Thursday, April 19, 2001
Blazers' Kemp done for season
ESPN.com news services
PORTLAND, Ore. There were moments when Shawn Kemp
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.
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
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
"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
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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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.
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