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Thursday, April 19, 2001
Blazers' Kemp done for season

PORTLAND, Ore. – There were moments when Shawn Kemp made significant contributions to the Portland Trail Blazers' quest for an NBA title, and others when the former All-Star simply embarrassed himself on the court.

But few expected the 31-year-old forward's first season in Portland to end so ignominiously, leaving the team to check himself into a drug rehabilitation program. Kemp will be treated for cocaine abuse and won't return this season.

It is sad to hear this news about Shawn Kemp. At one time Kemp played above the rim and ran the floor like a reindeer. Lately, he hasn't been able to get over the rim, much less dunk. He's been struggling on both ends of the floor--offensively and defensively.

  • Dr. Jack's complete analysis
  • Since Kemp volunteered for the program he will continue on full salary, Blazers general manager Bob Whitsitt said before Friday night's game at Golden State.

    Portland put Kemp on injured reserve Friday night and activated Antonio Harvey.

    Portland players were asked not to comment on the situation before the game.

    "The entire Blazer organization supports Shawn during this difficult time," Whitsitt said in a press release. "He's taking steps to put his personal life in order so that he can return to his professional career and Shawn should be commended for his actions."

    "It is what it is," said coach Mike Dunleavy. "We wish Shawn the best and the fullest recovery. We'll be waiting with open arms for him when he recovers."

    Since this is his first drug offense, Kemp is not subject to suspension by the NBA. There will be no league penalty for this offense. When Kemp is released from the treatment facility, however, he will be subject to random drug testing at the discretion of the league's aftercare program.

    The situation couldn't come at a worse time for the Blazers, who had lost 10 of their previous 15 games and had fallen from the top playoff spot in the Western Conference to sixth. While coach Mike Dunleavy has shifted to an eight-player rotation that often excludes Kemp, he still was counted on to back up center Arvydas Sabonis and power forward Rasheed Wallace.

    Overall, it has been a disappointing 12th NBA season for Kemp, who is averaging 6.5 point and 3.8 rebounds, his worst numbers since his rookie season in 1989-90.

    When he was traded from Cleveland to Portland last August -- a deal that also sent Brian Grant from the Blazers to the Miami Heat -- Kemp said he was fine with a supporting role. But eventually he complained about playing time and the weight problems and foul trouble that marred his last two seasons with the Cavaliers further slowed his comeback.

    Woefully out of shape, Kemp constantly reached in to commit fouls. And on offense, he wasn't close to the same player who ran the floor gracefully and threw down ferocious dunks as the SuperSonics' "Reign Man." At close to 300 pounds, Kemp was more likely to settle for a long jumper or bowl somebody over on his way toward the basket.

    In late February, Dunleavy benched Kemp, playing him just 16 minutes in a span of five games. Kemp got the message, and started to make more of an effort. One of his best performances of the season came on March 3, when he scored 14 points -- including 10 during a five-minute span -- in a 31-point rout of the Warriors.

    Teammates praised his hard work, and Dunleavy said he was getting in shape. Kemp himself thought he had turned the corner.

    "Time makes a difference," he said then. "We've got a lot of guys on the team, so I haven't seen a lot of time. You have to be patient. It's not an easy situation to deal with, but I've managed this far."

    In a victory over the Clippers on March 26, Kemp again played well, scoring 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting. But over his last four games, he scored a total of 18 points on 5-of-19 shooting.

    He played nine minutes in a loss at Denver on Tuesday night, and the next day the team said he had been granted an excused absence for "personal reasons." But the team said he would return for Friday night's game.

    Despite Kemp's troubled three seasons in Cleveland, Blazers general manager Bob Whitsitt long had coveted the 6-foot-10 player. Whitsitt was the GM in Seattle when Kemp went from a high school phenom to a star and led the Sonics to the 1996 Finals. Whitsitt wasn't bothered by Kemp's huge salary, either. Kemp is making $11.7 million this season, and has three years and $58.3 million left on the reworked deal he signed with the Cavs.

    Upon arriving in Portland last Aug. 31, Kemp was thankful for what he predicted would be "a rebirth of my career."

    "Basketball has brought me so many things in my life," he said. "The last thing I want to do is let people think I disrespect the game."

    Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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