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Kemp to finish up in rehab

Published: Friday, April 6 2001 10:22 a.m. MDT

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Trail Blazers forward Shawn Kemp, mired in one of the worst seasons of his career, has checked himself into a rehabilitation program for cocaine abuse and won't play again this season, The Oregonian reported.

CNN/SI.com first reported the story late Thursday night, but it did not specify why Kemp was entering the program. The Oregonian cited a source identified only as "close to the team" in reporting Kemp's cocaine problem.

Kemp was given an excused absence from Wednesday night's game at Minnesota, but the team said it was for "personal reasons," and that the six-time All-Star was expected to rejoin the Blazers for Friday night's game at Golden State.

Blazers spokeswoman Sue Carpenter told The Associated Press that she knew nothing about Kemp entering rehabilitation. Carpenter said the first she had heard of the story was from CNN/SI.

"Honestly, I don't know anything more," she said.

The Oregonian reported that the Blazers would make an announcement before the game against the Warriors.

Kemp, once known as the "Reign Man" for his acrobatic dunks with the Seattle SuperSonics, has been plagued with weight problems the past two seasons. Last summer, he was traded from Cleveland to the Blazers in a trade that sent popular Brian Grant from Portland to the Miami Heat.

The trade has been a bust for the Blazers and an embarrassment for Portland general manager Bob Whitsitt. Kemp is averaging 6.5 points and 3.8 rebounds, his worst numbers since his rookie season in 1989-90. He is making $11.7 million this season, third-highest on the team behind Scottie Pippen and Rasheed Wallace.

After being benched by coach Mike Dunleavy in late February, Kemp began playing better. He scored 14 points in a March 3 home victory over Golden State and earned praise from his coach for working harder in practice.

But during the Blazers' recent slide, during which they have lost 10 of 15 games and fallen from first place in the Western Conference playoff race to sixth, Kemp found himself playing less, and when he did get into games, he often committed silly turnovers or untimely fouls.

Kemp, 31, played eight seasons for the Sonics, leading the team to the 1996 Finals. He played three mostly unhappy seasons with the Cavaliers. Although Cleveland had signed him to a seven-year, $98 million contract, Whitsitt — who used to be the Sonics' GM — jumped at the chance to get him.

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