Nothing really new here.
Kemp Loses the Weight and Regains the Desire
By LIZ ROBBINS
Shawn Kemp sat in a Seattle jail cell for four hours last April. His weight had ballooned to 330 pounds and he knew he would have to explain to the Little League team he was coaching why he had been arrested.
"When a person gets to the age of 35 and you go to jail, it either makes you or breaks you," Kemp said last week in a telephone interview. "It made me identify what I wanted. It's how you want to be remembered. Are you going to fight for it or just lay down?"
Kemp, a five-time All-Star, retired from the N.B.A. in 2003, saddled by weight issues and three drug-related suspensions. Last April, he pleaded guilty to attempted possession of marijuana.
He said the marijuana found in his car belonged to the friend he was with, and the court agreed. Kemp was sentenced to five days of house arrest and a year's probation, and he vowed to change his life.
"It probably didn't happen soon enough," he said.
Since then, Kemp has shed pounds and decided to make a comeback to the N.B.A.
"It was important not just to lose weight but to come back and play at a high level," he said.
His agent, Tony Dutt, said that a few teams had contacted him, and that Dallas had tried to set up a workout. As of week's end, it appeared unlikely that the Mavericks would get an injury exception to add a player for the postseason.
The first question teams ask, Dutt said, is how much Kemp weighs.
"I've been called so many names and been written off by so many people who just say, 'Whatever happened to this guy?' " Kemp said. "I tell my buddies, 'Never say never.' "
Kemp is no longer the Reign Man, but the anonymous running man, logging as many as seven miles a day. With his wife, Marvena, and their three sons in Seattle, Kemp has spent weekdays in Houston for the last year, climbing the stadium stairs at Rice University and playing pickup games. He wears a 40-pound vest during workouts.
Kemp, 36, said he jump-started his weight loss by going on a monthlong diet consisting of oatmeal three times a day.
"I was waiting on phone calls and nobody really called," he said. "I'm so afraid of getting heavy, losing a step, so I kept running."
At 6 feet 10 inches and now 267 pounds, Kemp said his athleticism had returned. Whether he can return to game shape and regain his rhythm after missing three seasons is another issue. He regrets not having had the same discipline when he signed a $100 million contract with Cleveland, a year after his N.B.A. finals appearance with Seattle.
Kemp knows there will be other doubts, but he maintains that he changed his habits to concentrate on his comeback.
"I've done drugs in the past, I've tested positive in the league," he said, acknowledging that he would have to enter an aftercare program to return to the N.B.A., as he did when he played for Orlando.
He became infamous when a Sports Illustrated article disclosed that he had seven children with six women. "I've got some kids out there; it's no secret," he said. "I've never been late on payments. I've handled it as best as I possibly can. There's no lawsuits. I try to stay on top of it."
Kemp said he would be willing to play in a summer league to prove to teams that he had changed. He recalled being doubted as the 17th overall pick in the 1989 draft.
"I came into the league fighting, and it looks like I'm going to go out fighting," he said.
Pacers Can't Even Find the Same Page
The Pacers used to be an example of Murphy's Law. Now they are symbols of the underachieving Eastern Conference.
Indiana, Milwaukee, Chicago and Philadelphia are jockeying for the final three playoff spots, each with a losing record, raising the question: Who wants it less?
The Pacers lost two primary starters to injury: Jermaine O'Neal (groin) for 24 games and Jamaal Tinsley (elbow) for 26. They dealt again with the Ron Artest distraction, before and after the Pacers traded him to Sacramento in January. "Our struggles can't be pointed to Ron Artest because he has been gone a long time," O'Neal said Friday before the Pacers lost to the Knicks, their seventh straight road loss.
O'Neal returned two weeks ago, then the Pacers lost five in a row to drop below .500.
"Right now, it's an old song, getting everybody on the same page," he said. "We have had enough people to play, it's just been poor basketball."
The Pacers have recently lost to Atlanta, Houston and Toronto, playing apathetic defense and losing leads. Coach Rick Carlisle, in his third season, still keeps a tight rein on the play-calling, but his players do not always respond.
"As much as we've struggled, we're fortunate to be in a position where we can still make the playoffs," Carlisle said.
But how will mediocrity sit with the team's ultracompetitive president, Larry Bird, and chief executive, Donnie Walsh?
Carlisle was fired by Detroit after compiling a better record than he has with the Pacers this season, and his and his team's performance, despite the circumstances, will most likely be discussed this summer.
"You feel bad for him because it's been a tough situation," O'Neal said. "I like him personally, but if the team doesn't do well, we all know we're accountable for these losses."
The Pacers are inclined to re-sign Peja Stojakovic and would listen to trade offers for O'Neal.
"Obviously, we have to make moves and, in talking to the organization, we will make moves," O'Neal said.
Italian Coach Still Shares His Secrets
Sandro Gamba once received a standing ovation at Madison Square Garden, an honor that translates well on a résumé that now includes the Hall of Fame. Gamba, 74, one of Europe's most noted basketball pioneers, coached the Italian national team in four Olympics.
He remembers clearly the ovation at the 1981 National Invitation Tournament. He was announced as the coach who led Italy to an upset of the Soviet Union in the semifinals of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
Gamba also led his team to a European championship in 1983 and won five Italian league championships.
"The best thing I've done was to coach Bill Bradley," he said last week from Milan, where he is recovering from hip replacement surgery. "He won the Rhodes scholarship to Oxford, and he came to Milan to play three days a week from London. He was like a little kid, very coachable. He always told me: 'Correct my moves. How is my shooting?' "
One of Gamba's most famous students is Mike D'Antoni, who played at Olimpia Milan and is now coach and general manager of the Phoenix Suns.
"He's a big brain," Gamba said. "As a point guard, he could read the situation in every part of the game. He asked me for notes on my tactics. It was his dream to be a coach."
Gamba retired 15 years ago and teaches sports psychology at a private institute he founded in Milan.
"I still have the fire inside me to teach," he said. "Communication is at the base of good coaching."