In his upcoming book, Furious George: My Forty Years Surviving NBA Divas, Clueless GMs, and Poor Shot Selection, George Karl dropped a little nugget of information on a trade that almost happened before the 1994 NBA Draft that would have brought Scottie Pippen back (was he even really here to begin with?) to Seattle in exchange for Shawn Kemp, Ricky Pierce, and our first round pick (which was Carlos Rogers) that year.
If you’ll recall, the Sonics had just become the first-ever number one seed to lose to a number eight seed in the NBA Playoffs, so a little shakeup of sorts was in order.
Here is an excerpt from the book.
The Bulls saw an opportunity. Four days before the draft, Jerry Krause called. The Chicago GM, who’d visited me in Spain, had a proposal: Kemp, Pierce, and our number one for Scottie Pippen. Pippen was the best small forward, or 3, in the league. Nothing he wasn’t good at. During one of Michael’s retirements, Scottie led his team in all five of the main categories—rebounds, scoring, blocks, steals, and assists—so rare that it had only happened once before in NBA history (Dave Cowens, for the Celtics, in 1977-78). But with his running buddy MJ now a baseball player, maybe Pippen was a little disconnected. When I tried to imagine the Sonics without Shawn I knew I’d miss him, but I got pretty excited picturing Gary and Scottie teaming up on a trap; they’d smother opposing guards. But every trade prompts a debate. I was in favor of this one but I wasn’t sure.
So I called Michael. We talked about minor-league baseball, North Carolina basketball, and golf. Then we talked about the big deal on the table. Should we do this?
“Do it,” he said. “Scottie can make your other players better. Kemp can’t.”
So, the day before the draft, we said yes. News of the trade immediately leaked out and onto the KJR airwaves. More anger from the callers, a lot more; our fans loved Shawn. Again, Ackerley listened. That afternoon, he called our draft headquarters in the Sonics locker room. It doesn’t feel right, he told Wally. Better wait. I had the unpleasant job of calling Krause, who was not happy.
While we dragged our feet on draft day, Krause got desperate. He called to tell me the Bulls would drop the demand for our number one pick. He offered a big chunk of money in the next call. Then he called back to double it. Literally minutes before the draft started, Ackerley backed us out of the deal. When I delivered the bad news, Krause dropped f-bombs and called me names. We’d keep Kemp, they’d keep Pippen.
This could have gone in a lot of different directions for the franchise had it happened. The Sonics become better defensively, but how do Gary Payton and Pippen mesh together on the offensive end? Is that defense enough to scrape out a title in 1995?
Obviously we never bring in Detlef Schrempf because we have Pippen now. The Vin Baker trade is never done and the final years of Payton’s prime are never wasted and because of that we might have never traded for Ray Allen, but I’m cool with that if Payton and Pippen deliver at least one championship… maybe two or more.
Was a Payton-Pippen duo better than a Jordan-Kemp duo? Would Jordan have been the guy to be able to take Kemp to that next level mentally?
My head is spinning with so many what-if scenarios from this that I don’t know what to write anymore. I’m pretty sure the Hornets would have ended up in Oklahoma City and Kevin Durant would have wound up getting drafted by Atlanta or Memphis.
Does a core of Durant, Marc Gasol, and Zach Randolph win at least one championship?
Gah! I didn’t need to know this!
Editor’s note: I thought 1994 was the offseason the Sonics picked up Detlef, not the offseason before. So do the Sonics move Det to the four or just move him? More questions!