Basketball

NBA suspends Jason Williams of the Kings

Jason Williams, one of the NBA's flashiest and most popular players, was suspended Thursday for the first five games of next season for failing to comply with his drug treatment plan.

The NBA, the Kings and Williams all declined to say what the point guard had done or what drug was involved, citing the confidentiality of the league's anti-drug program.

Williams, kicked off the team at Florida as a sophomore in February 1998 for twice testing positive for marijuana, has been one of the pillars in the revival of the Kings the past two seasons.

"I accept the NBA's decision. I must be responsible and accountable for my actions. The ball is in my court," Williams said in a statement released by the Kings.

Williams and his agent could not be reached for further comment.

The league said Williams, whose behind-the-back dribbles and no-look alley-oop passes have led to comparisons with the late Pete Maravich, had not complied with his treatment obligations under the league's program.

Due to the confidentiality provisions, it was not clear what had led to the treatment program or what Williams' requirements were under the plan. The NBA added marijuana to its list of banned substances last season.

Williams, who will be suspended without pay, averaged 12.3 points and 7.3 assists last season in his second year with the Kings.

"Today's announcement represents a very unfortunate situation for the NBA, the Kings organization, Kings fans and Jason Williams," said a statement issued by Kings general manager Geoff Petrie.

"We as an organization are still 100 per cent committed to providing lifelines of support to Jason," Petrie's statement said. "We continue to believe in the power of the human spirit to change for the better.

"Ultimately, however, it must begin with Jason choosing to change the behaviours that have precipitated today's announcement. He must become a better caretaker of his own soul."

Williams was chosen seventh overall in the 1998 draft by the Kings, and became an immediate sensation when he joined Sacramento during the strike-shortened 1998-99 season.

With a mixture of breathtaking passes and three-pointers from well beyond the arc, Williams -- nicknamed White Chocolate and White Shadow -- evoked memories of Maravich. A banner at Kings games proclaimed: "Pistol Pete is alive!"

Williams, a high school friend of Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Randy Moss, vowed when he joined the Kings to be honest about his problems in college with marijuana.

"I messed up, I'm human. I've just tried to put it behind me and tried to move on," he said in a March 1999 interview with The Associated Press. "If I am a coach one day, I'll tell them that's a mistake I made and I had to pay for it. I'm going to tell them they could pay an even steeper price."