Kemp's maturity on display for Sonics Seattle star loses 1-dimensional image

June 14, 1996|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE -- It was the type of spectacular play that Seattle SuperSonics forward Shawn Kemp has made throughout his career, a baseline reverse jam over Dennis Rodman in Seattle's Game 4 win over the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals. The only difference was what happened at the conclusion of the play.

Kemp did not point, glare or grab his crotch -- post- dunk antics that he has been known for.

"My thing is to just go out and play," Kemp said, when asked about his antics. "People are going to say what they want to say about Shawn Kemp."

What they were saying before about Kemp was that he was a one-dimensional dunk artist; that he had raw ability; that the potential to be great was there -- the emphasis on potential.

But what people are seeing in Kemp in the finals is a well-rounded player who has established himself as one of the top forwards in the game.

Kemp, through four games, is averaging 25.0 points and 9.0 rebounds. He scored a game-high 25 points, on 12-for-17 shooting from the field, in Wednesday's 107-86 victory over the Bulls that kept the Sonics alive. Game 5 will be tonight at Key Arena.

"As far as dunking, he's outstanding," Michael Jordan, a noted dunker himself, said of Kemp yesterday. "But his game now, he tends to take his time a bit more. He plays more under control and more within himself."

Despite never having played college basketball, Kemp was the 17th pick of the first round in the 1989 draft by the Sonics. The 6-foot-10, 245-pound forward averaged 6.5 points while playing sparingly his rookie season, but has increased his scoring average each season since to his 19.6 average this season that helped earn him all-NBA second-team honors for the second straight season.

In their years of underachieving, a problem of the Sonics has been their lack of a true go-to player. But Kemp, in expanding his game, has shown he's capable of filling that role.

In Game 1, Kemp scored 32 points, while demonstrating a previously little-displayed ability to hit jumpers up to 18 feet from the basket. He came back with a strong showing in Game 2, with 29 points and 13 rebounds.

That's why Bulls coach Phil Jackson went with a different defensive approach in Game 3, running double- and triple-teams at Kemp in limiting him to just seven shots for the game.

"He really hurt us badly in the first two games," Jackson said. "We didn't want to give him the look at shots that he necessarily likes."

Kemp's response on Wednesday is part of what gives the Sonics some hope of taking this series back to Chicago for a sixth game on Sunday.

"I'm just trying to be more active," Kemp said. "I'm trying to score from a lot of different ways."

In a different scenario, Kemp might have been a part of this Chicago team that is considered one of the best in NBA history. On draft day 1994, the Bulls and Sonics were prepared to make a blockbuster deal that would have sent Kemp to Chicago for Scottie Pippen.

"It's something that I don't even think about," Kemp said. "It didn't happen."

Kemp said that he decided to use the deal as motivation to improve as a player. By the time of the scrapped deal, he was already good enough to be named a member of Dream Team II, which won the gold medal at the World Championships of Basketball in Toronto in 1992.

And his improvement since led to the assumption he would be named a member of the 1996 Olympic team.

But when the final two spots for the team were named, Charles Barkley was selected over Kemp (Mitch Richmond was the other pick). It seems that several missed planes this season and his crotch-grabbing while a member of Dream Team II had more to do with his being snubbed than his play on the court.

But, he said, "It's worked out pretty good. We're playing in June and it's going to be a short summer regardless. So I'll be able to enjoy the summer and I'll work harder to become a better player. A couple of months ago, I may not have said that, but I'll be able to enjoy it."

Kemp doesn't want the summer to begin just yet.

"We can't let these guys come in here and win a championship on our home court," Kemp said. "We use that as motivation.

"There's no second-place winners in this league," he added. "If you lose, they still go down as the greatest team in history. The only thing we can do is come out and hopefully rewrite the script."

NBA Finals

Chicago vs. Seattle

+ (Chicago leads series, 3-1)

Day ...... Site/result ... Time

.......... (Line)

Game 1 .. Chicago, 107-90

Game 2 .. Chicago, 92-88

Game 3 .. Chicago, 108-86

Game 4 .. Seattle, 107-86

Today ... at Seattle (+4) .. 9

Sunday*.. at Chicago ....... 7:30

Wednesday* at Chicago ...... 9

TV: All games on chs. 11, 4

*-If necessary

NBA Finals

Chicago vs. Seattle

(Chicago leads series, 3-1)

B6 Today: Game 5, at Seattle (+4), 9 p.m., chs. 11, 4

Pub Date: 6/14/96

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