An Al Jefferson suspension has been announced by the NBA, and it is effective immediately, according to ESPN.
The Charlotte Hornets were already playing with Al Jefferson, their starting center who is the closest thing to a superstar that the team has. He has missed the passed three games because of a leg injury. Unfortunately for the Hornets, Jefferson is going to be out an additional five games once the injury heals up. The NBA announced that the 30-year-old star has been suspended because he violated the league’s drug policy. As is usually the case, the actual drug was not revealed.
Al Jefferson has not been playing like himself thus far this season. While a part of that might be due to the fact that he lost nearly 3o pounds over the summer, there are going to be people who speculate if drugs played a part in his decline. The 6’10” center is average 13.7 points a game, which is his lowest average since his first two seasons with the Boston Celtics. Same thing with his paltry 6.4 rebounding average. Jefferson is still blocking shots and making assists just fine, however. These numbers are not worth the $13.5 million salary that the Charlotte Hornets are paying him, though.
While the Charlotte Hornets would much rather have Al Jefferson on the field and being productive, they might be alright without him. In the three games that he has missed, there is only one loss to the Golden State Warriors. That’s not necessarily a big cause for concern because every team in the NBA that has faced the Warriors has walked away with a loss. Charlotte was able to beat the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons, two winning franchises with quality big men like Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Andre Drummond, without Jefferson in back to back games.
Team officials are saying that Al Jefferson could miss approximately two to three weeks because of the calf injury. That means that the Charlotte Hornets are going to need to find a way to be productive inside without their former franchise player. Cody Zeller got the start to replace Jefferson. He didn’t get a lot of minutes against the Golden State Warriors but that is because Luke Walton likes to play smaller lineups. Zeller had 20 points and 6 rebounds against Andre Drummonds and the Detroit Pistons, while putting up 17 points and 8 rebounds against Pau Gasol and the Chicago Bulls.
A player that really needs to step up for the Charlotte Hornets is Frank Kiminsky III. The ninth overall pick in the NBA Draft this year simply has not been as productive as the team had hoped he would be. Kiminsky is certainly not in the same class as the New York Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis or the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl Anthony-Towns. Those guys are not only contending for the Rookie of the Year award but they might even find themselves in the All Star game. Kiminsky’s average of 4.9 points and 2.3 rebounds aren’t going to earn him too many votes.
Whenever his suspension is over, Al Jefferson needs to recommit to the Charlotte Hornets. Thus far, he is saying all the right things. Through the team, Jefferson sent out a message, apologizing to the fans, his teammates, the organization and the NBA. He acknowledged that he has let a lot of people down. Jefferson stated that he was committed to making smarter decisions in the future. Of course, action speaks louder than words. Jefferson needs to come back and become the dominant player that he used to be. The Hornets are currently sitting on fifth place in the Eastern Conference, so they’re fighting for a spot in the NBA Playoffs.
Do you think that Al Jefferson can turn things around and become a productive player this season?
[Featured Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images]