Reeves Nelson's latest suspension apparently will be his last.
Three days after Ben Howland suspended Nelson indefinitely for the second time this year, the UCLA coach has permanently dismissed the junior forward from the team. The reason for the brief delay would seem to be for Nelson to finish his fall quarter final exams this week.
"After much thought and deliberation, I have made the decision to dismiss Reeves Nelson from the UCLA Men's Basketball Team effective immediately," Howland said. "This decision is not one that I take lightly, but it is in the best interest of both the program and the student-athlete."
The dismissal of Nelson, first reported by CBSSports.com, is the latest blow to a storied UCLA program that has endured a nightmarish opening month of the season. Projected to contend in the Pac-12 and return to the NCAA tournament, the Bruins have instead lost five of their first seven games with the only wins coming against Division II Chaminade and West Coast Conference lightweight Pepperdine.
One of many culprits for the poor start is Nelson, UCLA's leading returning scorer and rebounder from last season. Nelson previously sat out the Bruins' Nov. 14 loss to Middle Tennessee State and was also suspended for the first half of UCLA's Maui Invitational opener against Chaminade as a result of missing the team flight.
Then during a 69-59 loss to Texas last Saturday, Nelson played just 12 minutes, none in the second half. Nelson reportedly was seen pointing to, and laughing with, fans in the stands who were chanting his name in hopes that he would be inserted in the game as the Longhorns were making a second-half comeback.
It's possible that the removal of Nelson eliminates a distraction and improves UCLA's team chemistry, but the truth is that the Bruins have greater problems. Their point guard play has been erratic, their outside shooting has been unreliable and starting center Joshua Smith remains too out of shape to fully tap into his immense potential.
Perhaps UCLA will be better off without Nelson. More likely, the Bruins will lament that he gave them no choice but to get rid of him even in a year when his scoring and rebounding prowess is desperately needed.