DENVER — John Drew has been banned from the National Basketball Assn. until the 1987-88 season.
The announcement, by the league's general counsel, Gary Bettman, could mean the end of Drew's hopes for returning to the NBA after a long bout of treatment for cocaine addiction, according to the player's attorney.
Drew has been playing for the Wyoming Wildcats of the Continental Basketball Assn.
"That effectively, was it," Salt Lake City attorney Tom Rasmussen said Wednesday. "At that point (next season), John will be 33. Not too many 33-year-olds make comebacks in the NBA."
Rasmussen said Bettman told him he believed Drew had not lived up to the terms of a follow-up program prescribed for him after a 1984 stay--his second in two years--at a drug-rehabilitation center.
Rasmussen said Bettman believed Drew's three-month stay at Salt Lake City's Highland Ridge Hospital, after he had been convicted of a bad-check charge, was an indication of a third offense.
The NBA's drug agreement states that a player who is found to be a three-time abuser of drugs is to be banned from the league for a minimum of two years, with an opportunity to appeal after that.
Drew is among the top 40 scorers in NBA history. He was waived last December by the Utah Jazz after entering the same Pasadena, Calif., rehabilitation center that later listed Walter Davis, Micheal Ray Richardson and John Lucas as patients.
Rasmussen said the decision caught his client off-guard. Drew could not be reached for comment, but Rasmussen said he was "in shock."
"I don't think it's fair," said Rasmussen, noting that Richardson and Davis were reinstated to the NBA within days after they finished rehabilitation.
"They said they didn't think he completed his 'after-care,' but they let Micheal Ray back before he's even had a chance to start after-care. It's a double standard. I think he (Bettman) is going to have a tough time defending it."
Bettman told him, Rasmussen said, that "Highland Ridge was strike three, even though he had been waived by the Jazz and wasn't in the NBA at the time."
After Drew's arrest for passing bad checks, Judge Paul Grant assigned him to Highland Ridge "to get a positive outlook on life."
Said Rasmussen: "Then they labeled it cocaine abuse when it had been cocaine abuse in the past. But the judge said he sent him there to get a positive outlook on life, and that he wasn't in a downhill state."
A decision on whether to appeal the ruling has not been made, Rasmussen said.