The Portland Trail Blazers will be without one of their brightest stars for their regular-season opener as a result of a bizarre incident in a preseason clash with the Phoenix Suns on Oct. 10.
Guard CJ McCollum has received a one-game suspension without pay, the NBA announced, for leaving the bench after a scuffle broke out between Phoenix's Alex Len, and McCollum's teammate, Caleb Swanigan, in the fourth quarter of the meaningless contest.
McCollum will miss Portland's season opener, a rematch with the Suns, on Oct. 18 as a result of his seemingly innocent actions. He will forfeit roughly $165,000 in American dollars by sitting out.
"I've been in the league way too long to have a mental lapse like that," McCollum told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. "I want to apologize to my teammates and the organization for putting our team in this situation. The Western Conference is already tough enough as it is. It won't happen again"
The NBA has very strict rules about entering the floor during play, in an attempt to minimize on-court violence and melees.
Rule 7.c of the NBA rule book states: During an altercation, all players not participating in the game must remain in the immediate vicinity of their bench. Violators will be suspended, without pay, for a minimum of one game and fined up to $50,000.
Still, many NBA players lashed out at what they thought was a harsh penalty for such a harmless act.
McCollum, who forms one of the top backcourt duos in the Association alongside Damian Lillard, averaged a career-high 23.0 points per game on 48.0 percent shooting from the field, and posted a league-best 91.2 percent shooting from the free-throw line last season.