Blazers Add Davis, Kemp to Mix

Saturday, September 2nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Portland Trail Blazers have been scheming and conniving all summer long, trying to figure out a way to beat Shaquille O'Neal.

In less than 24 hours, the Blazers added nearly 14 feet of brawn aimed at slowing down Shaq and disrupting the Lakers' chances of repeating as NBA champions.

A day after acquiring 6-foot-10 Shawn Kemp from the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Blazers got 6-11 Dale Davis in a trade with the Indiana Pacers on Thursday.

``We're trying to win a championship,'' Blazers general manager Bob Whitsitt said. ``We're close, and we're trying to do all we can while we're in that window.''

Kemp was traded Wednesday in a three-way deal that also sent Brian Grant from Portland to the Miami Heat, who dealt Chris Gatling and Clarence Weatherspoon to Cleveland along with a future first-round pick. To get Davis, the Blazers gave up underperforming and unhappy forward Jermaine O'Neal and 38-year-old veteran Joe Kleine.

The trades came right after Whitsitt returned from a safari in Africa, and once again he bagged the high-profile star players he went after. Last season, Whitsitt brought Scottie Pippen to Portland through a sign-and-trade with Houston, then landed Steve Smith in a deal with Atlanta.

The revamped team came 10 minutes short of making the finals, blowing a 15-point lead early in the fourth quarter to lose Game 7 of the conference finals to the Lakers.

In the finals, Shaq led the Lakers past Indiana, but Davis played well against O'Neal. Davis had 20 points and 14 rebounds in the deciding Game 6.

``He's a terrific rebounder, shot-blocker and defender,'' Portland coach Mike Dunleavy said. ``And I thought his offensive game was the best he's had in the NBA.''

The Blazers might have more forwards than they know what to do with, but Dunleavy insists all the big men will give him more versatility. Kemp likely will back up Rasheed Wallace at power forward, but he also could play center behind Arvydas Sabonis and small forward in relief of Pippen.

That adds up to a lot of fouls to throw at O'Neal.

``The best thing to do with Shaq is to put a guy like me and Rasheed Wallace on the court and let us outrun Shaq,'' Kemp said. ``If he can do that for seven games in a series and not be tired, he might be the real Superman. But I can't see that.''

While Davis averaged 10 points and 9.9 rebounds, making his first All-Star team, O'Neal contributed virtually nothing since coming out of Eau Claire (S.C.) High School in 1996. He averaged just 12.3 minutes, 3.9 points and 3.3 rebounds last season and couldn't crack the rotation playing behind forwards Wallace and Grant.

``I just don't think he was as talented as the guys who were playing in front of him,'' Dunleavy said.

O'Neal, entering the second year of a four-year, $24 million contract he signed last summer, demanded to be traded in mid-June. Dunleavy said O'Neal could have improved his chances at more minutes by playing on Portland's summer league team, but on the day he was supposed to leave for Long Beach, O'Neal went shopping for hats at a department store.

Portland must seem like paradise revisited for Kemp, who fled a terrible situation in Cleveland and returns to the Pacific Northwest, where he became a star with the Seattle SuperSonics.

``It's going to be a rebirth of my career,'' Kemp said.

Kemp deftly handled questions about his weight, which soared past 300 pounds last summer and brought him waves of taunts with the Cavaliers.

``I've heard so much about the weight the last couple years that all I can tell you is, once I go to training camp, that won't be a problem,'' he said.

Kemp had his best statistical season in 1999, the year of the lockout and his second with the Cavs. He averaged a career-high 20.5 points and 9.2 rebounds.

Losing took its toll, however. Cleveland made the playoffs just once during Kemp's three season. And all the while, Kemp was hounded for his unwieldy contract, which will pay him $46.5 million in 2002-03 and 2003-04.

``I played so many years without having a big contract, to have the big contract and not win and not have the appreciation, it hurt,'' he said. ``I never want to be considered a guy who made a lot of money who didn't earn it. That was the toughest thing to deal with of anything.''