J.R. Smith is rehabbing from a recent surgery, but was expecting to be good to go by the start of the season. Instead, he'll start the year off by serving a five-game suspension for violating the NBA's drug policy.
As fate would have it, the five-game ban is actually the consequence for a player failing his third drug test of the year. Players are eligible to be tested up to four times during the season, and twice in the offseason as well.
That said, such a testing schedule may only include players currently under contract, which would suggest that there was a short period (in early July) during which Smith couldn't have been subjected to such tests.
Having failed three tests this season, one has to wonder exactly when Smith was tested each time. The first failure results in a player having to enter a program, and the second offense results in a fine.
It's been well noted that Smith faced some difficulties throughout the Knicks' postseason run, both on and off the court. Could one of his failed tests have come at a time like that?
Given the expiration of his 2012-13 contract, it at least appears rather likely that the last of the failed tests would have come around playoff time. That is, of course, depending on how quickly the NBA receives its test results. It's also possible Smith could have taken a more recent test after signing his new multi-year contract with the Knicks.
If the third test he had taken was in the later weeks of the offseason, that still leaves open the possibility that one of the other two tests had taken place during the postseason. Clearly, it's obvious that each (failed) test for Smith would have to had to have been spaced out from one another.
Still, it's unfortunate that the league does not notify teams of the first two test failures along the way. The team employs the player and pays his contract, so shouldn't they have a right to know? The player has to want and/or be able to accept help, but at least if a team knew, they'd be able to offer support.
What's more, it's apparent that New York did not know about Smith's troubles upon offering him his newly signed contract.
NBA teams should be notified of such failures. For all of the publicity the relationship of Coach Mike Woodson and Smith has gotten, it's clear the coach has some key influence on the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year. Who's to say Woodson wouldn't have taken more serious measures to try and get through to Smith in hopes of getting him to stop?
What's more, having failed three tests, clearly Smith was being rather defiant. Had Woodson and the Knicks known that throughout the season, perhaps they would have taken matters into their own hands, in a sense. The swingman could have ended up in the coach's doghouse.
In any event, one has to hope everything works out for Smith, both on a personal and professional front. If anything, the actions the NBA has taken against him say more about the league than the player himself. It's good that they're on top of things and choose to follow through on such failed tests. That said, it's really unfortunate that the individual teams are not notified along the way. They have every right to be.
Not only is it important to know the on and off the court mental (and physical, for that matter) state of all your players, but both teammates and coaches could have offered support (or words of wisdom) to Smith along the way.
In not notifying the teams, the NBA really drops the ball on a rule with a rather simple concept.