Philadelphia 76ers power forward Arnett Moultrie has been suspended without pay for five games "for violating the terms of the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program," the NBA announced Monday morning. His suspension will begin with Monday's game against the Atlanta Hawks, and he will also be ineligible to play for the Delaware 87ers, the 76ers' D-League affiliate, for the duration of his suspension, according to the league's announcement.
The NBA did not specify the substance for which Moultrie, 23, tested positive. The penalty structure laid out in the joint anti-drug policy makes it seem likely that Moultrie was suspended for not for steroids or performance-enhancing drugs (those carry a 20-game suspension for first violations) or for "drugs of abuse" like methamphetamine, MDMA, cocaine, GHB, LSD, ketamine, PCP, benzodiazepines and opiates (those carry immediate dismissal and disqualification from the NBA), but rather for a third instance of marijuana use:
(c) Penalties. Any player who (i) tests positive for marijuana pursuant to Section 5 (Reasonable Cause Testing), Section 6 (Random Testing), or Section 15 (Additional Bases for Testing), (ii) is adjudged by the Grievance Arbitrator pursuant to Section 5(e) above to have used or possessed marijuana, or (iii) has been convicted of (including a plea of guilty, no contest or nolo contendere to) the use or possession of marijuana in violation of the law, shall suffer the following penalties:
(A) For the first such violation, the player shall be required to enter the Marijuana Program;(B) For the second such violation, the player shall be fined $25,000 and, if the player is not then subject to in-patient or aftercare treatment in the Marijuana Program, be required to enter the Marijuana Program;(C) For the third such violation, the player shall be suspended for five (5) games and, if the player is not then subject to in-patient or aftercare treatment in the Marijuana Program, be required to enter the Marijuana Program; and(D) For any subsequent violation, the player shall be suspended for five (5) games longer than his immediately-preceding suspension for violating the Marijuana Program and, if the player is not then subject to in-patient or aftercare treatment in the Marijuana Program, be required to enter the Marijuana Program.
NBA players can receive up to six random tests each season and offseason — four during the season, two in the offseason — and may also be subjected to "reasonable cause testing," which comes when an "Independent Expert" decides there is reasonable cause to test a player for a banned substance. After such a determination, the highlighted player is then subject to four extra random tests over a six-week span.
The Miami Heat selected Moultrie out of Mississippi State with the 27th overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft, but redirected him to Philadelphia the day after the draft in exchange for LSU center Justin Hamilton and a future conditional first-round draft pick. (That first-round pick is lottery-protected from 2013 through 2015 through the next three seasons, so Miami would only get it if Philly makes the playoffs next year; if, as most expect, they don't, Philly will be on the hook to send Miami second-rounders in 2015 and 2016.) He spent most of his rookie season either sidelined due to ankle injuries or buried deep in Doug Collins' doghouse, but showed "flashes of potential and competence" at the end of the season, averaging just over 12 points and 10 rebounds per 36 minutes over the final month of the season while presenting some promise as an offensive rebounder.
With the Sixers very evidently in a rebuilding phase and featuring limited frontcourt depth heading into the season, it seemed like the 6-foot-11, 250-pound former All-SEC selection might get a chance to earn a rotation spot. Instead, a September ankle injury and subsequent surgery kept him out through the beginning of 2014; once healthy, he remained sidelined for what head coach Brett Brown called conditioning reasons, although Moultrie balked at that explanation. He finally made his '13-'14 debut on Feb. 9, and got a chance at extended run after the trade-deadline departures of Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen, but didn't make much of an impression, averaging just 3 points and 2.9 rebounds in 15.7 minutes per game over 12 appearances.
The D-League's 87ers have just two games remaining in their schedule, so Moultrie won't suit up for them again this year. The 76ers have nine games left, meaning he could return before the close of the season, but given how this year's unfolded, it's not outside the realm of possibility that Moultrie's played his last game in Philly. Moultrie's on the books for just over $1.1 million next season, but that's the final guaranteed year of his rookie contract; the 76ers hold a $2.05 million team option for 2015-16, which you'd have to categorize as unlikely to be exercised at this point.
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