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Monday, July 24, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Kemp says he has not used drugs since 2004

Seattle Times staff reporter

Shawn Kemp arrived at Green Lake Park on Sunday afternoon, smiling, shaking hands, hugging half the crowd gathered at the Battle of the Lake basketball tournament. This is the same man police arrested Friday morning in Houston for misdemeanor possession of marijuana.

In his first public comments since the arrest, Kemp told The Seattle Times there was marijuana in his truck on Friday, but he claimed that he has not used drugs since April 2004. Kemp also said he would take a drug test anytime and that he still believes he can return to the NBA.

The former Sonic knows how this sounds, like a broken record of excuses, another round of drug denials.

"I don't think it's going to hurt me on playing, but from the fan's standpoint, it definitely hurts me," Kemp said. "Because people are tired of hearing about this stuff. I'm tired of hearing about it, man. In all honesty, this one here probably affected me more than the last one did because I know what I've done since."

The "last one" he's referring to is another drug-related arrest last April in Shoreline, in which Kemp claimed the drugs in his car belonged to a friend. This time, near his home in Houston shortly after midnight Friday, Kemp was alone in his truck.

This is Kemp's version of events: He had just dropped off his lawyer, Scott Boatman, and was en route to a late-night gym. Harris County police pulled him over because his truck didn't have a license plate, and Kemp said that was because he was trading the truck in the next morning.

One report after the arrest said the deputy smelled burning marijuana when he pulled Kemp over. Kemp denies this, claims he hasn't smoked marijuana — or used any other drug — in more than two years. Kemp said police found four grams of marijuana in the back of the truck. He claims the drugs were old and claims he did not know they were there.

Kemp said police did not handcuff him, and he did not enter a jail cell. They took him to the station, he signed some papers and, when he left 45 minutes later, there was a TV crew waiting outside.

"As far as the fans, hell, I understand," Kemp said. "It's tough to recuperate after two of those. I was a fan before I was a player. I've seen other guys mess up, and I've been hard on them. It's a big embarrassment. It's the history of it, man."

The difference between this arrest and the previous, Kemp said, is that he's willing to take a drug test. The question is what team, if any, would be willing to take that chance.

"If teams want me, they can come in and test me," Kemp said. "If they don't, if that scares them, then that's going to be a tough one to live with. But I'm going to have to live with it.

"What it boils down to, man, is I'm a guy with some history. And if one of these teams does take a chance on me, if something goes wrong, they're going to let me go at the drop of a dime. And I know that."

Kemp said he will play basketball regardless next season, either with one of two NBA teams he said he's talking to or in Europe. Kemp wouldn't say which teams he is talking to, but he said both teams were playoff-caliber and that he talked to both after the arrest.

Kemp looked even slimmer at Green Lake than he did when he told The Times last summer of his intention to return to the NBA. The 6-foot-10 forward said he weighs 257 pounds.

"I don't mind earning my way," Kemp said. "I done ran and jogged and jumped rope and done so many drills this summer that getting on the court is easy. It's the other stuff now that I've got to deal with. The basketball stuff is going to be pretty easy."

His next scheduled court appearance is Friday, and Kemp did not discuss how he is going to plead. Asked if he would be in the NBA next season, he was more direct, while understanding it's possible no one will believe his explanation.

"It's a big chance that it can happen," Kemp said. "I just know how much I put into it, man. I've been able to change everything around. That's why this is a big embarrassment to me. I still hope something is going to happen."

Greg Bishop: 206-464-3191 or gbishop@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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