EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Micheal Ray Richardson rejoined the New Jersey Nets Wednesday after passing a drug test on which his NBA career hinged. The test showed no trace of cocaine in his system.
Richardson, who has been plagued by cocaine dependency, took a plane to Cleveland, where the Nets play tonight, immediately after the results of the mass spectrometer drug screening were released by the league.
"I am happy for him," said Lewis Schaffel, the Nets' executive vice president. "I like him very much. He is an endearing person. The problem is professional."
The latest scare in Richardson's career came Monday when the guard missed a team practice and failed to keep an appointment with team physician Dr. Dennis Quinlan. Net officials did not locate him until he turned up for a shoot-around Tuesday morning.
Schaffel suspended him for Tuesday night's game against Detroit, fined him an undisclosed amount of money, ordered him to undergo a urinalysis at University Hospital in Newark, N.J., and held his breath, hoping the guard had not run afoul of the NBA drug-enforcement policy a third time.
It would have meant his ban from the league for life, with a possible reinstatement no sooner than two years from now, and then only with approval of the league and the union.
"I was sick, that's all there was," Richardson said in statement released by the club. "I know now I made a mistake by not going to the doctor. I guess every move I make will be scrutinized. I made my bed and I am going to have to lie in it."
Richardson is considered a two-time offender under the league's drug-enforcement policy, which went into effect in 1983. His first run-in came later that year and the second in late December after a team Christmas party. He had two previous drug problems before the league policy went into effect.
Richardson's teammates had expressed doubt that his latest problem was drug-related.
"Just because of the amount of time drugs stay in the system, I don't think he would have come back this soon if his problems were drug-related," center Mike Gminski said. "There are a lot of maybes involved. Maybe his stay in the rehab center was too short, maybe he was rushed back too soon."