With a wife and child in Omaha, Kevin McKenna on more than one occasion has found himself wondering why -- after five years of bouncing about from team to team -- he has continued to try to find a place for himself in the NBA.
"You get discouraged -- a little time here, part of a season there," he said. "But then you think, 'If teams keep calling, they must think I can play, so there's always that chance.' "
McKenna's chances look infinitely better after his performance Monday night in the Washington Bullets' 96-94 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. With Coach Gene Shue severely curtailing the playing time of Gus Williams and Leon Wood, and Jeff Malone suffering through his worst shooting night of the season, the veteran from Creighton stepped in with a career-high 25-point performance, including five three-point field goals.
Beginning in mid-December, NBA teams can sign players to two consecutive 10-day contracts, after which they must be released or paid for the remainder of the season. Wednesday will mark the end of McKenna's second 10 days, but Shue had been suggesting even before the Clippers game that the 27-year-old forward/guard would stick.
One reason is that injured guard Frank Johnson in all probability will not return this season. Another is the accuracy of McKenna's shot, which has attracted NBA teams since his collegiate days.
Before the Bullets, McKenna played with the New Jersey Nets, Indiana Pacers and, as a rookie, the 1981-82 Los Angeles Lakers. Those Lakers won it all, and although he didn't play very often, McKenna got a championship ring.
But most of McKenna's career has been similar to last season, when he made the Nets, was cut and later was recalled. In all, he played in 29 of the Nets' 82 games.
"The bad part about that was that I was really playing well, doing everything that they wanted," he said. "It was just that there were some other players who had guaranteed money, and so the team almost had to play them over me."
Throughout his career, McKenna has played forward. However, upon arriving in Washington from Kansas City of the Continental Basketball Association, he was told he would be switched to the back court.
Actually, said McKenna, his biggest adjustment has been at the other end of the floor. "I'm not used to playing guards on defense," he said. "I don't know who does what, where they like to move."
"The first conversation I had with Kevin, after we signed him to the first 10-day contract, I asked him how he felt about three-point shooting," Shue said after Monday's game. "He said he felt comfortable from there. He certainly seemed that way tonight [five for seven].
"If the guy was looking for a pressure performance to stay on this team, Kevin certainly came through tonight," Shue said.