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Kelly Dwyer

How Shawn Kemp was nearly a Bull

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Twitter-using NBAniks have no doubt heard of Clarence Gaines, who Tweets under the cgrock24 handle on a litany of subjects. Those who are familiar with his work also know that he was a longtime scout and executive for the Chicago Bulls during their championship years and beyond, as well as being the son of legendary college basketball coach Clarence "Big House" Gaines.

Gaines is a consistent must-read, both for the breadth of his knowledge and because of longer Twitter entries like the one he posted a few days ago, detailing Chicago's decision to pass over Shawn Kemp in the 1989 draft despite having three picks (one in the lottery) in the first round. Here's a snippet:

I was a rookie scout. Only saw a few games during the year on the west coast, but saw all of the top draft picks in the Orlando Classic with Jerry Krause and Jim Stack. I didn't have much weight in the organization at the time and I had never seen Shawn Kemp play, but I knew somebody who had coached him very well. My dad, Clarence "Big House" Gaines was the only college coach who ever coached Shawn Kemp in an organized game. My father coached Kemp in The Jones Cup in 1988. The team went 7-0 and other players I remember being on the team were Greg Anthony, Billy Owens, Felton Spencer. My dad thought Shawn Kemp was the best talent on the team and communicated that information to Krause.

This was a tough draft, because while the Bulls were championship contenders heading into it, they also had a series of picks that were seemingly the stepping stones toward putting them over the top. Imagine if Orlando had a lottery pick and two mid-round selections in last June's draft, and you'll get the idea.

So while Stacey King turned into a serviceable big man (who was later parlayed into Luc Longley), and B.J. Armstrong eventually became the starter at point guard (and a Mo Williams(notes)-ish All-Star), losing out on a talent like Kemp remains one of Chicago's great "what might have been" stories.

Then again, they weren't the only team to whiff on the Reign Man that night ...

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