Forward to sit out five games

Updated: January 13, 2004, 8:27 PM ET
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Washington Wizards forward Christian Laettner was suspended for five games Tuesday for violating the NBA's drug policy.

 Christian Laettner

The suspension, without pay, began with Tuesday night's home game against Houston.

"I deeply regret any embarrassment that my actions have caused to members of my family, my teammates, my fans and the Washington Wizards organization," Laettner said in a statement released by the team.

"I accept full responsibility for my actions. I have elected to seek professional assistance to fully educate myself as to the consequences of my behavior to assure that these issues never interfere again with my career and my obligations to my team, my teammates and our fans."

Neither the league nor the team, citing the confidentiality rules of the collective bargaining agreement, would comment on when the violation occurred or what substance was involved. A player has to fail three drug tests before drawing a five-game suspension.

Laettner was not allowed to attend Tuesday night's game, although he is eligible to practice with the team.

"It comes as a surprise to us," general manager Ernie Grunfeld said. "We're disappointed. He feels terrible about the situation, and he's willing to do whatever he needs to do to get on the right track and get back to playing."

Laettner's agent, Lon Babby, did not return a call requesting comment.

The 6-foot-11 Laettner, in his 12th season out of Duke, has started 15 games and played in 30 this season. He is averaging 6.7 points and 5.3 rebounds for the Wizards, who are sixth in the seven-team Atlantic Division.

Because of the Wizards' schedule, Laettner will have one of the shortest five-game suspensions possible. They have five games in seven days, ending Monday against Chicago. He can return for the Jan. 23 game against Boston.

The Wizards are already without Jerry Stackhouse, who hasn't played this season because of a knee injury, and Gilbert Arenas, who is out another month or so with a severe abdominal strain.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press