Berth with Blazers is oh-so-sweet
After years with two losing teams, Shareef Abdur-Rahim is hungry for playoff spot
Delicia Abdur-Rahim has graduated from law school and likely will attempt to pass the bar exam one day. For now, she has other priorities.
Delicia and her husband, Trail Blazer forward Shareef, have a son, Jabri, who turns 2 on March 23. And there is another child on the way. Once the newest member of the family arrives, look for Delicia to move full-time to Portland and become a visible member of the community.
'Right now she is going back and forth between Portland and our home in Atlanta,' Shareef Abdur-Rahim says. 'She is comfortable with her doctor in Atlanta, so she is pretty much staying there. But (after the birth), she will be up here with me.
'Delicia is probably even more excited about making the transition to Portland than I am. She knows how badly I have wanted to be on a good team. She gets on the Internet and reads all the articles. She is excited to get up here and support the team and be a part of the community.'
Abdur-Rahim, 27, has an Olympic gold medal (2000) and an All-Star Game appearance (2002) along with a 20.7-point scoring average through his eight NBA seasons. The 6-9, 245-pound forward out of California-Berkeley has been a model of consistency in nearly every way, including one way he would not choose Ñ consistently playing for losing teams. When he was with Vancouver and Atlanta, the teams never won more than 35 games in a season.
He has never had a sniff of the playoffs.
For the former Cal Bear, being traded to Portland with Theo Rafliff and Dan Dickau for Rasheed Wallace and Wes Person was like finding a pot of honey.
'When you get down to it, all that matters is to win,' says Abdur-Rahim, Pac-10 player of the year in 1995-96. 'You look at the great teams Portland had in the early '90s. I couldn't tell you how many points Clyde Drexler or Buck Williams or Jerome Kersey or Terry Porter averaged. I just remember they were a great team, and they were winners. That's why people remember them. That's why people love them.
'I have accomplished a lot of things in my career, but I have always wanted to win. We have a chance to make the playoffs. The atmosphere here is different than any I've been in in my career. I am secure in knowing I can play basketball. I don't mind whatever role (coach Maurice Cheeks) wants me to play. Numbers aren't important. Playing time isn't important. I know I can help this team. That is the main thing I want to do.'
Sometimes words like those ring hollow with professional athletes. But Abdur-Rahim's declaration seems sincere. Having been labeled a 'loser' throughout his pro career stings him.
'No disrespect intended, but anybody who says that about me É you can't get too caught up in that,' he says. 'I may not have been on the best teams, or played for the best coaches or with the best teammates, but I have always done what I can to help my team win. I think my coaches and teammates would tell you that.
'I know in my heart I am a winner. I feel like I will solidify that over my career, beginning this season in Portland.'
'This is Zach's team'
Portland has two starting power forwards in Abdur-Rahim and Zach Randolph, who was putting together All-Star-type numbers when Abdur-Rahim arrived. Randolph's game sputtered in their first few games together, but not because he doesn't like his new teammate.
Randolph spent much of the summer after his rookie season at Abdur-Rahim's home in Atlanta, working out in his private gym. Abdur-Rahim offered tidbits of advice and embraced the young prodigy.
'He's my man,' Randolph says.
But Abdur-Rahim's arrival in Portland gave Randolph pause, though Adbur-Rahim moved to quell any problems by immediately declaring: 'This is Zach's team. I am the one who has to adjust, not him.'
And when Randolph made it clear to Cheeks he wanted to start, Abdur-Rahim told the coach he didn't mind coming off the bench.
'That tells you what Shareef is all about,' Cheeks says. 'That is part of being a leader. Hopefully, Zach and our other young guys will pick up on that and learn from it.'
Cheeks already is sold on Abdur-Rahim, both as a person and a player.
'Shareef's game is kind of like his personality Ñ quiet but effective,' the third-year Blazer mentor says. 'I am intrigued by him, because he shows a lot of versatility. He is a power forward who can play some (small forward). He scores, he rebounds, he is a better defender than I thought, and he understands the game. Him being with us can help Zach so much, because he can teach him little things about this game. He is a very intelligent player and a very intelligent person.'
Damon Stoudamire says he couldn't have been more impressed with his new teammate.
'Shareef is good for our team,' the veteran point guard says. 'He is going to practice hard and play hard. I don't know if he will ever be a vocal leader, but he is always going to be the type who leads by example. He comes in, works hard and goes about business.
'The guy has averaged 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds) his whole career. He is probably not going to do that with us, but he is in a situation where he is going to win more games than he ever has. He knows that, and he is doing a good job of trying to blend in and not rock the boat.'
He'll do what's needed
Abdur-Rahim has averaged nearly 16 shots a game through his career. In his first five games as a Blazer, he averaged 11 shots. No worries.
'I'm not here to come in and take all the shots,' he says. 'I'm here to do whatever Coach needs me to do. If he needs offense, fine. If it's defense, fine. Rebounding, fine. This was a good team before I got here. I just want to fit in and not disrupt anything and try to make us better.
'Adding myself and Theo makes this team deeper. I like our chances, but we have to keep getting better as a group. We still have some miscommunication. We make some young mistakes sometimes.
'I have reaped a lot of benefits in my time in this league, but if you don't win, you feel unfulfilled. I know Theo and I will get tested how serious we are about our commitment to winning here. This road trip (that began Monday against Miami) will be a good test for us Ñ for all of us. We can prove we belong as a (playoff) contender, that we are the team we are supposed to be.'
Abdur-Rahim is shooting .875 from the foul line and ranks seventh in the NBA in free-throw attempts with 353. His ability to get to the line could be a key for the Blazers the rest of the season. É Abdur-Rahim and Stoudamire are tied for eighth in the league in free-throw percentage. The difference: Stoudamire has attempted only 104 free throws in 55 games. É Portland management is sifting through a half-dozen candidates to add a shooting guard, including Matt Carroll, a rookie who played 13 games with the Blazers this season. Carroll is now with Roanoke of the NBDL É 'Perfect Score' is not the first movie in which Darius Miles has appeared. He had a cameo in 'Van Wilder.' 'Not a lot of people even know about that,' Miles says, 'but it was fun. I enjoyed it.'