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Shawn Kemp Upset About New NBA Millionaires

October 23, 1996 GMT

SEATTLE (AP) _ If Shawn Kemp is the best power forward in the NBA, then he thinks his salary should reflect that.

Kemp finally reported to the Seattle SuperSonics’ training camp on Tuesday, saying his 22-day absence was about dollars and which players are getting them.

``When you play for seven years and you’ve proved youself to be an All-Star, then you see guys who haven’t proved themselves sign for millions of dollars, you have a right to be upset,″ he said.

Kemp, 26, missed the Sonics’ first five exhibition games.

``What I basically did was to take a couple of weeks to be by myself and clear my head,″ he said. ``I wanted to get my mind right and get ready to play some basketball. The guys on this team don’t deserve to have Shawn Kemp walk around the locker room with an attitude.″

Kemp will be only the sixth highest paid member of the Sonics this season. But he said he wasn’t specifically unhappy with Seattle’s starting center, Jim McIlvaine.

McIlvaine, a backup center in Washington last season, signed a $33 million free-agent contract with the Sonics.

And Kemp’s All-Star teammate, Gary Payton, last season’s NBA Defensive Player of the Year, signed an $87.5 million deal during the offseason.

``It has nothing to do with Jim McIlvaine or any of my teammates,″ Kemp said. ``It’s not anything personal.″

Instead, Kemp said, his unexcused absence from camp was his way of making a statement of protest about the direction of salaries in the NBA, precisely who is getting the money.

``After all those signings that took place this summer, I’m not going to sit here and tell you I wasn’t ticked off,″ he said. ``But I was ticked off with the NBA as a whole.″

The league, he said, should find some way to reward the players who are producing.

``I think the NBA has made some major decisions in putting the money back into the veteran players,″ Kemp said. ``But if they’re going to do that, then they should put the money where it’s deserved.″

After making $4.8 million last season, including a $2.1 million signing bonus, Kemp is scheduled to make $3 million in the second year of a seven-year extension he signed in 1993.

According to the collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and its players, a player cannot even suggest altering a contract until three years after signing the latest extension. That means Kemp can’t renegotiate until October 1997.

Kemp said he wasn’t going to second-guess himself for signing a longterm contract.

``You’ve got to live your life the way that you plan it,″ he said.

Sonics owner Barry Ackerley went to Elkhart, Ind., where Kemp was in seclusion, to visit him.

``We talked about a few different things, about the future and stuff,″ Kemp said.

Kemp said Ackerley made him no promises.

``There’s no promises in the NBA,″ he said. ``That’s one thing after playing for seven years that I realize. There are no promises.″

Kemp said he had come to grips with NBA reality and would be happy playing for the Sonics this season.

``That’s the thing I’m saying,″ he said. ``I didn’t want to come back here and be frustrated. I’m not going to play basketball and think about money. I refuse to do that. I haven’t done that for seven years and I’m not going to do that now.″

Coach George Karl said he expected the four-time All-Star to play about 25 minutes when the Sonics face Portland on Thursday night in Spokane.

``I improved a tremendous amount as a coach today,″ Karl said. ``I think it’s clear we’re a championship team with Shawn and we’re just a very good basketball team without him.″

The Sonics were 3-2 in exhibition games without Kemp in the lineup. They go against the Los Angeles Lakers in Boise, Idaho, on Friday night and Portland in Corvallis, Ore., on Sunday night to wind up their preseason schedule.