Basketball / BJ-League

Evessa's Washington arrested in drug case

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Osaka Evessa power forward Lynn Washington, the most famous player in bj-league history, was arrested at 10:20 a.m on Tuesday for alleged involvement in the importation of between 1 kg and 1.5 kg of marijuana, media reports stated the same day.

Washington was booked by Osaka Prefectural Police on Tuesday, according to published reports. His 32-year-old wife, Dana, was arrested last month, it was reported.

In November, Washington’s wife’s name was on a package that allegedly contained marijuana and was shipped to Osaka from the United States. The marijuana had an estimated street value of up to ¥9 million, according to news reports.

For Washington, a two-time bj-league MVP, a Cannabis Control Law violation could signal the end of his career in Japan, and a decline for one of the league’s great teams.

League spokesman Akihiro Ejima said a meeting is planned for Thursday, and representatives of all 19 teams will be included to discuss this issue. It essentially boils down to this: How will the league handle what has become incredibly bad publicity for a circuit that is struggling to capture the public’s attention?

Despite a request from The Japan Times, the league hadn’t issued a statement at press time.

Evessa coach Ryan Blackwell and Washington were unavailable for comment. The team did not hold its regularly scheduled practice on Tuesday.

Osaka held a news conference on Tuesday evening, starting at 7:30, to address the matter. The team issued an apology to the public, and said it was surprised by Washington’s arrest.

Reached by phone, Evessa spokesman Makoto Yamada declined to make specific comments about Washington, saying he can’t do so until the police investigation is concluded. “If he’s done such things as the media is reporting, we might have to cut him,” Yamada said. “We would have to think about it.”

Washington, a native of San Jose, California, also earned the All-Star Game MVP in each of the past two seasons, including the 2010-11 game in Osaka.

After attending San Jose City College, Washington transferred to Indiana University and played two seasons for legendary coach Bob Knight. He played for the JBL’s Niigata Albirex from 2000-03, then spent one season with the Honka Playboys in Finland. He has been a member of the Evessa since the team entered the bj-league in 2005 for its inaugural season.

Osaka, a three-time champion (2005-06, 2006-07 and 2007-08), has been one of the bj-league’s dominant teams.

Washington, 33, averaged 21.8 points and 10.7 rebounds in 229 bj-league regular-season games entering the 2011-12 campaign. This season, he’s averaging 17.9 points and 8.5 rebounds in 34 games.

The Evessa are currently 26-12 and in second place in the nine-team Western Conference, trailing only the Ryukyu Golden Kings (32-8). The Kyoto Hannaryz are in third place (25-13).

A fan favorite throughout the league, Washington has endorsed Spalding Japan for several years and appeared on a back-page advertisement for the league’s official guide book.

Last summer, he was selected as the greatest player in league history in a Hoop Scoop column that appeared in this newspaper.

A constant critic of the status quo and the mind-numbing impasse between the JBL and the bj-league, Washington has been one of the best ambassadors for Japanese basketball over the years. Time after time, he talked about the need for one league in the future and increased competition between the JBL and bj-league clubs in the interim to help the sport move forward.