Originally created 06/05/99

Kerr searches for lost shot



PORTLAND, Ore. -- Yes, Steve Kerr still plays in the NBA.

Just not very often.

In the Western Conference finals, he usually can be found near the end of the San Antonio bench, cheering on his teammates and wondering if he will even get in the game.

"Steve is somebody who we think is going to be very important to our basketball team," coach Gregg Popovich said. "Even though this year hasn't gone according to plan, this is one of the finest shooters who ever has played the game. It's incumbent on me to try to figure out how to use that, and so far I haven't figured that out."

Call it the Chicago syndrome, or a severe case of Michael Jordan revival.

All across the NBA, Jordan's former teammates have struggled with new teams -- Kerr in San Antonio, Luc Longley in Phoenix, even Scottie Pippen in Houston. Kerr points to the offense that coach Phil Jackson used in Chicago as the main reason for the ex-Bull problems.

"I think it's the triangle offense more than anything," Kerr said as the Spurs prepared for Friday night's Game 3 against the Portland Trail Blazers. "The two years that Michael was out we didn't win championships, but Scottie and Luc and myself, we all played well. I think the change for all of us was a bit of a shock.

"You get kind of settled into one routine and it's tough to change."

Kerr, 33, signed a five-year, $11 million contract with San Antonio and figured to be a major long-range weapon off the bench. After all, he is a career 46 percent 3-point shooter.

He led the NBA in 3-point shooting in 1990 at .507 and 1995 at .524, the highest 3-point percentage in the league's history.

But this year, Kerr was 25-for-80 (.313) in the regular season. In the playoffs, when he has played, his shots have missed more often than a Shaquille O'Neal free throw. In fact, he's yet to make one.

He's played in just four of San Antonio's 10 playoff games and is 0-for-12 from the field, 0-for-6 from 3-point range. He didn't play in Game 1 against Portland. In Game 2, he played 11 minutes and missed five shots, three of them 3-pointers.

"It's been puzzling," said his longtime friend Sean Elliott, who played with Kerr in college at Arizona.

"It would be comical if it didn't hurt so much, just to see his shots go in and out the last 10 games or so. It's amazing. They looked like they were in and they just popped out. I haven't seen anything like it. But he's going to bounce back. He's just too good a shooter."

Kerr, a team player if there ever was one, quietly accepts his situation, for now.

"I obviously thought I would play a little bit more," he said. "Even though it didn't work out, I'm confident that it will work out in the long run."

The Spurs have tried Kerr as a backup off-guard, but that was a disaster defensively against the big guards of the NBA. Lately, Kerr has played some as a backup to Avery Johnson at point guard.

For one of the game's ultimate overachievers, it seems not to be a serious setback. He was a longshot to even play major-college basketball. Now he's in his 11th NBA season. And he has three championship rings.

"Pretty amazing," he said. "That's why I'm sitting here pretty excited. Everybody's asking me if I'm down because I'm not playing much or that I was missing shots the other night," Kerr said. "Certainly I'd like to contribute more but the bottom line is we're two wins from the finals.

"Most players never get there ever in their careers and this would be my fourth chance at a ring, so I'm a lucky guy."