Commentary

Andersen to attempt comeback after drug suspension

Chris Andersen is looking to get back in the NBA after a two-year drug suspension.

Originally Published: January 25, 2008
By Chris Sheridan | ESPN.com

The Birdman wants to come back, but there's no telling whether there will be a clear or speedy flight path for his possible return to the NBA.

Chris Andersen, who was "dismissed and disqualified" from the NBA and the New Orleans Hornets on Jan. 27, 2006, after testing positive for a prohibited substance, is eligible to apply for reinstatement beginning Sunday -- exactly two years after he was thrown out of the league.

[+] EnlargeChris Andersen
Gregory Shamus/NBAE via Getty ImagesPrior to his suspension, Chris Andersen was a crowd favorite.

Sources have told ESPN.com that the "wheels are already in motion" for Andersen to attempt a comeback, a somewhat arduous process that will begin with him filling out a multi-page application for reinstatement and sending it, along with dozens of pages of supporting documentation, to the league office in New York via overnight mail.

Andersen must then schedule a meeting with members of both the commissioner's office and the players' union, and the consent of both organizations is needed for Andersen to be reinstated. Andersen has no right to appeal if his reinstatement application is rejected.

There is no language in the collective bargaining agreement specifying any kind of a timetable for the reinstatement process, so it could be only a matter of days -- or it could take several weeks -- for Andersen to get a definitive answer.

If Andersen's application is granted, the Hornets would then have a 30-day exclusive window to tender him a contract for the remainder of the season. Sources have told ESPN.com that the Hornets are indeed quite interested in bringing Andersen back to a roster short on front-court depth.

Should the Hornets decline to sign him, Andersen would become an unrestricted free agent and could sign with any team.

Several NBA players have drawn five-game suspensions in recent years for violating the league's marijuana rule, but Andersen tested positive for a "drug of abuse" -- defined as amphetamines (and their derivatives), cocaine, opiates, PCP and LSD -- and was subject to a harsher penalty.

Andersen has never publicly said which drug he tested positive for, and league and union officials are prohibited under collective bargaining rules from disclosing that information.

Andersen filed a grievance over his banishment and attended an arbitration hearing in New York the following month. An arbitrator denied his grievance in March 2006.

Under NBA labor agreement rules reviewed by ESPN.com, factors that will be considered by the commissioner's office include the circumstances surrounding Andersen's positive drug test, his actions and conduct since his dismissal, his satisfactory completion of a treatment program, and whether he "is judged to possess the requisite qualities of good character and morality."

Andersen also must provide documentation that he has passed weekly drug tests over the past 12 months, and he could be asked to document whether he has tested alcohol-free over the past six months.

Andersen was averaging 5.0 points and 4.8 rebounds for the Hornets at the time of his suspension. Only three players -- Chris Paul, David West and Rasual Butler -- who were on the Hornets' roster at the time of Andersen's dismissal are still with the team.

When he was banished, Andersen was earning $3.5 million in the first year of a four-year, $14 million contract he had signed the previous offseason. If the Hornets want to re-sign him, they would have to tender him a contract for the remainder of the season equal to a prorated portion of his old salary. (If his salary had been above $5 million at the time of his suspension, the maximum the Hornets could have offered him for the rest of the season would have been a prorated portion of $5 million, which was the amount of the midlevel exception at that time.)

New Orleans has won 14 of 16 games to move atop the Western Conference, and it would stand to reason that they'd be interested in re-signing Andersen prior to the playoffs, adding an energy player to a front line with suspect depth behind starting big men Tyson Chandler and David West. The Hornets are nearly $5 million below the league's luxury tax threshold.

Andersen, who lives in Denver, has been working out in Las Vegas under the direction of Joe Abunassar, a trainer for numerous NBA players.

An NBA spokesman said Andersen would be the first player since Roy Tarpley, who was banned from the NBA in 1995, to formally apply for reinstatement.

Tarpley's application was denied and he sued the NBA last September in federal court in Houston claiming the league violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by refusing to reinstate him.

Chris Sheridan covers the NBA for ESPN Insider. To e-mail Chris, click here.