Team told of 'non-compliance' with treatment

Updated: January 7, 2004, 1:54 AM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- Vin Baker's comeback from alcoholism hit a detour Tuesday when he was suspended by the Boston Celtics for three games after the team was told he didn't comply with his treatment program.

Vin Baker

"Although I am still on the road to recovery, I have encountered a setback in the recovery process," Baker said in a statement released late Tuesday night. "I am disappointed in myself, but committed to re-focus my efforts to stay the course."

The forward got off to a strong start this season after missing most of the last one, but he was scoreless in his last two games, the only times he hasn't started this season. He said Monday night, before the Celtics lost to Detroit, that his aftercare program was going "great."

But the Celtics said Tuesday they were notified of Baker's noncompliance by a doctor jointly chosen by the player and the team to oversee the program. That results in an automatic fine of an undisclosed amount and a three-game suspension, effective immediately.

The aftercare program agreement prohibits the Celtics from revealing details or identifying the doctor involved, team spokesman Bill Bonsiewicz said.

Baker responded to Tuesday's suspension by admitting the setback, saying, "This is a life-long journey and I am prepared for the challenge ... I plan to workout and maintain my conditioning during the suspension and look forward to making significant contributions for the rest of the season."

Baker will miss home games Wednesday against Orlando and Friday against Cleveland and a road game Sunday against Houston.

The four-time All-Star joined the Celtics before last season in a trade with Seattle. But he played poorly, and last February accepted a suspension from the Celtics and checked himself into rehab for alcoholism while his teammates were advancing to the second round of the playoffs.

At the time, it was widely speculated that he might never play again for the Celtics; the only question was whether the team would make him sit at the end of the bench for three years to collect the $44 million left on his contract.

Instead, he lost weight, got in better shape and had an outstanding season opener in which he had 15 points against Miami. In the second game, he scored 24 against Memphis. The Celtics won both.

He started the first 33 games but his performance declined. In his first 25 games, he scored in double figures 18 times. In the next 10, he reached that level three times.

He began this season with career averages of 15.8 points and 7.8 rebounds but averaged 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 52 games last season and 11.6 points and 5.9 rebounds this season.

"It could be the legs. I'm 32," Baker said before Monday's 78-68 loss. "I practiced so hard at the beginning of the season and during the summer that it could be the legs, but that just means that I've got to get them back."

Coach Jim' O'Brien said Monday he had seen a decline in Baker's mobility and speed.

"I'm hoping he can get it back to where he gets back in the starting lineup and gets 25-30 minutes," O'Brien said.

Baker played a season-low seven minutes against the Pistons.

"What I've been through is the reason that I know I can get through my struggles on the court," he said before Monday's game.

He also said he had been tested "quite a lot" for alcohol and has a busy day after practice.

"I come home, get tested, and then I go meet with my therapist," Baker said. "That's a full day. So, for me, this is not just a basketball issue. There's a lot of things going on in my life right now."

The day after his opening game against Miami, Baker was excited.

"It was like a dream come true," he said after practice on Oct. 30. "Last night was the best night I've had as a pro."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press