Sabonis to spend more time with family

Updated: August 14, 2003, 9:36 PM ET
Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Arvydas Sabonis is retiring. Again.

The 7-foot-3 center for the Portland Trail Blazers told his agent, Chicago-based Herb Rudoy, that it was unlikely he'd return to the NBA this season because he wants to spend more time with his family in Lithuania.

"He informed me yesterday that it was not his intention to come back and play this year," Rudoy said Tuesday.

Sabonis was scheduled to be in Portland for a team physical this week but instead stayed home. The Blazers and Sabonis had until Friday to sign a deal that would guarantee his salary for next season.

The Trail Blazers can still trade his rights before then, giving the team that acquires him some salary-cap relief. Sabonis was set to make $7 million in the second year of a three-year deal he signed with the Trail Blazers before last season.

Sabonis, 38, has already retired once, sitting out the 2001-2002 season when he also cited a desire to spend more time with his family.

The news that Sabonis won't return comes amid trade rumors involving the Blazers and the New Jersey Nets. Several newspapers have reported that a deal has been discussed that would send Kenyon Martin and Dikembe Mutombo to Portland in exchange for Rasheed Wallace and the rights to Sabonis. Neither side would comment on trade rumors.

A likable fan favorite from the start, Sabonis joined the Trail Blazers in 1995 and has averaged 12 points and 7.3 rebounds in 470 games. He is seventh on the team's career list for rebounds with 3,436.

Known for his dangerous hook shot, Sabonis provided a spark in the playoffs last season against Dallas, even though the Blazers were eventually eliminated by the Mavericks in seven games. In Game 6, he scored 16 points in just 12 minutes of play.

The Blazers were careful to manage Sabonis' minutes during the regular season because of recurring back trouble. He appeared in 78 games for the Blazers last season, averaging 6.1 points and 4.3 rebounds in 15.5 minutes.

Considered by many one of the best European players ever, Sabonis helped the Soviet Union win the 1988 Olympic gold medal, which included a semifinal win over the United States. The Trail Blazers drafted him in 1986, but waited almost a decade for his arrival.

Earlier this summer, a Web site reported that Sabonis told a city council meeting in his hometown of Kaunas that he intended on playing for Zalgiris, a Lithuanian club team he has an ownership stake in.

John Nash, the team's new general manager, told The Oregonian newspaper the team still wants to contact Sabonis in person in hopes of changing his mind.

Sabonis' decision leaves the Trail Blazers with one proven center, Dale Davis, and one prospect, Ruben Boumtje Boumtje, who has played sparingly in 35 games over two seasons.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press