Thunder 3rd year power forward Mitch McGary has been suspended for a second time in the 2016-17 NBA season that has yet to even begin, according to league sources. Via Adrian Wojnarowski at The Vertical, McGary earned his 2nd suspension, an additional 10 games, during this offseason because he failed to comply with “procedural guidelines” established in the NBA’s anti-drug compliance program:
McGary, 24, has been suspended an additional 10 games for non-compliance with the league’s drug policy, league sources said.
The violation isn’t believed to be another positive test, but rather a failure to live up to procedural guidelines set forth in the program, league sources said.
McGary was suspended five games for violation of the league’s policy in July.
He will serve a 15-game suspension without pay to start the 2016-17 season.
McGary’s first anti-drug violation suspension was announced in the aftermath of the Orlando Summer League, a week of NBA prospect action where he appeared to have turned the corner and was taking a more serious approach toward his contribution to the team. However, it was announced that he had broken the rules and issued the following statement:
"I clearly made a mistake and for that I apologize to the organization, my teammates, and our fans. I realize there are only so many opportunities given to you and I need to make sure that as a person and as a player, I take accountability and ensure that this does not happen again."
As Woj states, the additional suspension is not from testing positive again, but rather because he failed to comply with the league’s drug policy.
Based on my reading of the existing NBA collective bargaining agreement, McGary is currently what is referred to in the CBA as a Stage 1 athlete in the league’s rehabilitation program. Here is the pertinent text, cited from Article XXXIII, Section 7, part b, (1) and (2):
(i) Any player who has entered Stage 1 of the Drugs of AbuseProgram shall be required to submit to an evaluation by the Medical Director, provide (or cause to be provided) to the Medical Director such relevant medical and treatment records as the Medical Director may request, and commence the treatment and testing program prescribed by the Medical Director.
(ii) If a player, within ten (10) days of the date on which he was notified that he had entered Stage 1 of the Drugs of Abuse Program and without a reasonable excuse, fails to comply (in the professional judgment of the Medical Director) with any of the obligations set forth in Section7(b)(i) above, he shall be suspended until such time as the Medical Director determines that he has fully complied with Section 7(b)(i) above. If such noncompliance continues without a reasonable excuse (in the professional judgment of the Medical Director) for thirty (30) days from the date on which the player was notified that he had entered Stage 1 of the Drugs of Abuse Program, the player shall, following notice of the player’s non-compliance by the Medical Director to the NBA and then by the NBA to the player’s Team (notwithstanding the provisions of Section 3 above), (A) advance to Stage 2 of the Drugs of Abuse Program, or (B) the player’s Team may, notwithstanding any term or provision in or amendment to the player’s Uniform Player Contract, elect to terminate such Contract without any further obligation to pay Compensation, except to pay the Compensation (either Current or Deferred) that may have been earned by the player to the date of termination.
Based on the outcome described by league sources, McGary still appears to be in Stage 1 of his rehabilitation compliance, where he has to abide by the “Medical Director’s” rehabilitation plan. If the player does not comply within the first 10 days, he will get suspended until the Medical Director determines that the player has complied to the prescribed rehabilitation program. It appears that McGary has NOT yet violated the second part of stage 1, which is that if he is found in non-compliance after 30 days, he would either see his contract terminated (it has not) or he moves to Stage 2 of the rehabilitation. McGary is clearly not in Stage 2 yet, because as the CBA lays out in Section 7, part c, (ii), (iii,) and (iv):
(ii) If a player, within thirty (30) days of the date on which he was notified that he had entered Stage 2 of the Drugs of Abuse Program and without a reasonable excuse, fails to comply (in the professional judgment of the MedicalDirector) with any of the obligations set forth in Section7(c)(i) above, he shall immediately be dismissed and disqualified from any association with the NBA or any of its Teams in accordance with the provisions of Section11(a) below.
(iii) A player in Stage 2 of the Drugs of Abuse Program shall be suspended during the period of his in-patient treatment and for at least the first six (6) months of his aftercare treatment. The player shall remain suspended during any subsequent period in which he is undergoing treatment that, in the professional judgment of the Medical Director, prevents him from rendering the playing services called for by his Uniform Player Contract.
(iv) Any subsequent use, possession, or distribution of a Drug of Abuse by a player in Stage 2, even if voluntarily disclosed, or any conduct by a player in Stage 2 that results in his advancing one (1) Stage in the Drugs of AbuseProgram, shall result in the player being immediately dismissed and disqualified from any association with the NBA or any of its Teams in accordance with the provisions of Section 11(a) below.
Contrasting McGary’s situation to that of O.J. Mayo, Mayo was suspended for 2 years following his own substance abuse violation. Based on the reading above, it is clear that Mayo had moved into Stage 2 of the program and did not comply.
McGary is treading in difficult waters; with the modest 15 game suspension, he seems to have violated the 10 day threshold but not the 30 day threshold, otherwise he would have moved to Stage 2 and much heavier penalties. McGary also knows or has reason to know that the team has the right, if he cannot bring himself into alignment with the rehab program within 30 days, to terminate his contract and make him a free agent, a difficult place to be with the beginning of the season only a few months away and the mark of substance abuse following him.
There is still time and opportunity for McGary, but his options are running out, as are the Thunder’s.
We will continue to report this story as it develops.