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Blazers Keep On Dealing

A day after acquiring Shawn Kemp, the Portland Trail Blazers beefed up their front line some more Thursday, getting Dale Davis from the Indiana Pacers in exchange for unhappy Jermaine O'Neal.

Indiana also gets Joe Kleine, the Blazers' 38-year-old backup center. Kleine was signed to a three-year contract, with the first year guaranteed. On Wednesday, Portland acquired Kemp from Cleveland in a three-team deal that sent Brian Grant to Miami.

With Davis, the Blazers clearly got the best of the swap of 6-foot-11 players.

Davis, who helped lead the Pacers to the NBA Finals against the Lakers, averaged 10 points and 9.9 rebounds, leading Indiana in rebounding for the seventh straight year and making his first All-Star team.

O'Neal, who came into the NBA out of Eau Claire (S.C.) High School, has contributed virtually nothing in his four pro seasons. He averaged just 12.3 minutes, 3.9 points and 3.3 rebounds last season and couldn't crack the rotation playing behind forwards Rasheed Wallace and Brian Grant.

"I just don't think he was as talented as the guys who were playing in front of him," Blazers coach Mike Dunleavy said.

When O'Neal did get into games, usually as a backup to aging center Arvydas Sabonis, he showed promising shot-blocking and rebounding skills at the defensive end, but almost no touch on offense.

"He has rebounding, shot-blocking ability. We feel he can play any one of the three (front-line) positions, including center. He's got athletic ability and great skill," Pacers president Donnie Walsh said. "This continues our idea of trying to keep this team in a position to be good both immediately and in the future."

Before the lockout-shortened 1999 season, O'Neal brazenly had "Year of the Resurrection" tattooed on his arm, but two seasons later, the 21-year-old is still looking for his niche.

O'Neal, entering the second year of a four-year, $24 million contract he signed last summer, demanded to be traded in mid-June. Dunleavy said O'Neal could improve his chances at more minutes by playing on Portland's summer league team, but o the day he was supposed to leave for Long Beach, O'Neal went shopping for hats at a department store.

"We developed Jermaine and we liked him, but we was frustrated and didn't want to be here," Portland general manager Bob Whitsitt said. "I still think he'll be a really good player in this league. The book on Jermaine will be finished 10-15 years from now."

The Blazers have been scheming to stop Shaquille O'Neal since they blew a 15-point lead to his Los Angeles Lakers to lose Game 7 of the Western Conference finals. Adding Kemp and Davis gives the Blazers a fighting chance to at least slow him down and disrupt the Lakers' chances to repeat as champions.

"We're trying to win a championship," Whitsitt said. "We're close, and we're trying to do all we can while we're in that window."

The moves also will mean more rest for Sabonis, who was so banged-up he couldn't play for Lithuania in the Olympics.

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