ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Coach Doc Rivers gazed around the quiet
Orlando locker room and chose his words carefully.
Magic center Shawn Kemp was suspended earlier Tuesday by the NBA
for violating the terms of the league's anti-drug policy, and
Rivers knew the status of the six-time All-Star was weighing
heavily on the minds of his players.
"The first thing I told them was forget basketball. I like
Shawn Kemp as a person and I care about him as a person,'' Rivers
said after the Magic withstood a late New Jersey rally to defeat
the Nets 92-83 and stop a three-game losing streak.
"They were down and it was pretty emotional. But one of the
things I told them is that you have to choose to be miserable. I
don't care if the situation is miserable, you still have to make
that choice to be miserable.''
Tracy McGrady had 32 points and eight rebounds and Darrell
Armstrong delivered a clutch 3-point shot to stop the New Jersey's
momentum after the Nets used a 16-6 run to pull to 83-81 with 1:40
The loss was just the second in eight games for the Nets, who
won three straight going into the All-Star break for a share of the
best record in the East with the Indiana Pacers.
"We shot 32 percent and you are not supposed to have a chance
to win, but we did. That gives us something to draw from,'' said
Nets guard Jason Kidd. "We just didn't make shots.''
That wasn't a problem for McGrady, who 12-of-25 from the field
and made six of eight free throws. Armstrong finished with 20
points and five assists for the Magic, who began the fourth quarter
with a 15-2 run, opening a 12-point lead.
The specific reason for Kemp's suspension was not revealed,
however it will continue until the six-time All-Star has resumed
full compliance with his treatment program. Rivers said he had not
talked with Kemp since learning of the suspension just before
leaving home for the arena.
The coach added that he's more concerned than disappointed in
Kemp, who has violated terms of the anti-drug policy three times.
"He has a disease number one and is day to day, and we know
that. We knew that the day we signed him. We don't know what's
happened yet, we really don't. There's a chance Shawn Kemp might be
on the plane next game,'' Rivers said.
"I'm more concerned about the human being. Honestly, I tell you
this, I'd be willing to lose my third starter if you told me for
the rest of his life he'd be OK but he couldn't play any more. I'd
take that right now. I honestly would.''
Overcoming a slow start, the Nets finished the first half with a
10-2 run to lead 40-38 at the break. Orlando trailed 63-62 going
into the fourth quarter and went ahead for good during the 15-2
surge that put them up 77-65.
New Jersey gradually came back, pulling to 83-81 on two free
throws by Martin. But Armstrong responded with his 3-pointer and
Pat Garrity's three-point play made it 89-83 with 44.9 seconds
"We went through this last year,'' Kidd said. "We came back
from the All-Star break and lost the first two. You are going to
have nights like this. You just have to bounce back.''
Andrew DeClercq started at center in place of Kemp and had
two points and three rebounds in 19 minutes. The suspension also
meant increased playing time for Steven Hunter and Olumide Oyedeji.
... The Nets didn't have a turnover in the first half and finished
with six. ... New Jersey is 22-2 at home, 12-14 on the road.