Hornets to end last season — breaking up the minor-league stints.
Harris briefly ran into trouble during his time in Stillwater, with Oklahoma State suspending him indefinitely in April 2008 for violating team rules. He was reinstated four months later and played his senior season for coach Travis Ford, averaging a tick under 14 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals per game en route to an honorable mention for the All-Big 12 team. He also earned a one-game suspension for leaving the bench during an on-court altercation in April 2011 that caused him to miss a D-League playoff game for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
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