The Timberwolves accepted center Al Jefferson's apology on Sunday for alleged drunken driving after Saturday night's loss to Portland, but they suspended their leading scorer for the next two games as punishment.
Jefferson was arrested on Interstate 394 just outside downtown Minneapolis at 1:08 a.m. Sunday, a little more than three hours after he scored 19 points in the Wolves' 110-91 loss, and booked into jail on a charge of fourth-degree driving while impaired, said State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske.
"I made a very poor decision and I am truly sorry for that," Jefferson said in a written apology to Wolves owner Glen Taylor, his teammates, coaches and "Wolves fans everywhere."
David Kahn, the Wolves president for basketball operations, announced Jefferson will not play in Minnesota's game at Dallas on Wednesday, nor its home game Saturday against Houston. The suspension will cost Jefferson -- the Wolves' highest-paid player, earning $12 million this season -- roughly $293,000 in lost wages.
"We are disappointed that Al used poor judgment last night. Thankfully, nobody was hurt," Kahn said in a statement. "Having spoken to Al, I can assure everybody associated with our franchise that Al understands this is a matter of utmost seriousness. He feels terrible about what occurred, and I believe him when he says he will learn from his mistake."
He also said he accepts the punishment.
"As a leader on this team, I know that more is expected of me, and I am disappointed in myself," said Jefferson, 25. "I fully understand and support the organization's disciplinary action."
Jefferson is at least the fourth NBA player to be arrested on drunken-driving charges in the past year. Memphis forward Zach Randolph was arrested last April while with the Clippers, Nuggets forward Renaldo Balkman was charged in Colorado last August, and Kings forward Andres Nocioni was arrested after a game in Sacramento last November. Randolph and Balkman served two-game suspensions; Nocioni has not been punished by the team or league, pending further legal action.
Jefferson was pulled over for speeding as he left downtown Minneapolis, heading west on I-394, after a patrolman clocked Jefferson's Range Rover traveling 56 miles per hour in a 40-mph zone, Roeske said. The trooper also reported observing the car drifting left over the edge of the lane, then changing to the center lane without signaling, prompting him to pull over the car near Dunwoody Boulevard.
Jefferson, traveling alone, was cooperative, Roeske said, but he failed a field sobriety test and a breath test registered above the .08 blood-alcohol content legal limit. Jefferson agreed to undergo a blood test -- results will take a week or two -- and was taken to jail, where he was booked on the misdemeanor charge.
Jefferson is scheduled to appear in court April 23, nine days after the Wolves' final game. A fourth-degree DWI, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, is charged if a driver has no prior drunken-driving convictions, does not register above .20 blood-alcohol content, and there are no aggravating circumstances.
The Timberwolves are particularly sensitive to drunken- driving issues because of the death in May 2000 of forward Malik Sealy, killed in suburban Minneapolis when a drunken driver drove the wrong way on a freeway and crashed into Sealy's car.
Jefferson has been the Wolves' leading scorer in each of the three seasons since he arrived in Minnesota as the most prominent of five players acquired from the Boston Celtics in exchange for former MVP Kevin Garnett. Jefferson has averaged 20.4 points with the Wolves and 17.1 this season, and on Saturday scored 19 points, his best performance in the Wolves' past 10 games.
The 6-9 forward, drafted 15th by Boston in the 2004 NBA draft after turning pro out of Prentiss (Miss.) High School, returned this season from knee surgery after the injury caused him to miss the final two months of the 2008-09 season. Jefferson is signed through 2013 on a five-year contract worth $65 million.