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Here today, gone tomorrow
by Stephen Siegel / August 21, 2002

Last season, a number of formerly recognizable names were conspicuously absent from team media guides. While some clubs struggled to find the fans to support their players, several free agents were left waiting for their phones to ring while they watched their former teammates on SportsCenter.

Since the list is comprised of more than a few players, why don’t we just look at a sampling in alphabetical order:

Way back in 2000, Khalid El-Amin was a member of the Bulls, perhaps on his way to helping the franchise back to respectability. After all, he had directed his UConn Huskies to an improbable upset of Duke in the NCAA title game. How much harder could it be to excel on a Chicago team with comparable talent? But alas, El-Amin’s belly grew larger than his ego, and he could be destined to spend his time remembering the glorious year he spent in the league.

Cedric Ceballos is one of those enigmas, wrapped inside a predicament … Back in the mid-’90s, he was a 20-point scorer with the Lakers and Suns, and it seemed as though he could have a long, fruitful career. His personality turned out to be as explosive as his scoring ability, though, and he appears to have run his course in the NBA. At 33, he would potentially have some productive years left in his legs if he decided to attempt a comeback, but it’s unlikely any team would be willing to take a chance on him.

A few years ago, the Clippers were a bad team. They weren’t fun to watch, their good players always left as soon as they developed, and their prospects weren’t so good, either. A year before they drafted the Kandi man, the Clips signed an undrafted free agent who averaged 6.4 blocks per game for Central Connecticut State in 1996. Keith Closs was a lean, athletic shot-blocker who, at 7-3, had ideal height for a center. L.A. has since turned its fortunes around through some good draft position (read: bad records), and Closs (7.8 blocks per game in the last Summer Pro League) is no longer an NBA player. With his height, though, you have to figure he could get another chance with some team if he keeps his heart in the game. After all, you just can’t teach height.

Sherman Douglas, Oliver Miller and Olden Polynice have all seemingly been around forever. As each season gets underway, Douglas’ name is always tossed around as an available free-agent pickup for some team looking for an experienced point guard. He has always been a decent scorer and passer in limited minutes, but as father time catches up with him and more young guards come through the ranks, the prospects of a return to the NBA in a playing capacity are dwindling. The Big O is just that: big. His girth has assisted the injury bug he caught some years ago, and even though there’s a lack of quality big men these days, you have to be able to stay healthy and fit to warrant a shot in the pros. As for Polynice, he may have impersonated one cop too many. He’s another guy who seems to always be mentioned as a possibility for a team looking for a veteran big man, but his problems with the law, combined with his advancing age, make it unlikely he’ll get another opportunity.

That brings us to a fun couple: Rider and Rodman. It has always been clear that Rider has more talent than most players in the NBA. His quickness is undeniable, his shot is pretty good, and he can score almost at will. He has blown every chance he has gotten, though. He was both loved and hated in Portland, and fans cheered when the team finally rid itself of his presence. When he went to the Lakers, everyone assumed he could resurrect his career there. His sparkling personality and off-court problems turned off fans, teammates and coaches there too, however, and he didn’t even make it onto the playoff roster. He was out of the league last year, and his name hasn’t been mentioned this offseason, so you have to figure his playing days are through. Of course, you probably have assumed his career was over before … there’s no telling how many chances teams will give a guy with Rider’s talent.

And then there’s Dennis Rodman. He has been in and out of the league for the past few seasons (mostly out), and his on-court antics in his most recent NBA stint made it obvious he was more interested in promoting himself than playing the game. But if a playoff team loses a player or decides it’s a rebounder short of being a contender, don’t put it past Rodman to make yet another return to his pogo-stick-like career.

Finally, there’s one player adored by fans who spent last season out of the spotlight. Arvydas Sabonis, who came to the NBA way too late after starring for years in Europe, gave his body a chance to rest while the Blazers searched for a legit post man all season long. Now, however, Sabonis is rumored to be headed back to Portland for what you have to figure is his final year in professional basketball. If so, at least fans will get one last chance to appreciate a golden oldie.

Stephen Siegel is a freelance sports writer for local Portland publications and a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com

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