Nerlens Noel in 2011.EXPAND
Nerlens Noel in 2011.
Bryan Horowitz

Nerlens Noel's Strange Trip With the Mavericks Could Be Over

The NBA announced Tuesday afternoon that Mavericks center Nerlens Noel has been suspended for the remaining five games of the 2017-18 season.

According to the league, Noel violated the NBA's anti-drug policy. The league didn't disclose details of Noel's violation, but the policy mandates a five-game suspension for a player's third positive test for marijuana.

Noel's suspension ends what's been a nightmare season for the fourth-year player, whom the Mavericks acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers at the 2017 trade deadline.

After the 2016-17 season, Noel, a restricted free agent, reportedly spurned a four-year, $75 million contract offer from the Mavericks. Noel decided instead to bet on himself, taking a qualifying offer worth a little more than $4 million from the Mavericks in exchange for being guaranteed unrestricted free agency after the 2017-18 season. He lost. Big.

Thanks to disinterested play early in the season, Noel found himself buried deep on Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle's bench by mid-November, often playing less than five minutes per game. Eventually, Carlisle stopped playing Noel completely, although the center is on the active roster.

During a game Dec. 2 against the Clippers, Noel, dressed for the game, went to the Mavs media room at halftime to get a hot dog. He released an apology the next day.

"I just want to say [about] yesterday's incident with the hot dog, I've just been going hard in pregame, lifting, and I got a little hungry," Noel said. "It was a different schedule. The last thing I did not want to do is eat, so I wanted to take in as many calories as I can. But I got to be smarter about that and send a ball boy."

After the hot dog incident, Noel elected to have surgery on his injured thumb, taking him off the Mavericks' active roster for almost three months. Since coming back to the team the last day of February, Noel has been OK, not great. In his last 10 games, he's averaged 8.6 rebounds while playing 21.5 minutes per game.

With the suspension, Noel heads into the offseason a year removed from spurning a deal worth more than $17 million per season and hoping for a deal worth a fraction as much. The Mavericks, who appear set to draft a big man with the top-five draft pick they're likely to land, are unlikely to be interested. It's a remarkable turnaround from just over a year ago, when the Mavs traded for Noel with hopes that he'd be their center of the future.

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