TUALATIN, Ore. (AP) - Former Cleveland Cavaliers star and current Portland Trail Blazers forward Shawn Kemp (pictured, right) was suspended indefinitely without pay by the NBA on Friday for violating terms of the league's anti-drug agreement.
The NBA said the suspension will continue until he has resumed full compliance with his treatment program. Kemp, who also has battled weight problems, left the Blazers late last season for treatment of cocaine abuse.
"Obviously we're very sadly disappointed, but we're very supportive of Shawn and his efforts in his personal life. We're pulling for Shawn," Blazers president and general manager Bob Whitsitt said.
Kemp, who signed a seven-year, $98 million contract in 1997 after moving from Seattle to Cleveland, is averaging 5.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 13.6 minutes in 52 games this season, his second with Portland. Each game Kemp misses will cost him $141,889 of his $12.77 million salary.
"I talked to Shawn a little while ago," Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks said. "He's a little sad, a little disappointed in himself. He says he's going to come back, he's going to do everything he has to do to get back."
Last season, Kemp took a leave of absence from the team with eight games left in the regular season. Three days later, the Blazers said he would enter a substance abuse program.
He averaged 6.5 points in 2000-01, his lowest output since his rookie season with Seattle in 1989-90.
In Portland's 90-84 win over Seattle on Wednesday night, Kemp had 10 points and six rebounds in 20 minutes. He had seven points in the Blazers' 94-79 victory over Atlanta on Thursday night.
"Shawn's been wonderful all season," Whitsitt said. "He's been on time, he's been early, he's been putting in extra work. From a basketball and teammate perspective he's as good as I've ever seen him in my entire life."
Kemp, a six-time All-Star, was one of the league's rising talents when he was with Seattle. During the 1999 lockout, his weight ballooned to more than 300 pounds, and his production dropped.
When Kemp left an Atlanta drug rehabilitation center last year, he said he had one goal: "Just to be great again."
At the start of the season, Kemp was Cheeks' first player off the bench, playing power forward and center.
Although Kemp, 32, was not suspended by the league last year, the absence counted as Kemp's first strike against the anti-drug policy. It is up to the medical director of the substance abuse program to determine if this latest incident counts as strike two.
Players with three strikes face a two-year ban from the league.
"My understanding is that as soon as Shawn is in compliance, he will be available to play," Whitsitt said.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)