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Houston Rockets point guard Ty Lawson has been suspended for three games without pay "for driving under the influence of alcohol, in violation of the law of the State of California," the NBA announced Thursday afternoon. He will begin his suspension immediately, meaning he will miss Houston's Thursday night home game against the Utah Jazz.
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It's the second DUI-related suspension of the season for Lawson. He received a two-game ban last month after entering a guilty plea on charges stemming from his arrest on suspicion of drinking and driving on Jan. 23, 2015, while still a member of the Denver Nuggets.
Less than six months after that January incident, Lawson was arrested again on suspicion of DUI, this time while driving in Los Angeles. Three days later, he announced he planned to enter a private alcohol treatment program. (He'd later tell Yahoo Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski that he didn't think he'd have gone had it not been court-ordered, but that he "did take things from" his stay at Cliffside Malibu.) Five days after that, the Nuggets traded him to Houston in exchange for four players they'd later waive and a lottery-protected 2016 first-round draft pick.
Lawson, like the rest of his Rockets teammates, struggled mightily to start the season. He seemed out of sorts when asked to play alongside another, much more entrenched ball-dominant perimeter player in All-Star shooting guard James Harden, averaging 8.9 points, 5.6 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 36.2 minutes per game in his first 11 starts, while shooting just 33.3 percent from the floor, 27.3 percent from 3-point range and 67.6 percent from the free-throw line for a Houston club that opened up a disappointing 4-7, leading to the firing of head coach Kevin McHale.
He did fare much better when interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff moved from him the starting lineup to the bench so he could serve as a catalyst for flagging second units. Lawson averaged only 3.7 points and 3.1 assists in 17.1 minutes per game over his first 15 games as a reserve, shooting just 32.2 percent from the field and struggling to the point that that Rockets general manager Daryl Morey began pursuing trade opportunities less than two months into the season.
Lawson has, however, begun to pick up his play a bit since returning from his two-game suspension. He averaged 8.7 points and 4.5 assists in 22.9 minutes per game while shooting 53.8 percent from the floor and 38.5 percent from 3-point land over his next six appearances before suffering a sprained left ankle late in Houston's Saturday loss to the San Antonio Spurs that kept him out of Monday's win over the Utah Jazz.
The suspension will prove costly to Lawson personally:
... and it could prove costly to the Rockets, too, whose consistently inconsistent play has them sitting 17-19, in seventh place in the Western Conference, and who could now find themselves fairly shorthanded against the Jazz:
Lawson will also miss meetings with the Indiana Pacers and Memphis Grizzlies before he's eligible to return to action.
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