New Jersey’s Robinson suspended


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) – New Jersey forward Clifford Robinson was suspended five games without pay by the NBA on Friday after violating terms of the league’s drug policy for the second time in two seasons.

Robinson will miss at least the rest of the Eastern Conference semifinals. His suspension began Friday night with Game 3 of the Nets’ series against the Miami Heat, and leaves New Jersey without one of its possible options for defending Shaquille O’Neal.

Robinson was also suspended five games in February 2005 while playing for Golden State. Under terms of last year’s collective bargaining agreement, a player would be suspended five games for a third positive test for marijuana.

“Obviously we feel very badly about it from a team standpoint,” Nets president Rod Thorn said, “from an individual standpoint for Cliff, who has been terrific for us since he’s been here and is one our leaders in our locker room and has been a very good player for us. So on two counts, we feel very badly about it.”

The news came as a surprise to the Nets, who learned of the penalty at around noon – after Robinson had already taken part in the morning shootaround.

“We have to be extremely focused on the task at hand,” Nets coach Lawrence Frank said before the game. “We’re going to make no excuses for who have and who we are, and we’re going to find a way.”

To make matters worse for the Nets, they are not allowed to replace Robinson on the roster, forcing them to play with only 11 players on the active list.

The 39-year-old Robinson is a valuable reserve for the Nets. He averaged 6.9 points in 80 games this season, his 17th in the NBA.

“They lose a 3-point shooter. The guy can stretch it. Very savvy player,” Heat coach Pat Riley said. “They also lose one of their best post-up defenders on Shaquille. But what it does, from an official standpoint, it probably forces Lawrence to go with his best team. They’ll go down and put (Richard) Jefferson at 4, (Nenad) Krstic at 5.”

AP-ES-05-12-06 1930EDT