Posted Oct 8 2011 8:47PM
Come to think of it, yes, Shareef Abdur-Rahim could still be playing at 34 as he suggests, just as contemporaries from the 1996 Draft remain in the NBA and some quite able.
Abdur-Rahim is young. He offers the age reminder because 11 seasons, plus a fraction of another while hurt, with the Grizzlies, Hawks, Trail Blazers and Kings makes it seem he has been around a long time. But this suddenly feels more like the start of something potentially special than an end.
He is especially young in the updated perspective: 34 years old and already assistant general manager of the Kings with increasing responsibility and praise from superiors about the new career that could last a lot longer than 12 years.
"Shareef can go to the top," said Wayne Cooper, the vice president of basketball operations in Sacramento and No. 2 in basketball operations to Geoff Petrie. "I have no doubt about that. He's dedicated. He has knowledge of the game. He can go as far as he wants. He can be a GM."
General Manager Shareef Abdur-Rahim. He didn't see that coming.
Once the No. 3 pick in the draft, 2000 Olympian and 2002 All-Star with the hometown Hawks, he averaged at least 35 minutes the first seven seasons in Vancouver and Atlanta, a heavy work load, and broke 20 points in five of the seven. He was still at 25.2 minutes in 2006-07 as a part-time starter in Sacramento, just before it all went wrong.
Not only that, it went wrong on roller skates. From a career with good health to an arthritic right knee that turned so bad so fast that he went from the 80 appearances in 2006-07 to six the next season, or far fewer games than the number of times he had the joint drained. And then he was done, that quick, forced into retirement at age 30.
Abdur-Rahim had always been known as intelligent and grounded, but the end was so unexpectedly accelerated, when he had just been thinking about playing another four or five seasons, that he didn't have a next step. Spending time as a husband and father to two young kids, sure. But professionally, all he knew was that he wanted to stay in basketball and give his time to his Future Foundation in Atlanta.
The Kings came to him with an offer to become an assistant coach, mostly working with frontcourt players. The continued personality presence -- mature, genuine, dedicated -- would be welcome in the locker room as well in a time of transition to a young roster that proved to be desperately lacking leadership.
Abdur-Rahim drew high marks from the front office and before last season was made assistant general manager. He scouts the colleges and tracks the NBA Development League. He evaluates Kings players to give his input on roster decisions. He already had the time on the bench and the long career of 18.1 points and 7.5 rebounds.
"I'm surprised, really," he said. "It kind of evolved without a real plan or anything. When I stopped playing, the team asked me to hang around a couple years and work with the guys. It kind of grew from there."
To where: "Things happen for a reason. I miss playing. But I'm at peace with it. It's the right thing to do. I've really been fortunate that the Maloofs (the owners) and Geoff and Coop asked me to stay around. It's a blessing. It's fun. It's interesting. It's challenging."
It's his new future.
Abdur-Rahim has lived an entire set of surprise developments actually. He is an Atlanta native who looked up one day to find he had turned into a West Coast guy, from choosing Cal to being drafted by Vancouver to being traded to Portland to signing with Sacramento as a free agent to staying in Sacramento. The post-playing phase has likewise been a ride of the unexpected.
"This is what I want to do," he said. "I really enjoy it. I've been fortunate. I consider this my thing."
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.