July 19, 1997 in Sports

Ackerley Has Chance To Get It Right For Once

Steve Kelley Seattle Times
 

Shawn Kemp, or at least his agent-spokesman Tony Dutt, says Kemp wants a one-on-one meeting with Sonics owner Barry Ackerley.

This is what I wish Ackerley would tell him: “Let me tell you something, Shawn, I’ve made my share of mistakes since I bought this team from Sam Schulman.

“I traded away Gus Williams and Jack Sikma and got next-to-nothing for them. I gave Ricky Sobers a three-year contract.

“I managed to turn the entire city against the Sonics, and that wasn’t easy. These guys were the first real sports heroes of Seattle’s modern era - Downtown Freddie Brown, D.J., J.J., Paul Silas, Gus, Sikma. I smothered all that history. I emptied the arenas. First the Kingdome and then the Coliseum.

“Yes, Shawn, my early days as an owner were pockmarked with mistakes.

“But you know what my biggest mistake was? Not trading you the first time around. My mistake was caving in to public opinion and nixing the signed-sealed-but-notdelivered trade of you to the Chicago Bulls for Scottie Pippen. It was a gimme putt, and I yanked it. I didn’t make a basketball decision. I made a public-relations decision.

“Can you imagine what our trapping defense would have been like with Pippen, Gary Payton and Nate McMillan? Teams wouldn’t get the ball across midcourt.

“And more important, Shawn, I wouldn’t have the headache the size of Dennis Rodman’s ego that you’ve given me.

“I got a kick out of your interview a month ago with your good friends at ESPN. I chuckled when you said you’d been late three or four times. Let’s be honest, Shawn. It was more like 50 times.

“You missed trains, buses, practices. We did a great job of covering it up. The coaches and players did a great job of protecting you. It was an upset when you were on time.

“You cost us a run at the championship, so believe me, nobody wants to trade you more than I do. I sense that the team has grown tired of your unprofessionalism. I sense public opinion is shifting away from you. I was a hero when I didn’t trade you in 1994. I might be a hero again if I make the right trade for you in 1997.

“By the way, if you want to help me out with this trade, try keeping quiet for a while. Maybe, for starters, you could limit your threats against reporters.

“That was a real nice expletive-laden diatribe you laid on a reporter last weekend. Believe me, I’m no big fan of the media, but threatening to get physical? Where was that aggression in April when we needed it? Why didn’t you get physical with Charles Barkley in the playoffs? Who’s next? The news anchors at Channel 11? Mum’s the word. What do you say?

“You want to be traded? We’re working on it. But let’s cut the bull. If you really want to go, it will be on our terms, not yours. If, as you say - which I don’t believe for a minute - that this isn’t about money, then we’ll trade you for the best offer we get.

“We’re not going to trade you to the team that can make you happy financially. We’ve tried to make you happy. We gave you the contract that provided the security you seemed so desperate for.

“We’re tired of your ever-changing moods and wishes. We’ve promised you the best financial deal we can give. A deal worth more than $50 million. You don’t want it. You want Payton’s $80 million. You want Shaq’s $100 million.

“Oh, wait. I keep forgetting. You told your ESPN pals it wasn’t about money. So we’ll see how truthful that statement was. Of course, I heard you lie in another TV interview that you would sit out the year if you didn’t get a better contract.

“Oh yeah, I believe that one. You bet. I could see you on the beach volleyball circuit. Or maybe you could write a Rodman-type book. Maybe you can call it ‘Late As I Wanna Be.’ Or you could start your movie career. Maybe star in a buddy movie with Payton. Call it, ‘My Best Friend’s Contract.’

“So, you asked to talk with me. Well there’s my statement. We’ll make the call on your future, Shawn. Not you.”


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