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1 PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
Phil Taylor
October 30, 2000
Bigger, deeper, tougher, hungrier: What it all adds up to is a new NBA champion
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October 30, 2000

1 Portland Trail Blazers

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

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Projected Lineup

STARTERS

PVR*

1999-2000 KEY STATS

SF Scottie Pippen

52

12.5 ppg

6.3 rpg

5.0 apg

1.43 spg

45.1 FG%

PF Rasheed Wallace

19

16.4 ppg

7.0 rpg

1.32 bpg

1.07 spg

51.9 FG%

C Arvydas Sabonis

146

11.8 ppg

7.8 rpg

1.8 apg

1.18 bpg

50.5 FG%

SG Steve Smith

67

14.9 ppg

3.8 rpg

2.5 apg

46.7 FG%

39.8 3FG%

PG Damon Stoudamire

89

12.5 ppg

5.2 apg

3.1 rpg

43.2 FG%

37.7 3FG%

BENCH

PVR*

1999-2000 KEY STATS

F Shawn Kemp

60

17.8 ppg

8.8 rpg

1.17 bpg

1.22 spg

41.7 FG%

C Dale Davis

106

10.0 ppg

9.9 rpg

1.27 bpg

50.2 FG%

68.5 FT%

G Bonzi Wells

160

8.8 ppg

2.8 rpg

1.5 apg

1.05 spg

49.2 FG%

G Greg Anthony

228

6.3 ppg

2.5 apg

0.72 spg

40.6 FG%

37.8 3FG%

C Will Perdue

312

2.5 ppg

3.9 rpg

1.0 apg

0.63 bpg

35.1 FG%

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

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.

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.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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