It would seem that Mitch McGary doesn’t want to play professional basketball anymore. And that’s unfortunate.
McGary has NBA talent, as Thunder fans can attest. He erupted onto the national scene in February 2014 with a 19 point, 10 rebound performance when pressed into duty for a severely damaged Thunder squad. For about a month and a half, McGary showed exactly why the normally careful Thunder front office threw caution to the wind and took a chance on him.
Health was one concern with McGary – back surgery sidelined him for the last half of his sophomore season at Michigan – but the biggest question marks were off the court. McGary failed a random drug test that was controversially administered by the NCAA. He swore he’d learned his lessons and would change his ways.
Injuries have impacted his NBA career, but none concerning his back. He suffered a fractured foot in his very first NBA preseason game, and then developed painful shin splints after recovering from the fracture. In his fourth preseason game this past season, McGary suffered a concussion that would sideline him for a few weeks. He fell out of shape and out of the Thunder’s rotation for good.
When McGary did play professional basketball, it was with the Blue, not the Thunder. He wound up taking a leave of absence of at least two weeks. The Vertical reported that McGary left the team on his own.
The setbacks were undoubtedly frustrating. To cope, McGary apparently turned to an old vice.
In July, McGary was hit with a 5-game suspension by the NBA for violating its anti-drug program. The suspension meant McGary had violated the marijuana program for the third time. McGary was on thin ice with the team already. The suspension hardly helped matters.
Earlier this week, the NBA tacked at least 10 more games onto his suspension for non-compliance with the league’s drug policy. The Vertical reported that the additional suspension isn’t necessarily due to another failed test, but rather a “failure to live up to procedural guidelines set forth in the program.”
And that’s where it’s fair to question McGary’s desire to play professional basketball. This scenario has played out before with former Bucks center Larry Sanders. Sanders, in the first year of a four year $44 million extension, was hit with a 5 game suspension in April, 2014. Sanders was given the 10 game “non compliance” suspension the following January. He retired a month later at the age of 26. His contract was bought out another month later. Sanders said he walked away from the NBA in order to get treatment for anxiety, depression, and mood disorders.
Being a multimillionaire athlete doesn’t make you immune to the same maladies that you or I may take daily medication for.
Comparing McGary’s plight to Sanders’ might be a bit drastic, but McGary seems headed down the path Sanders already blazed (cheap pun intended). Yet he’s only 24 years old. With his skill set, there’s still plenty of time for McGary to bounce back from ground zero and resume his career. If he wants another chance and makes a commitment to it, he’ll get it somewhere.
But McGary’s Thunder career is all but over. The team can attempt to dump his salary on another team in order to get it off the books. They could also opt to negotiate a buyout and waive him outright. With 16 guaranteed contracts on the roster and a limit of 15 before the regular season starts, McGary has made the Thunder’s decision easy.