Indiana Pacers coach Jim O’Brien will have one fewer option when selecting a starting shooting guard on opening night.
The NBA announced Friday it suspended Brandon Rush five games without pay for violating its anti-drug policy. Rush will lose about $116,000 in salary. The earliest he could play is Nov. 9 against Denver.
Pacers president Larry Bird said in a news release the team is aware of the suspension and “we will do what we can to provide Brandon help going forward.”
The suspension means Rush tested positive for marijuana three times during his first two seasons.
All NBA players are given four random drug tests a season, and violations never expire.
Players enter a marijuana program after the first offense. They are fined $25,000 and have to re-enter the program after the second offense. As a third-time offender, Rush must re-enter the program and serve his suspension.
A fourth positive test would result in a 10-game suspension. Every subsequent violation would add another five games.
Teams are not told about failed drug tests until the NBA announces the suspension.
The Pacers went through the same situation in January 2008, when the NBA suspended center David Harrison five games. Harrison was in the final year of his contract, and the Pacers allowed him to become a free agent. He hasn’t played in the NBA since.
Rush is under contract for this season. The Pacers could extend it for 2011-12 or allow him to become a free agent. Rush has been discussed in trade talks. Bird said at the end of last season he wasn’t ready to give up on Rush despite his inconsistent play.
Rush, who was not available Friday, averaged 8.8 points and 3.7 rebounds in his first two seasons.
Bird has traded several players who had off-court issues, and the Pacers’ depth at shooting guard and desire to land a power forward could lead to Rush’s departure.