Laettner remorseful over 5-game suspension

He returns to Wizards after losing $300,000-plus for violating drug policy

Pro Basketball

January 22, 2004|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Addressing the media for the first time since coming off a five-game suspension, Washington Wizards forward/center Christian Laettner expressed regret yesterday for violating the NBA's drug policy and declared himself "committed and devoted" to making sure it doesn't happen again.

"It feels great. ... I still love the game," Laettner said after practice. "It was tough being away. Sometimes you say to yourself, `I need a vacation,' but as soon as I got back out there, I realized how much I miss the game. I definitely don't want to see anything like this happen again. ... I'm going to play for as long as I can, until my knees give out on me."

Laettner, a former Duke star in his 12th NBA season, was notified of the suspension - which cost him more than $300,000 in salary - before the Wizards met the Houston Rockets on Jan. 13.

The league's collective bargaining agreement mandates a five-game suspension for a first-time positive test for steroid use, a third-time positive test for marijuana use or for failing to comply with an after-care program.

Laettner declined to disclose why he was suspended.

The Wizards lost the first three games but won the past two while the 6-foot-11 Laettner was out, and coach Eddie Jordan has used a smaller lineup in his absence.

"I'm not worried about that," Laettner said about getting back into the rotation. "I'm happy to be back out there playing. If they decide not to play me, like they have already a few times this season, that's just part of the game. That's something that you have to deal with. But if Eddie gives me a shot and throws me out there, I'll try to play the right way and help the team."

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