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Gill Returns A Happy Camper After Treatment For Depression

Glen Nelson Seattle Times

The Kendall Gill who reappeared at the Seattle SuperSonics’ practice facility Tuesday was not the same Kendall Gill who left the team seven days ago on medical leave.

That Kendall Gill was a mostly talented and likable, yet sometimes brooding and unbalanced, enigma.

This Kendall Gill, the one who has been treated for a clinical depression - which has been diagnosed specifically as metabolic imbalance - well, we haven’t seen this one before.

This Kendall Gill even beams at coach George Karl, with whom he has had a stormy relationship, and says, “I may even take George to lunch this week.”

This Kendall Gill obviously is starting over.

“I’ve never felt better, physically or mentally, in my life,” said Gill, who will practice with the Sonics this week and resume playing on Saturday at Golden State.

“The step I took already has turned my life around. Soon, it’ll turn my career around, too. The problems I’ve had in the past will never, never be a part of my life again.”

Gill, 26, said his condition reached its nadir on March 29, when he had his most recent explosive confrontation with Karl over a 17-minute, 0-point stint against Minnesota. He said he couldn’t sleep during the ensuing four days. Because of that, he had very uneven performances, against Sacramento and Atlanta, during that period.

“During the games, I was physically exhausted,” he said. “I couldn’t concentrate. It felt like I hit a wall there.”

So Gill sought advice from the medical staff of the NBA Players Association, which referred him to doctors here and in Chicago, his hometown. Gill underwent the bulk of the treatment, which he declined to describe, in Chicago, where he could be with family.

Despite the melancholy he felt, Gill still was reluctant to admit he had a problem.

“It was very difficult to do because of the embarrassment and shame,” he said. “But I couldn’t go any further with what I was going through.”

The problem likely has been plaguing Gill for some time. Doctors have told him that the severe headaches, which he has suffered since he was 12, are related to his condition. While Gill was in a depressed state, doctors told him, any kind of stress could trigger the headaches.

The depression itself was not pervasive, Gill said, but would come and go, without specific triggers.

Gill stressed that his condition had “very little to do with basketball,” but his revelations Tuesday helped explain the uneven relationship he has had with Karl since arriving from Charlotte two years ago. Today, both men said, would be the beginning of a new, more positive bond.

“I’ve told Kendall I’m not proud of holding a player back from being very successful,” Karl said. “I just didn’t have an answer. I was as confused as he was.

“I still think the decision I made 2 1/2 months ago was the right one, to just coach the game. I’m not going to manage egos. It’s helped me be more involved in the game. I know you’ve all scrutinized the way I’ve played Kendall, like I was punishing him. I don’t think I did that. The difference now is that I feel free to help Kendall.”

Gill said, “George and I are going to be all right. George and I like each other, but sometimes we just have different philosophies on the game.”

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