Shareef Abdur-Rahim announced his retirement today, ending his stellar career after 12 seasons.
For the last 18 months, the 31-year-old Kings forward had been unable to recover from two arthroscopic knee surgeries and was faced with the reality of retirement far sooner than he had anticipated. But after saying in July that his body would make the decision for him, the answer was not what he had hoped for.
"I've been in a situation where I've been trying to get healthy over the last year and a half," Abdur-Rahim said in a statement. "I came to grips with the fact that, health-wise, I won't be able to get back to the condition and level that is needed to play in the NBA. My right knee has become arthritic over the years and is to the point where it won't allow me to do the things and play at the level in which I'm accustomed to playing. As tough as it is to come to grips with, it's the reality."
Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie, who has become increasingly fond of Abdur-Rahim in recent years, indicated what had been hinted to in this blog in recent months: that Abdur-Rahim could stay on board as a coach. After entering the summer with much talk about hiring a big man's coach, the Kings could call on the man who averaged at least 19.9 points per game in seven of his seasons and at least 8.4 rebounds in five seasons to fill that role.
"First of all, on behalf of the organization I want to thank Shareef for his contribution to the Kings and NBA both on and off the court," Petrie said in the statement. "He has had an exemplary career as a player and citizen. It is unfortunate for any productive career to be felled by injury. However, no one can ever doubt Shareef's effort, commitment or desire to excel. It is our intention to find a new role for Shareef with the organization as he begins the next phase of his professional life."
While the Kings most certainly wish Abdur-Rahim's decline hadn't come with two seasons left on his five-year deal worth $29 million, there is a silver lining in the situation. There is a strong possibility that they will have Abdur-Rahim's salary ($6.6 million) come off of the salary cap for the 2009-10 season. It would be unexpected relief at a time when their long-term vision of clearing cap space and completing the rebuilding process would be coming into focus.
According to the league's collective bargaining agreement, the Kings would have to apply for his salary to be covered by insurance because his career was cut short by injury. If the league's medical folks confirm his condition as the reason for retirement, the Kings get the relief. For the record, it is already too late for the Kings to be absolved of his 2008-09 salary. In order for that to take place, Abdur-Rahim would have had to make his decision during the 2007-08 campaign.
More to come. Keep checking back for more...
* Shareef isn't the only one in his family who's joining the coaching ranks. His younger brother, Amir Abdur-Rahim, was recently hired as an assistant coach at Murray State in Kentucky. - Read here.
* When Shareef came to town, his reputation as an upstanding, kind-hearted person of deep faith came along with him. I first got to know him through the following story...
* I spoke with Abdur-Rahim about an hour ago, and you can read his comments in tomorrow's paper. For now, you'll have to settle for his agent, Aaron Goodwin. The mega-agent has been with Abdur-Rahim since he was drafted third overall by Vancouver out of Cal in 1996.
"He's one of those people where you just know he's going to succeed no matter what they do, especially if it's in the business of basketball," Goodwin said. "It's actually a good day for me, because I've seen him embarking from a basketball player to the business side - whether it's coaching or whatever he does.
"He's definitely going to discuss (the prospect of being a big man's coach) with them. He's going to take some time, a few days, to decide what he wants to do. He could have the office next to mine if he wanted it."
Goodwin told a story of the shortened 1998-99 season, when Abdur-Rahim called to make sure the NBA lockout wasn't hitting his agent's family finances too hard.
"Let me tell you how good Shareef is," Goodwin said. "During the lockout, everyone is preparing for what's coming. And just as players don't get paid, agents don't get paid (in a lockout). Shareef calls me and asks me, 'You OK? Is your family going to be OK? Because if not, you know you can call me.' That's the type of person he is.
"He'd call all the time and say, 'How you doing, how's your family?' A player asking an agent, 'Do you need anything?' is unheard of. He asked me that all the time." - Sam Amick