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1 Portland Trail Blazers Bigger, deeper, tougher, hungrier: What it all adds up to is a new NBA champion

Oct. 30, 2000
Oct. 30, 2000

Table of Contents
Oct. 30, 2000

NBA Preview 2000-01

1 Portland Trail Blazers Bigger, deeper, tougher, hungrier: What it all adds up to is a new NBA champion

Shawn Kemp reads a scale differently from most people. He
stepped on one recently and insists that the machine revealed
not a number but a prediction. "It said I was going to have a
great season and that we were going to go out and kick a lot of
butt," he says. Over the past two years Kemp has steadfastly
maintained that he had not gained an appreciable amount of
weight despite ample evidence to the contrary, so it can be
argued that he's not exactly adept at interpreting a scale. But
the latter part of his message is on target--the Trail Blazers
should be the biggest butt-kickers in the league this year.

This is an article from the Oct. 30, 2000 issue Original Layout

The Blazers are so talented and so deep they could win the
championship even if Kemp, the six-time All-Star power forward
acquired from Cleveland in a three-way deal in August, doesn't
have a big season. But if he sheds enough excess pounds to remind
people of the explosive, lane-filling, power-dunking form he
showed for eight years in Seattle, Portland will be absolutely
frightening.

More to the point, the Blazers will be uniquely qualified to
create problems for the Lakers. Until its late collapse in Game
7 of last year's conference finals, Portland guarded Shaquille
O'Neal more successfully than any pro team ever has. If Shaq
thought Portland was sending wave after wave of long-armed
harassers at him in that game, he won't believe the number of
big Blazers coming his way this year, now that the 6'10" Kemp
and 6'11" Dale Davis, acquired in a trade with Indiana, have
joined 7'3" Arvydas Sabonis and 6'11" Rasheed Wallace. Portland
coach Mike Dunleavy can comfortably put any three of those
quality big men on the floor at the same time.

Portland is just as well-stocked elsewhere, with Scottie Pippen
at small forward; Steve Smith and Bonzi Wells, a playoff
revelation last year, at shooting guard; and Damon Stoudamire and
Greg Anthony at the point. With five players who have been
All-Stars (Davis, Kemp, Pippen, Smith and Wallace) and a sixth
(Stoudamire) who has led his team in scoring, the battle for
playing time will be even more intense than it was last year.
"It's not going to be unusual, somewhere along the line, for
everybody to be bemoaning their situation a little bit," Dunleavy
says. "The good news is that those types of situations didn't
last very long for us last season."

Still, the Blazers might find that there's such a thing as being
too deep. Stoudamire, for instance, has declared his willingness
to continue dialing his game back for the good of the team but
admits to feeling unfulfilled. "I would like to be on the court
more," he says. "I understand that our team is loaded with
talent. But it's frustrating going home at night knowing you can
do more."

Should Portland hit a rough patch, Stoudamire won't be the only
one voicing his frustrations. Kemp, though, has promised to be a
good soldier. "I'm 30 years old, so I can take fewer minutes a
game," he says. "Every guy on this team knows what I can do, so
I don't feel like I have to prove anything." It would be more
encouraging for the Blazers if Kemp sounded a little
hungrier--figuratively speaking of course. He is listed at 280
pounds in Portland's media guide, less than the 300-plus pounds
he reportedly weighed at the start of training camp with
Cleveland last season, but significantly more than the 256 he
was listed at during his Seattle days.

With the inspiration of having his best shot at a title since he
went to the Finals with Seattle in 1996, Kemp could well be a
more svelte, effective player by playoff time. If so, he and the
Blazers won't be worrying about the fit of his uniform but about
the fit of their championship rings.

--Phil Taylor

COLOR PHOTO: OHN W. MCDONOUGH WORTH THE WEIGHT Kemp still has waistline issues, but his presence tips the conference scales in Portland's favor.

In Fact

Only 15 of the players who qualified for the league lead in field
goal percentage last season shot better than 50%. Portland, with
Arvydas Sabonis, Rasheed Wallace and newly acquired Dale Davis,
is the only team with three players on that list.

Projected Lineup

STARTERS 1999-2000 KEY STATS
PVR*

SF Scottie Pippen 12.5 ppg 6.3 rpg 5.0 apg 1.43 spg 45.1 FG%
52

PF Rasheed Wallace 16.4 ppg 7.0 rpg 1.32 bpg 1.07 spg 51.9 FG%
19

C Arvydas Sabonis 11.8 ppg 7.8 rpg 1.8 apg 1.18 bpg 50.5 FG%
146

SG Steve Smith 14.9 ppg 3.8 rpg 2.5 apg 46.7 FG% 39.8 3FG%
67

PG Damon Stoudamire 12.5 ppg 5.2 apg 3.1 rpg 43.2 FG% 37.7 3FG%
89

BENCH 1999-2000 KEY STATS
PVR*

F Shawn Kemp[1] 17.8 ppg 8.8 rpg 1.17 bpg 1.22 spg 41.7 FG%
60

C Dale Davis[1] 10.0 ppg 9.9 rpg 1.27 bpg 50.2 FG% 68.5 FT%
106

G Bonzi Wells 8.8 ppg 2.8 rpg 1.5 apg 1.05 spg 49.2 FG%
160

G Greg Anthony 6.3 ppg 2.5 apg 0.72 spg 40.6 FG% 37.8 3FG%
228

C Will Perdue[1] 2.5 ppg 3.9 rpg 1.0 apg 0.63 bpg 35.1 FG%
312

[1]New acquisition (R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 113)

THE BOOK
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Blazers

"If I have to choose, I'll take Portland over the Lakers.... The
Blazers don't just have numbers up front, they have quality.
Shaquille O'Neal has never seen this many skilled big men coming
at him. These aren't a bunch of Joe Kleines.... Scottie Pippen
isn't capable of carrying a team, never has been. He doesn't
have the personality or the consistent offensive game to be the
go-to guy. But the Blazers are different. They're always going
to have a mismatch somewhere, so depending on the opponent, they
have four or five guys who could be the one they go to.... Don't
forget Bonzi Wells. He can give a lot of guards trouble with his
post-up ability.... Greg Anthony should be the starter at point
guard. He's a better defender than Damon Stoudamire, and the
Blazers already have plenty of scorers.... The big question here
is about Mike Dunleavy. You hear rumblings that not all the
players respect him enough to completely buy into how he decides
to distribute the minutes. If that's true, Portland could be in
trouble."