With Indefinite Suspension, Hornets’ Malik Monk Becomes Latest Victim in NBA’s War on Drugs

By: Dani Bar-Lavi
Posted: March 2, 2020

Charlotte Hornets guard Malik Monk has received an indefinite suspension after testing positive for an undisclosed substance in violation of the NBA’s Anti-Drug Policy this week, per ESPN.

This is a huge blow to Hornets fans, with Monk having finally taken a huge step forward after assuming a lead scoring role in head coach James Borrego’s offense over the past 11 games, averaging 17.8 points per game over that stretch. 

It may be somewhat difficult to broach a conversation on an unprecedented suspension like this without knowing the specific drug that Monk tested positive for, and whether it was a recreational substance or a PED. Frankly, however, that is the private business of Malik Monk and I am not here to wildly speculate on that. What I can discuss is the efficacy of previous drug suspensions, and weigh in on whether they actually help the player in question, or if drug suspensions simply brand NBA players as untouchable.

Head coach James Borrego has offered his full support for Monk in his recovery, and of course, I do have to give the NBA and the player’s association credit for offering rehabilitation programs for drug violators. But what does the NBA do to help ensure its player’s continued existence in the league after their rehabilitation?

By the time former Milwaukee Buck O.J. Mayo faced his two season suspension, he had already shown some decline after injury, but was still a serviceable shooter and ball handler who could’ve paired well with prime Giannis Antetokounmpo this season and last. But after his two year exile from the NBA, the Bucks, and every other organization in the league, had no interest in signing Mayo.

This was particularly traumatic for Mayo, as many members of his family had been incarcerated or killed in crack-cocaine related incidents, per then-Yahoo Sports reporter Dan Devine, and rumors began to spread among the league that Mayo himself had been suspended for crack—which he had not.

Because of the rumors that were bred during Mayo’s suspension, he has not been able to return to the league in the three seasons since his suspension ended in October 2018. Instead, Mayo continues to play ball overseas in basketball exile, torching motherfuckers left and right in Taiwan and China. He is still clearly capable of contributing to an NBA offense, but is held back by an invisible Mark of Cain.

This brings us back to Malik Monk and his indefinite suspension. This is a young player who is only now beginning to reach his stride after coming up against the unrealistic expectations placed upon him during his first three years in the league. I don’t understand why the NBA feels not putting an ending point on Monk’s suspension is necessary, especially when it doesn’t seem that clear goal posts have been established in place of a temporal deadline. If a two season suspension can effectively end a player’s NBA career, what impact will an indefinite suspension have on Malik Monk? 

Hopefully, Malik Monk is able to achieve whatever the standard of recovery the league office has set for him before the end of the 2020-21 season, when his rookie scale contract with the Charlotte Hornets ends. If not, Monk may be faced with the same limbo that O.J. Mayo finds himself in; perfectly capable of contributing to an NBA team at a high level, but unable to dodge a racialized stigma around drug use that pervades this league and this country. 

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Image Source: AP Images

All stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com unless otherwise stated. All contract information courtesy of spotrac.com. 

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