Kemp's often turbulent career in Seattle came to its conclusion Thursday night when the Seattle SuperSonics dealt him to the Cleveland Cavaliers _ the NBA team with the most salary cap room available _ in a three-team, five-player deal involving three All-Stars.
The Sonics will receive Vin Baker from Milwaukee, the Bucks will get Terrell Brandon and Tyrone Hill from Cleveland, and the Cavs will get Kemp from Seattle and Sherman Douglas from Milwaukee.
The Bucks also will get Cleveland's first-round draft choice in 1998, unless the Cavs qualify for one of the first 10 selections.
"I think in a lot of ways our mental health got better today, our focus got better today," said Seattle coach George Karl, summing up the theme of the trade _ Kemp's disgruntlement and the Sonics' need to get value in return.
A trade had been expected since the disgruntled forward declared last May that he had worn a Sonics uniform for the final time.
Kemp became increasingly frustrated last season, both with his long-term contract paying him $3.6 million this season and his belief that someone in the organization had told the media that Kemp had a drinking problem.
The Sonics, who were unable _ but willing _ to redo Kemp's contract because of salary cap rules, decided this summer that the time had come for a trade _ especially with Kemp vowing to sit out training camp.
With Baker-for-Kemp rumors circulating at the league meetings last week, Seattle general manager Wally Walker said he preferred to deal Kemp to an Eastern Conference team.
"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."
The logical contenders were Cleveland and Toronto, since both are well under the salary cap. The Bucks, who apparently decided that Baker would exercise an out clause in his contract and become a free agent in 1999, would have needed to trade several more players to get far enough under the salary cap to have funds available for re-doing Kemp's contract.
Under collective bargaining rules, teams can rip up a player's contract and give him a new one until three years after he signs it. For Kemp, that would have been Oct. 8.
But in order to re-do a contract, a team also must be under the salary cap. Seattle isn't under the cap _ and thus was prohibited from renegotiating with Kemp _ because it gave lucrative long term deals to free agents Gary Payton and Jim McIlvaine last summer.
Those deals _ more than $80 for Payton and $33 million for McIlvaine _ infuriated Kemp, whose current deal reportedly includes the same $3.6 million salary every year except for a balloon payment of more than $17 million in its final year.
The Cavs, spurned by every quality free agent they approached this summer, have about $9.5 million in salary cap room.
"I do expect that his agent will be calling and I do expect we will respond to his call," Cleveland general manager Wayne Embry said. "We heard of the problems he had in Seattle, but we don't think it's a problem as far as we are concerned."
Cleveland coach Mike Fratello will now have an entirely new starting five. Gone from the slow-down crew that averaged just 87.5 points per game _ one-tenth of a point shy of the NBA record-low held by the 1954-55 Milwaukee Hawks _ are Brandon, Hill, Mark West, Chris Mills and Bobby Phills.
In Kemp, the Cavs get a marquee attraction who will be expected to inject some excitement into the league's dullest team. The five-time All-Star had his best year in 1995-96, when the Sonics went to the NBA Finals, as he averaged 19.6 points and 11.4 rebounds for a team that won 64 regular-season games.
Kemp slumped to averages of 18.7 and 10.0 last season, and his constant sullen behavior and habitual lateness became a problem while the Sonics were on the way to being eliminated by the Houston Rockets in the second round of the playoffs.
Walker stated that he wouldn't trade Kemp unless he got an All-Star in return, and he got his wish by acquiring Baker.
The four-year veteran and three-time All-Star in one of the league's best low-post players, a 6-foot-11 power forward whose averages of 21.0 points and 10.3 rebounds were an almost identical match to his numbers from the previous season.
Douglas, an eight-year veteran point guard, will be joining his fourth NBA team.
Brandon, who will make $1.8 million this season before receiving a $7 million balloon payment, is one of the best point guards in the league. A steady shooter with quickness, smarts and poise, he averaged 19.5 points and 6.3 assists last season and received his second All-Star selection.
Hill, who averaged 12.9 points and 9.9 rebounds, will replace Baker at the power forward spot for Milwaukee. Hill will not look to score as often as Baker did, which will free Glenn Robinson to be more of a featured player in the Bucks' offense.
"When the trade happened, I can't deny that I was a little sad," Karl said.
"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 rear view mirror and move