Disgruntled forward Shawn Kemp, who declared that he’d never play for the Seattle SuperSonics again, got his wish Thursday.
Kemp was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a three-way deal with the Milwaukee Bucks that involved all-star forward Vin Baker of the Bucks and all-star guard Terrell Brandon of the Cavaliers.
The SuperSonics acquired Baker, while the Bucks acquired Brandon, forward Tyrone Hill and a conditional 1998 first-round draft pick from Cleveland. Milwaukee also sent guard Sherman Douglas to Cleveland.
The trade could strengthen the Lakers’ chances of winning the Western Conference next season.
Kemp, one of the NBA’s best power forwards, teamed with all-star guard Gary Payton to lead the SuperSonics to the 1996 NBA finals.
But Kemp became upset after the SuperSonics signed free-agent center Jim McIlvaine to a seven-year, $33-million contract.
McIlvaine, signed after former Clipper center Brian Williams rejected the SuperSonics, was a bust, averaging 3.8 points and four rebounds last season.
Frustrated because the SuperSonics were unable to renegotiate a contract that pays him $3.6 million a year because of salary cap rules, Kemp became a disruption as the SuperSonics were eliminated by the Houston Rockets in the second round of the playoffs last season.
Kemp, who sat out the first three weeks of training camp last season, was late for team flights and practices. He was removed from the starting lineup for four games late last season for missing a team charter and practice.
A local newspaper reported that Kemp had a drinking problem after he reportedly was out late at a bar the night before an afternoon game with the Chicago Bulls.
Kemp’s problems also seemed to affect him on the court.
Kemp, who averaged a career-best 19.6 points and 11.4 rebounds in 1995-96, averaged 18.7 points and 10 rebounds last season.
Kemp helped to turn the SuperSonics into the NBA’s version of family feud as he clashed with Coach George Karl and Payton.
“I think in a lot of ways our mental health got better today, our focus got better today,” Karl said.
“When the trade happened, I can’t deny that I was a little sad. I don’t think I’ll coach many players better than Shawn Kemp or as talented as Shawn Kemp.
“Generally, it was just a business thing. It was probably best to move on, put it in our rearview mirror and move forward.”
Although Kemp, a 27-year-old who went from high school to the NBA, behaved like a child, SuperSonic General Manager Wally Walker declared that he wouldn’t trade Kemp unless the SuperSonics acquired an all-star in return.
“Shawn was a great all-star and really the cornerstone of this franchise for a long time,” Walker said. “None of us should forget that. Despite what’s gone on recently, we all have a soft spot in our heart for Shawn.”
Walker said Kemp didn’t object to the trade.
“Shawn was fine with everything. He was ready to go to Cleveland,” Walker said.
Cleveland General Manager Wayne Embry said the Cavaliers, a reported $9.5 million under the salary cap, will try to rework Kemp’s seven-year contract, which has five years remaining. Under salary cap rules, contracts may be renegotiated after three years.
“We heard of the problems he had in Seattle, but we don’t think it’s a problem as far as we are concerned,” Embry said. “I do expect that his agent will be calling and I do expect we will respond to his call.”
Walker, reportedly close to trading Kemp for Baker at last week’s NBA meetings, said he coveted Baker.
Baker averaged 21 points and 10.3 rebounds last season. However, the three-time all-star apparently became expendable to the Bucks because he has an option to become a free agent in 1999.
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* Vin Baker, F, from Milwaukee
* Shawn Kemp, F, from Seattle
* S. Douglas, G, from Milwaukee
* Terrell Brandon, G, and
* Tyrone Hill, F, from Cleveland