Sonics' tardy Kemp needs new attitude or a clock


When the Seattle SuperSonics signed center Jim McIlvaine last summer to a seven-year, $35 million contract, star forward Shawn Kemp pouted.

One would think that by now Kemp would have shaken off his displeasure and begun to play with the pride he displayed during last season's NBA Finals when he had a breakout performance against the Chicago Bulls.

Apparently, Kemp hasn't shaken off his displeasure.

Last weekend he missed a team flight, and then missed a practice. This week he was late for a team meeting. Kemp's behavior and less than stellar play (he has led his team in scoring just twice over the past two months) has become enough of a concern for players to hold a team meeting to discuss it.

"We cannot win a championship without daily discipline and daily commitment," Sonics coach George Karl said.

After the missed practice in Phoenix on Saturday, Kemp came off the bench and hit one of five shots and committed six turnovers in 22 minutes. He had just 10 points and six rebounds in last night's rout of Milwaukee.

Before the season, Kemp seemed ready to step up to being one of the league's stars after averaging 23.3 points during last year's finals. Instead, his apparent displeasure has Seattle prime to be another first-round playoff victim.

"As a coach, I've grown not to get upset by lateness to practices, but I think it's tremendously insulting to his teammates," Karl said. "I think I do player-coach managing pretty well, but when I have to figure out player-player management, it makes it difficult. That's what I think Shawn is messing with now."

And the players, so close to a title last year, are trying to address that as the playoffs approach.

"We have talked about this and now it's up to the organization to do what they're going to do and move on," Nate McMillan said. "As professionals, we have to get over distractions."

Added guard Hersey Hawkins: "It's not up to any of us players to baby-sit him. He's a professional."

No magic in Orlando

The frustration level is increasing in Orlando, where the Magic has lost four consecutive games. Three of the losses were to San Antonio, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Clippers.

"We've lost two games to two of the worst teams in the league," guard Gerald Wilkins said before last night's loss to the Clippers. "That doesn't say a lot for us."

The team appears to be getting little sympathy from fans, especially after Monday when the Orlando Sentinel published a behind-the-scenes look at the firing of Brian Hill as coach.

Although Anfernee Hardaway denied at the time of the firing he was the main reason behind the move, it was his initial phone call to general manager John Gabriel that was the beginning of the end for Hill. Hardaway admitted he led the charge.

"I don't ever remember winning a game because [of Hill's coaching]," Hardaway said. "The fact that we were swept the last three years from the playoffs showed that he didn't make adjustments.

"It was very common for an opposing player to tell us, thanks to Brian Hill, you guys are never going to win a championship," Hardaway added, and later said, "We didn't get Brian Hill fired. Brian Hill got Brian Hill fired."

Around the league

Heat guard Tim Hardaway has a $1 million incentive clause in his contract if his assist-to-turnover ratio is 3-to-1 or better. That's why Hardaway, on a two-on-0 fast break last Friday, passed the ball to teammate Isaac Austin. Going into last night's game against Indiana, Hardaway had a 2.98-to-1 ratio.

After being out of the game since 1992, former Boston Celtics great Larry Bird is yearning to coach. Bird is the Celtics' special assistant.

"I probably would take any coaching job in the league, except the Boston Celtics," Bird told the Boston Globe. "If I got to put together the team I wanted and the assistants, I would. I'm probably as close as I ever have been, or will be."

Is Brian Williams, a former Terp, lucky? Guy sits out the entire season and then, when Bill Wennington ruptures a tendon in his left foot, signs with the Bulls for three weeks for $27,000 -- and a chance at a championship ring and playoff money.

"I think it can enhance this team," Michael Jordan said. "With his capability as a power forward and center, it gives us a lift where we need it."

Cavaliers forward Chris Mills didn't care which team -- Arizona or Kentucky -- won Monday's NCAA title game. He attended both. "I can't lose," Mills said.

Kings interim coach Eddie Jordan said on Tuesday, with his team trailing the eighth spot in the Western Conference by two games: "I was a player under Pat Riley. He guaranteed a championship. I can at least guarantee an eighth spot." The Kings lost for the 12th time in 13 games on Wednesday. The only thing guaranteed in Sacramento is that, after the Kings don't reach the playoffs, Jordan won't be back.

Quote of the week

From New York Knicks forward Charles Oakley, on the signing of Williams by the Bulls: "I just want to know why guys the rest of the league thinks are crazy always wind up in Chicago."

Pub Date: 4/04/97

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