Shawn Kemp, speaking publicly in Seattle for the first time since he demanded to be traded from the Sonics in May, says he is packing up, moving home to Indiana and never coming back.
Except, of course, in the uniform of a Sonics opponent.
Kemp, 27, added that he no longer wants to talk with Sonics owner Barry Ackerley to discuss his trade demand. Kemp, an All-Star forward, said he has been unhappy since the Sonics altered the roster after their 1996 Finals appearance.
Kemp said he now has “no plans to talk to any of the Sonics.” That includes Ackerley, despite requesting a meeting with the team owner two weeks ago.
“This has gotten personal,” Kemp said.
He was dismayed when the team signed unproven free-agent center Jim McIlvaine last summer to a contract that exceeded his own. McIlvaine’s playing time decreased over the season and Kemp’s frustration increased, boiling over when he demanded to be traded after the Sonics were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs.
“The decision I made I thought out. It didn’t come about in two days,” said Kemp, who is locked into a contract that runs through 2003 and can’t be touched until after Oct. 8. He made $3 million last season and is scheduled to make $3.6 million this season.
“I can live with whatever,” Kemp said. “I put the ball in their court and they can deal with it. They knew what they were doing a year ago when they signed Jim, and other guys to contracts. They knew what they were doing.”
Kathy Savitt, a spokeswoman for the Ackerley Group, responded Friday by saying, “Our original sentiment continues. Barry would welcome an opportunity to talk to Shawn. To date, there’s been no contact made directly by Shawn Kemp.”
Regardless, Kemp is heading back to his mother’s mansion in Elkhart, Ind., his hometown. Kemp said he will work out in Elkhart and prepare himself for an uncertain future.
“I just came back to make the final arrangements,” Kemp said. “More than likely this is the last time I’ll be here.”
As for his home in the Seattle neighborhood of Magnolia, Kemp said, “I plan on getting rid of it. Everything will be gone here shortly.”
Kemp has been in and out of Seattle since the season ended. Most recently, he was expected to be a groomsman in Sonics guard Gary Payton’s July 26 wedding in San Francisco.
Ackerley attended. Kemp did not, saying he didn’t want his presence to be a “disruption.”
“I hope that (Gary) understood,” Kemp said.
Despite his vehement desire to be traded from the Sonics, Kemp maintains his summer hasn’t been adverse.
“I’ve been doing good,” Kemp said. “Last summer I was worried about a few things. But this summer’s gone good. I just let everything go. I knew what was going to happen. So I guess I was prepared for it… .
“You know, when there’s a divorce, people will always seek out the bad. Regardless if it’s between a man and woman, or corporations. Regardless of what you do, a divorce is bad.”
Kemp then emphasized that he definitely wants out of Seattle.
“I’m charged and ready to go. Regardless of what happened last year, I’ve got my best years left,” he said.
“I’m going to be a better player and person somewhere else. My family will be happy to see me leave. They are going to be happy to see me happy.”
Kemp wrecks Jaguar
Kemp was involved in a one-car accident last weekend in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Police said Kemp lost control of his rented Jaguar and hit a fire hydrant and stop sign before the car stalled on a nearby lawn.
The accident happened around 2 a.m. on Saturday in a “high rent” residential neighborhood, said Sgt. John Edmundson.
“There was no evidence of him being under the influence,” Edmundson said. “And we won’t charge him with murder for killing the hydrant.”
Kemp was not injured. He cooperated with responding officers, who filed a report, Edmundson said.
Investigators had not determined whether Kemp will be charged with reckless driving.
Kemp, who is unhappy with his Sonics contract, has demanded to be traded. He told ESPN in June that money is just part of his discontent and that playing with Seattle has become a “negative” experience.
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