On November 1st, 1993, the Indiana Pacers traded forward Detlef Schrempf to the Seattle Supersonics for forward Derrick McKey and guard/forward Gerald Paddio.
It’s never easy making a controversial decision in the NBA but there are proven trades that benefit the team giving up the most talent in a trade. Back before the start of the 1993-94 season, the Indiana Pacers and Seattle Supersonics made a three-player deal that would greatly impact the future of both franchises.
Detlef Schrempf was originally acquired by the Indiana Pacers in a trade with the Dallas Mavericks involving Herb Williams during the 1989 NBA Trade Deadline. Schrempf had never received prime playing time in Dallas, but he received plenty of opportunities in Indiana to display his versatile and well-balanced floor game. In 32 games after the trade, Schrempf averaged 14.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, and 2.9 APG for an Indiana Pacers squad that was playing out a miserable 28-54 season. One positive was that the team finished 17-15 for the rest of the season after making the deal.
The 1989-90 season was a solid first full year with Indiana for Schrempf. He averaged 16.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG, and 3.2 APG in 78 contests. Indiana also showed improvement by finishing 42-40 under coach Dick Versace. Unfortunately, the Pacers would run into the eventual NBA champion Detroit Pistons in the first round of the playoffs. Indiana was swept in disappointing fashion. They lost every game by double digits, but Schrempf was impressive in the series. He averaged 20.3 PPG and 7.3 RPG in the quick three-game set.
The 1990-91 season was tough for Indiana from the start. The Pacers got off to a disappointing 9-16 start and Versace was fired. He was replaced by Bob Hill who did breathe some new energy and life into the franchise. The Pacers were able to rebound and finish 41-41 by the end of the season and qualify for the playoffs. Schrempf won his first Sixth Man of the Year award by averaging 16.1 PPG, 8.0 RPG, and 3.7 APG. He narrowly beat out Dan Majerle of the Phoenix Suns who lost to Schrempf by just one vote.
The Pacers would be matched up with the 56-26 Boston Celtics in the first round and the series would be heated. After Boston took Game One, Indiana managed to steal home court in Game Two with a 130-118 victory. Boston rebounded by taking Game Three at Indiana in a seven-point win. After a close Game Four victory by Indiana, Boston took care of business in the elimination game. Game Five is best known for Larry Bird falling on his head, becoming unconscious, and eventually returning to lead Boston to victory.
The 1991-92 season was much of the same for the Pacers. They dug themselves into a deep 15-28 hole, only to rebound and make the playoffs with a 40-42 record. Schrempf put together another Sixth Man of the Year campaign. He averaged 17.3 PPG, 9.6 RPG, and 3.9 APG in 80 games and won his Sixth Man award by 33 votes this time.
The Pacers met the Celtics once again in the playoffs but this series was not as close. The Celtics swept Indiana in three games this time after the Pacers had put up such a big fight the previous postseason. The more disappointing aspect was that star Larry Bird did not play in the series due to an ailing back which had to make Indiana think it had a chance of winning the series.
Towards the beginning of what would be his last season in Indiana, Schrempf had asked to be traded. He was happy to be in Indiana but Pacers management feared that he would leave in free agency and they would get nothing in return. Schrempf started 60 games after the Pacers had moved Chuck Person in a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He had his best season yet, averaging 19.1 PPG, 9.5 RPG, and 6.0 APG in 82 games and 378 MPG. He also made the 1993 NBA All-Star team. Indiana finished with their fourth straight season where they were simply hovering around .500. They finished 41-41 and managed to barely clinch the eighth seed due to winning a tiebreaker with the Orlando Magic.
The Pacers faced the 60-22 New York Knicks in the first round. The Knicks managed to win the series 3-1 despite Reggie Miller averaging 31.5 PPG in the four-game series. In four and a half seasons with Indiana, Schrempf averaged 17.0 PPG, 8.6 RPG, and 4.1 APG while shooting 52% from the field and 81% from the free-throw line.
Schrempf’s Pacers teammates were upset to see Schrempf go considering his reputation as a good team and his All-Star pedigree. According to the Star-News, Miller, guard Malik Sealy and big man Dale Davis all refused to comment and forward Sam Mitchell quipped “I might be next.”
Derrick McKey was originally drafted by the Seattle Supersonics with the ninth pick in the 1987 NBA Draft. The University of Alabama product came off the bench in his first season for a Seattle team that featured 20-point scorers in Tom Chambers, Dale Ellis, and Xavier McDaniel.
McKey put together a solid rookie season. He averaged 8.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 1.3 APG off the bench in 82 games and 20.8 MPG and McKey also made the 1988 NBA All-Rookie First Team. He showed some promise with performances like a 20 point, 4 steal outing against the Phoenix Suns on April 2, 1988 and 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists against the Washington Bullets on November 21, 1987. The Sonics finished 44-38 that season and qualified for the playoffs. They would face the Denver Nuggets in a high-scoring five-game series that Denver ended up prevailing in the final game of the series. There were hints of a bright future for McKey who averaged 12.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 1.6 APG off the bench in the series.
Prior to McKey’s sophomore season, Chambers signed with the Phoenix Suns. McDaniel was also moved into a super sub role. The Sonics also made a trade for big man Michael Cage with the Los Angeles Clippers. McKey was thrust into a starting role averaging 15.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.7 APG, and 1.3 SPG in 82 games (82 starts) and 34.8 MPG. The Sonics finished 47-35 that season behind a sturdy offense that finished in the top five in Offensive Rating. Seattle faced the 45-37 Houston Rockets in the first round of the NBA playoffs and managed to win the series 3-1. In the second round, Seattle ran into a very hot 57-25 Lakers squad. Seattle was swept in four games including an embarrassing elimination game where the Supersonics were up 43-14 in the early stages of Game Four. The Lakers made a huge comeback and wound up winning 97-95 and advancing to the Western Conference Finals. Despite the sweep, McKey really showed heaps of promise and talent in the series. He averaged 17.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, and 2.5 BPG in the sweep highlighted by his 26 point, 9 rebound, 3 assist, and 3 block performance in the game and had a nasty stuff over Orlando Woolridge in Game Four.
After a solid year, Seattle was expected to build upon the 1988-89 season. The team got off to a mediocre start, and never really managed to rise above it. Leading score Ellis missed two months of action due to a car accident that broke two of his ribs and collapsed his lung. Key players Sedale Threatt and McDaniel also missed substantial time. Seattle could never put together a consistent run as they finished 41-41 and narrowly missed the playoffs. The Sonics never were more than four games over .500 or three games under .500. McKey averaged 15.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.1 SPG, and 1.0 BPG in 80 games and 34.4 MPG that season.
The 1990-91 season wasn’t much different for Seattle. The Supersonics finished 41-41 once again, but this time made the playoffs under head coach K.C. Jones who replaced Bernie Bickerstaff in the Summer prior to this season. The Sonics moved their two stars in Ellis and McDaniel in two midseason deals with Milwaukee and Phoenix respectively. In return, Seattle acquired two high profile scorers in Ricky Pierce and Eddie Johnson. McKey averaged 15.3 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.3 APG, and 1.2 SPG in 73 games (55 starts) for Seattle. The Sonics would go on to play their division rival Portland Trail Blazers in the first round. Portland was a heavy favorite coming off of their NBA Finals appearance the previous season. The Blazers one the first two games at home, but Seattle stormed back in Games Three and Four to tie the series. Portland would end up winning the series in the deciding game 119-107 behind 23 points and 11 assists from Terry Porter.
Seattle got off to a rocky start during the 1991-92 season. They were just 18-18 and not showing the necessary improvement of a team with quality young players like Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. Head coach Jones was fired and replaced by assistant Bob Kloppenburg on an interim basis. Kloppenburg only lasted four games before the Sonics decided to hire George Karl as head coach of the team. Seattle got hot under Karl and finished 27-15 the rest of the way to improve to 47-35 for the season.
McKey had his problems with injuries. A groin strain and surgery on his right thumb cost McKey 30 games during the ‘91-‘92 season. He averaged 14.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.3 APG, and 1.2 SPG in the limited action.
Seattle got back into the playoffs and played well in the first round. After stealing Game One on the road against the Golden State Warriors, Seattle won both games at home to win the series 3-1. Seattle ran into the Utah Jazz in the semifinals and lost in five games thanks to sterling performances from Utah’s trio of Karl Malone, Jeff Malone, and John Stockton.
The momentum of the 1991-92 season bled into the 1992-93 season as Seattle got off to a blistering start at 23-8. The team started becoming considered serious contenders when they acquired Sam Perkins from the Los Angeles Lakers in the middle of the season. Seattle featured a deep group of talented offensive players with just enough defense to make some noise. They finished 55-27 with McKey playing slightly less and producing slightly less. He averaged 13.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.6 APG, and 1.4 SPG in 77 games that season.
In the playoffs, the Sonics managed to hold off the Utah Jazz in the first round and win the series 3-2. In the second round, Seattle defeated the Houston Rockets 4-3 in a tightly contested series. After that, Seattle made their first Western Conference Finals appearance since the 1986-87 season. In a high-scoring seven-game series Phoenix and NBA MVP Charles Barkley prevailed in the seventh and final game of the series.
McKey left Seattle with averages of 13.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 2.2 APG, and 1.2 SPG in 446 games. He also shot 50% from the field and 80% from the free-throw line during his tenure in Seattle.
McKey was well liked in his stay in Seattle, but fans, the media, teammates, and coaches always felt that he could’ve done more. He was a special player with many different skills. He was a great defender who could guard any position, and also guard in the halfcourt or trap in a fullcourt press. On offense, McKey had a solid post up game, a solid midrange jumpshot, and he was a quality ballhandler and passer for his size. McKey would have moments throughout the course of a season where he would disappear and fade into the background of a game instead of standing out.
Teammate Eddie Johnson made note of wanting McKey to be aggressive in a 1991 story by Glenn Nelson of the Seattle Times:
"What we were going to have to do is come out and play a game, just throw him (McKey) the ball and everyone else goes back into the locker room. Then, the only person he can throw it to is a fan."
McKey stood up for himself and explained why he plays the way he plays:
"It’s hard for me to think like that. If I go into a game thinking I need to force up a few shots, it’s a whole different thing. It makes me think more. I’m more comfortable just letting things happen. "I’ve been around long enough to know what it takes. The way they think, as far as scoring is concerned, I know how to approach the game. I’ve just got to try to do it."
Gerald Paddio was essentially a throw-in for this deal. Paddio originally signed with the Supersonics prior to the 1992-93 season. He didn’t see much action averaging just 3.9 PPG and 1.2 RPG in just 41 games of action before the trade.
Schrempf’s salary at the time was $1.5 million and McKey was making $1.2 million. Both teams were over the cap, so Paddio’s minimum salary was added so the trade to even up the numbers.
After the trade, both players went on to successful stops with their teams. Schrempf was happy to return home to Washington where he established himself as a basketball player in high school and college. He also looked to contribute in some way to the community that he had first come to when he moved at 17 years old from Germany.
Schrempf came into Seattle and like McKey tried to blend with the Sonics stable of offensive contributors. He played primarily on the perimeter as a small forward compared to his time in Indiana when he played a lot more power forward. Seattle got off to one of the best starts in NBA history despite Schrempf struggling in his new role offensively. The Supersonics started off 16-1 and were at one point 26-3. The team settled with a very impressive 63-19 record that left them with the best record in the NBA. Schrempf was solid in a season where he learned Seattle’s schemes and plays on the fly. He averaged 15.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 3.4 APG in his first season in Seattle. Schrempf’s scoring went down as Seattle featured a very balanced attack with six players averaging between 12 and 17 points per game.
Seattle was expected to compete for a championship, but ran into the eighth seed Denver Nuggets in the first round. After easily capturing the first two games of the series at home, Seattle was rocked in Games Three and Four. With Game Five at Seattle, the Sonics were still heavily favored to win the series. Denver managed to pull off the biggest upset in NBA history at the time when they won in overtime and eliminated Seattle in the first round. It was the first time in NBA history that an eight seed had eliminated a top seed in a playoff series ever.
Bickering between Sonics teammates had taken over the headlines in Seattle during the series. Gary Payton and Ricky Pierce had reportedly had an altercation during Halftime of Game Two of the series with Denver. The series loss had left Seattle reeling and had turned a dream into a nightmare. In an interview shortly after the series loss, Payton discussed what went wrong in the series. He hinted that the team had lost all confidence as early as Game Two of the series even when they were up 2-0 in the series.
He also talked about Derrick McKey’s impact on and off the court for Seattle and how he was able to bring people together (via the Seattle Times):
"We had Derrick (McKey) last year. He made a big difference in that he could guard big people, forwards and guards. And Derrick was basically controlling the defense. When Kloppy (Bob Kloppenburg, defensive coordinator) would tell him to put on a press, Derrick would say, `(Bleep) that, stay the way we are, we’re going to be all right.’
"We didn’t have that this year. Me and Nate were into pressuring up and getting all the steals, and we weren’t really thinking about that."
Payton stressed he wasn’t stating a preference for McKey over Detlef Schrempf, for whom McKey was traded just before the opening of the regular season. He, in fact, praised Schrempf as the only Sonic “who played (well) on a consistent basis in the playoffs.” But, echoing the sentiments of many Sonics, Payton said McKey provided valuable intangibles, the most valuable of which may have been his ability to bond his teammates.
McKey used to have barbecues and other gatherings at his house, according to Payton, and the whole team would show up. Payton said he tried to do the same this season, but only four or five players came. And, “they were always the same four or five guys,” he added.
It was back to the drawing board for the Sonics in the 1994-95 season. Besides a trade to acquire Sarunas Marciulonis for Ricky Pierce in a four-player deal, Seattle’s roster would remain practically the same. The Sonics still had an impressive season, winning 57 games and finishing with the second best offense and a top ten defense in the league. Schrempf stepped up in his second season with a full training camp under his belt and a new five-year, $20 million contract signed in the offseason. He averaged 19.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, and 3.8 APG in 35.2 MPG and made his second All-Star team and made the All-NBA Third team.
As the fourth seed, the Sonics would be matched up with the fifth seeded Los Angeles Lakers. Seattle knocked the Lakers around 96-71 in the first game at home to take a 1-0 lead. The Lakers would go on to take the next three games and win the series 3-1. In Seattle’s elimination game, the Sonics actually held an eight-point advantage going into the fourth quarter, but the Lakers pulled off a major comeback and eliminated Seattle once again from the first round.
Now Seattle was in complete turmoil as a franchise. Players were fighting, and a few Sonics players had lost trust in Karl’s schemes as coach after a second straight season that ended in an early exit. There were calls for him to be fired or resign from the media, but the Sonics kept Karl and they wouldn’t regret it for the 1995-96 season.
Seattle traded a very unhappy Kendall Gill to Charlotte and acquired Hersey Hawkins in the trade. They also trade Marciulonis to Sacramento for Frank Brickowski. Besides that, the Sonics once again rolled with the same core and the same coach. Once again, Seattle had a fantastic regular season. They finished 64-18 behind strong performances from Payton, Shawn Kemp, and Schrempf. Schrempf missed time with a broken lower leg, but still put together a strong season. In 63 games, he averaged 17.1 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and 4.4 APG in 34.9 MPG.
As the playoffs started, Seattle found themselves once again in a pressured first round matchup against a lower seed. The 39-43 Sacramento Kings led by Mitch Richmond would be the opponent. The Sonics won Game One with relative ease, but all Sonics fans had to have flashbacks when the Kings upset Seattle in game Two 90-81 behind 37 points from Richmond.
Heading to Sacramento with a 1-1 tie was less than ideal, but Seattle responded well to the adversity. In Game Three, the Kings held a nine-point advantage going into the fourth quarter, but the Sonics pulled off a miraculous comeback in the fourth to win the game by seven and regain control of the series. Game Four was easier for the Sonics who won by 14 and erased the bad memories from the past two postseasons.
The Sonics moved on to the Semifinals where they met up with the defending champion Houston Rockets. Seattle played free and easy and swept Houston behind 66.3 PPG from Payton, Kemp, and Schrempf in the four-game series.
Now with six playoff wins in a row, Seattle was coming in hot into their Western Conference Finals matchup with the Utah Jazz. Whether it was the matchup of Kemp and Karl Malone or Payton and John Stockton, the series was bound to be interesting. Seattle jumped on Utah winning three of the first four games. Utah responded by winning the next two to tie up the series at three games apiece. Seattle answered in the final game with a 90-86 victory behind 26 points and 14 rebounds from Kemp.
As the Sonics advanced to the NBA Finals they would face the Chicago Bulls led by Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman in the 1996 NBA Finals. Seattle was the underdog in this series as the Bulls had the best season in NBA history with a 72-10 record. The Bulls had also only lost one playoff game to the Knicks in the Semifinals. Chicago came in and dominated the series from the start. They Won Game One by 17 points and the Bulls held on in Game Two with a four-point victory. The big surprise came in Game Three, when on Seattle’s home floor the Bulls ran all over the Supersonics. The Bulls were up by 24 at halftime and wound up with a 22-point victory to take a 3-0 lead. The Sonics would take the next two games before Chicago would seal up their first of three straight championships in Game Six.
The 1996-97 season was another great year for Seattle. They went 57-25 on the strength of an early 12-2 start. Schrempf made his third and final All-Star team and averaged 16.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 4.4 APG, and 1.0 SPG despite missing time with a tear in a tendon in his foot. The Sonics finished tied for the second best record in the West and played the 40-42 Phoenix Suns in the first round of the playoffs.
The Suns stole the first game of the series 106-101. After Seattle took care of business in Game Two, Phoenix won Game Three to push Seattle on the verge of another embarrassing first round loss. In Game Four, Seattle held a 107-104 lead before Rex Chapman nailed a wild three with 1.9 seconds left in the game to send the game into overtime. However, Seattle would prevail and eventually win the series in the fifth and final game.
In the Semifinals, Seattle ran into the Houston Rockets who finished with the same exact record during the season. The Rockets jumped out to a 3-1 series lead, but Seattle clawed back and won Games Five and Six to even the series at 3-3. Seattle couldn’t make the full comeback as Houston held on to win Game Seven 96-91 and win the series 4-3.
The 1997 offseason would be an offseason of change for Seattle. Kemp was frustrated by his lack of a bigger contract and had purposely missed team flights and arrived late to express his frustration with his contract. He was frustrated to see teammates like backup center Jim McIlvaine make more money than him on his contract and that caused tension between him and the organization. Seattle finally gave up on trying to please Kemp and dealt him to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a three-team deal also involving the Milwaukee Bucks. In the deal, Seattle received All-Star power forward Vin Baker.
The new look Sonics also added old face Dale Ellis as well as guard Greg Anthony to shore up their bench for the 1997-98 season. Baker, Payton, and Schrempf meshed well as Seattle jumped out to a 29-6 record. The Sonics finished once again tied for the second best record in the West with a 61-21 record. Schrempf showed signs of individual decline. He averaged 15.8 PPG, 7.1 RPG, and 4.4 APG in 78 games with Seattle.
In the playoffs, the Sonics met up with the very young Minnesota Timberwolves in the first round. The series turned out just like their last first round matchup with Phoenix in ‘97. Minnesota stole a game on the road, and Seattle managed to avoid elimination in Game Four with a very tight victory. Seattle closed out the series in Game Five with an easy 97-84 victory.
In the Semifinals, Seattle met up with the Los Angeles Lakers that finished with the same record as them during the regular season. After handling the Lakers in Game One with a 14-point victory, Seattle was beaten by double figures four consecutive times by the Lakers in an embarrassing finish to a season that started out with so much promise.
The lockout-shortened 1998-99 season would wind up being Schrempf’s last season in Seattle. The Sonics would start 6-0 under new head coach Paul Westphal, but the team faltered later on and played .500 ball on their way to a disappointing 25-25 finish. Baker was out of shape and had the worst season of his career. Schrempf and Hersey Hawkins were both moved to the bench at times as well. Schrempf played in all 50 games and averaged 15.0 PPG, 7.4 RPG, and 3.7 APG for a Sonics team that missed the playoffs due to losing their season series with the 25-25 Minnesota Timberwolves 2-1.
In 1999 free agency, the Sonics only offered Schrempf a one-year, $1 million deal. He would wind up turning that down and signing a two-year, $4.2 million contract with the Portland Trail Blazers. Schrempf was insulted by the Sonics who had renounced his rights so they could fall under the salary cap. Since Schrempf had lost his bird rights, the Sonics could no longer sign him for more than $1 million.
Schrempf explained his displeasure with how Seattle handled his free agency (via Seattle Times):
"While I hold no ill will toward the Sonics in general, or (General Manager) Wally Walker in particular, I am disappointed by the fact that a one-year, $1 million contract was the only offer I received from the Sonics. Some people may insist my decision not to re-sign with the Sonics was motivated by money, but the reality is that the decision was based purely on issues of fairness and loyalty."
McKey was the perfect fit for Larry Brown’s defensive style. The long and athletic small forward got off to a slow start in his first season with the Pacers due to a hamstring injury. The Pacers as a whole didn’t fair much better starting off 16-23 through the first 39 games of the season. The pacers righted the ship going 31-12 the rest of the regular season including a decisive eight-game winning streak to finish the season. McKey put together a solid all-around campaign averaging 12.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 4.3 APG in 76 games.
The Pacers put together their greatest playoff stretch in franchise history at the time when they swept the Orlando Magic in three game, and then pulled off a large upset against the number one seeded Atlanta Hawks in six games. In their first Conference Finals appearance, the Pacers met the Knicks in the 1994 playoffs. After the Knicks took the first two games of the series at home, Indiana responded by taking the next three games including a special performance by Reggie Miller in Game Five of the series. Despite holding a 3-2 series edge, the Pacers would go on to lose the next two games and the series in seven games.
The initial playoff success inspired positive commentary about the trade and reversed the negative banter originally associated with it. The fact that Indiana was breaking franchise records and experiencing unprecedented success inspired the change in public reaction to the trade.
The 1994-95 season was another step in the right direction for Indiana. The team finished with an NBA Franchise high of 52-30. McKey put together a strong individual season averaging 13.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 4.3 APG, and 1.5 SPG in 81 appearances. He also received his first NBA All-Defensive Second Team nomination. The Pacers entered into a relatively easy first round matchup with the Atlanta Hawks. They swept Atlanta in three games and entered into a competitive series with the 55-win New York Knicks.
Game One was highly contested with both teams trading leads. The Knicks wound up with a 103-97 lead but blew the game thanks to a legendary eight points in nine seconds finish from Reggie Miller. After losing Game Two in New York, the Pacers took care of business at home in Games Three and Four to take a 3-1 series lead. McKey came up with a big block in Game Three on Charles Oakley to end the game.
The Knicks managed to even the series by winning Game Five on a Patrick Ewing Game-Winner and a double digit Game Six victory. The Pacers managed to eke out a Game Seven victory to win the series 4-3. McKey played an integral role in the elimination game with 14 points, 3 rebounds, and 7 assists.
In their second straight Conference Finals appearance, the Pacers found themselves matched up with the young Orlando Magic led by Penny Hardaway and Shaquille O’Neal. The seven-game series featured the home team winning every time. The series featured some wild moments including a game-winning buzzer beater from Rik Smits to win Game Four of the series and tie the series 2-2. The Pacers would go on to lose by 24 in Game Seven and lose the series 4-3.
McKey would continue to play well for Indiana during the 1995-96 season. He received a five-year, $24 million extension early on in the season. He earned another NBA All-Defensive Second Team honor and the Pacers went 52-30 once again. Some bad luck would blindside the Pacers late in the season though. Miller broke his right eye socket in a collision with Allan Houston and Otis Thorpe in the third to last game of the season. The Pacers went into their first round series with the Atlanta Hawks. Miller missed the first four games of the series but returned in dramatic fashion for the final game of the series. Miller’s return was spoiled as Atlanta defeated Indiana in the final game on Indiana’s home floor 89-87.
The 1996-97 season would be the beginning of a sharp decline for McKey. He missed a total of 32 games due to a stress fracture in his left foot and a ruptured achilles tendon. McKey posted career lows in scoring (8.0 PPG) and field goal percentage (39.1%) that season. The Pacers didn’t fare well at all during the ‘96-‘97 season. The team went 39-43 highlighted by injuries and the trading and re-acquiring of Mark Jackson with Denver during the 1996 offseason and the 1997 NBA Trade deadline respectively.
With McKey out for part of the 1997-98 season due to his ruptured achilles, the Pacers made a trade for forward Chris Mullin from Golden State. When McKey returned, he was moved to the bench and played in 57 games that season. Indiana returned to dominance under new coach Larry Bird, winning 58 games with the second best record in the Eastern Conference behind the Chicago Bulls.
In the playoffs, the Pacers got off to the right star disposing the Cleveland Cavaliers in four games in the first round. The Pacers met up with their rival New York Knicks in the Semifinals and managed to win the series 4-1 behind a strong performance from Reggie Miller (24.6 PPG in five games). The Pacers met up with the Chicago Bulls in a very close seven-game series. Only one of the seven games was decided by double digits. McKey received a considerable amount of playing time in the series (21.4 MPG). Despite not providing much offense, McKey had a special moment when he inbounded the ball late in Game Four of the series, delivering a pass to Reggie Miller who knocked down a game-winning three-pointer to tie up the series. The Pacers would go on to lose the series in seven games as Jordan’s Bulls would make one last title run.
Injuries continued to be a problem for McKey in what would be the final few years of his career. McKey only played in 13 games during the lockout-shortened season due to knee problems. The Pacers won 33 games that year and advanced to the Conference Finals after sweeping both the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers. The Pacers had probably one of their most disappointing playoff series performances in the Conference Finals with the eighth-seeded Knicks. The Pacers lost in six games.
McKey missed a large chunk of the 1999-2000 season due to a bruised leg. He played significant minutes (19.8 MPG) for a very deep Pacers bench but only played in 32 contests. Indiana had the best season in franchise history, winning 56 games and advancing to the NBA Finals after defeating the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, and New York Knicks in three hard fought series. The Pacers would run into the Lakers who managed to defeat Indiana in six games to win the first of three consecutive championships.
The Pacers would go through a youth movement in what would be McKey’s last season with the team. The Pacers traded veteran rebounder extraordinaire Dale Davis to Portland for the very young Jermaine O’Neal. Rik Smits retired, and Mark Jackson and Chris Mullin signed elsewhere in free agency.
With the youth movement underway, McKey would see some action during the 2000-01 season. He played in 66 games (20 starts) and averaged only 2.2 PPG and 2.7 RPG in 15.0 MPG that season. The Pacers under Isiah Thomas took a step back finishing just 41-41. The Pacers barely advanced to the playoffs, narrowly edging out the Boston Celtics. Despite an amazing Reggie Miller game-winner in Game One, the Pacers would go on to lose 3-1 to the number one seeded Philadelphia 76ers and Allen Iverson.
McKey would be waived before the start of the 2001-02 season and would later sign with the Philadelphia 76ers halfway through the season.
Paddio lasted less than a month before being waived late in November by Indiana. He only saw 55 minutes of action in seven games before his departure from Indiana. Paddio would eventually play for the Knicks and Bullets in the same season and that would be his last season in the NBA.
This trade was about as even as it gets. Both McKey and Schrempf were versatile forwards who were unselfish and willing to fill in the gaps for their teams. McKey was probably a better fit initially in Indiana for Larry Brown’s defensive scheme and in Indiana he was allowed to make plays for teammates on offense with not too many quality ballhandlers on Indiana’s roster.
Schrempf took time to adjust to having the ball a lot less and playing on the perimeter more than his time in Indiana. Seattle was loaded with an elite level of talent, but with that talent comes very strong and distinct personalities forced to mesh. Despite a great 63-19 season, the Sonics cracked under pressure in the 1994 first round and suffered a traumatic loss to Denver. It took Seattle two whole years to recover and make the NBA Finals.
In the long-term, Schrempf was better than McKey. By the fourth year of McKey’s time inIndiana, he was constantly injured and would never be the same player again, while Schrempf still was a productive player into 1999.
Derrick McKey on head coach George Karl (via The Seattle Times):
"Coach had his own personality and the type people he wants on the team. That was probably the main thing - our personalities did not agree. But that’s fine. He’s got his job to do."
On the criticism he faced in Seattle:
"I did a lot of things that didn’t show up in the box score. People are going to say what they want to say anyway, but the players on this team and around the league know what I can do. Your peers are what counts."
On his reaction when notified of trade:
"I said, ‘OK, fine’."
On the lack of shock on his part after hearing about the trade (via The Spokesman-Review):
"I’ve heard about it for so long, I can’t say I’m surprised. But it really hasn’t sunk in. My main problem now is packing for the move."
Before return to Seattle (via Ellensburg Daily Record):
"It’s a business situation. They thought they needed more offense at that position (small forward), so they got Detlef. The Pacers wanted defense, so they got me. That’s pretty much the way it is in the NBA."
On the importance of the game:
"The game? Hmmm, it’s no big deal. Just another game we’ve got to win."
On the Pacers team after the trade:
"It reminds me some of what it was like earlier in my career with the Sonics. We were changing all the time and weren’t winning consistently. There wasn’t much respect out there for us. But coach is real fundamental and into teaching. I like it, and if he gets on me, I don’t care. I’m not one of those guys who’s ever been bothered by a coach getting on me. I just do my job. It’s not like I don’t have the respect of my teammates. I’ve always had the respect of my teammates."
Detlef Schrempf on how he had dreamed of playing for Seattle years ago (via The Seattle Times):
"I dreamed about it."
On his frustrations with the Pacers and how their acknowledgement of a rebuild created a rift with Schrempf who wanted to contend:
"That really annoyed me. They’d just told me they were going to rebuild and get better, and that I’d be the cornerstone. Two weeks later, I was being shopped all over the place. I told them that I treat people the way they treat me, and that when my contract was up, I’d take all this into consideration. The way the league is going, there is no free agency. Everybody’s over the salary cap. Who was going to sign me? Realistically, the Pacers were going to give me the best offer."
On the trade and his excitement but also upset feelings about the deal (via Wilmington Morning Star):
"I’m excited to be going back to Seattle and I’m excited about the team, but, at the same time, I’m also a little mad. A little upset. They (the Pacers) could have done this a month ago and shown me a little respect. Or they could have not let me go through two practices when they knew this was going to happen. It just shows you it’s a business and that there’s no loyalty."
On competing for a championship with Seattle (via Herald-Journal):
"I think we’re good enough to win it. I think we’ve got to get lucky. I think we’ve got to get better and we’ve got to do a lot of things right. But no one is going to give us any excuses now."
On his excitement for going to Seattle (via The Spokesman-Review):
"I’m excited to be going to Seattle; my phone has been ringing off the hook. I’m going to a situation where I have a chance to accomplish what I’ve wanted to accomplish the last 4 years. We have a chance to go all the way."
On the trade:
"Every player wants to get a chance at winning a championship. I’ve been in the league for a long time now, and I didn’t see us making the next step in the next two or three years (at Indiana). This is my chance, and I’m going to make the best of it."
On how the Sonics style of play is conducive to him succeeding (via The Seattle Times):
"This is the type of basketball I like. Put five guys on the court who like to play basketball together and don’t worry about size or mismatches. Just go for the ball, play together and read each other. I know I can score and rebound, and I like to pass the ball. People in this trade have questioned my defensive ability. I know I have certain limitations in that way, but I think I’m smart enough to overcome them."
Sonics president Bob Whitsitt (via LA Times):
We’ve just added an All-Star to our team. Any time you can do that, I think you can’t help but become a better team.”
On how long the trade took (via The Spokesman-Review):
"Oh, it took about three days to get done."
On not being concerned of Schrempf’s free agency situation after the season (via Ellensburg Daily Record):
"We know he likes it here and we think he’s going to like the team. We signed Gill, we signed (Ricky) Pierce and Benoit Benjamin when we had to. We don’t think it will be a problem."
On team expectations (via Ellensburg Daily Record):
"What we’re trying to do is win a championship. Is Detlef that good? Well, I don’t think one guy is going to win a championship for us."
On Schrempf’s age:
"Detlef is the same age as Michael Jordan. I looked that up. Detlef also only missed two games in the last three years. Derrick missed 44. I think Detlef has a lot of good years left him."
Before McKey’s Return to Seattle (via Ellensburg Daily Record):
"Some of the players, you’re glad you traded them and you don’t say a word about them when they come back. Derrick’s a guy I always liked. He’s an excellent basketball player who played well for us for six years, and I hated to trade him. Trading him was not a case of anything he did wrong or didn’t fit in. It was a case of getting better at an area we needed to get better at. There are very few players in the NBA we would even have considered trading him for. Detlef was obviously one of them."
Indiana Pacers general manager Donnie Walsh on the feeling out process it took for him to trade Schrempf (via LA Times):
"To keep Detlef here, I had to feel real deep in my heart that we were going to have him here next year, or else we stood a very difficult chance of losing him for nothing."
On how long the trade took (via The Spokesman-Review):
"More like three years."
On the expectations for the trade (via The Free Lance Star):
"I fully expect that the trade will be unpopular. I’m just hopeful the fans will give Derrick McKey a chance."
On Schrempf’s impact for Indiana (via The Prescott Courier):
"Detlef was a great player for us. He came here from Dallas as an unheralded player. He became the sixth man of the year twice, was an all-star last year."
On not wanting to get into a bidding war for Schrempf (via Bowling Green Daily News):
"With the recent signings in the NBA, and the one-year out rule, that just enhanced the fact that this was going to develop into a bidding war. It was either going to put us in a difficult position as a franchise, or we were just going to lose Detlef because he chose to go somewhere else."
On the opportunity to acquire McKey (via Anderson Herald Bulletin):
"I felt it was opportune for us when we had a chance to get a player of Derrick McKey’s caliber, and also Paddio who has the ability to shoot the ball, that we go ahead and do the deal."
On the two factors that played a role in trading Schrempf (via Ellensburg Daily Record):
"I hated to do the deal. There were two deciding factors, one basketball and one business. Since camp began (coach) Larry (Brown) knew Detlef wouldn’t be able to get the kind of minutes he was used to at three because of the kind of defense he wanted to play. McKey fits that just right. The other was business. We knew that everybody would be competing for Detlef this coming Summer and we wouldn’t have a chance and then we would get nothing. So I told him in August we would try to trade him to Seattle because he wanted to finish his career there and we liked McKey. I’m sure it will be well received there. It won’t be here."
On how much the trade bothered him (via The Spokesman-Review):
"This (trade) killed me. It’s a business, we’ve got a new coach (Larry Brown) and a new system, but I still didn’t want to do it. I knew we’d lose him (Schrempf) next year (to free agency), but all I thought about were all those games when I thought he was playing awful and I’d look at the stat sheet midway through the second quarter and he’d already have 10 points, eight rebounds, and four assists. He will always ALWAYS put up good numbers."
Supersonics Coach George Karl on what Schrempf provides (via Ellensburg Daily Record):
"We were looking for a consistent style in the half court, and Detlef is more of an offensive player. It’s not that Detlef is a bad defensive player or Derrick is a bad offensive player. Detlef just upgrades our offense with a style that defines playoff basketball."
On the process for Schrempf to feel comfortable in Seattle:
"I don’t know how long it will take for it all to fit, but this is a long season and it won’t all be decided this week. He can play one (point guard), three (small forward) or five (center), he’s a prototype Sonic."
On how it’s his turn to pay back the Sonics for acquiring Schrempf:
"I would say Mr. (Bob) Whitsitt and Mr. (owner Barry) Ackerley have delivered the goods for me here. Now it’s my turn."
On the pressure the team will face after the trade (via Moscow-Pullman Daily News):
"This puts us in a situation where we’ve got to produce. We’ve opened up a two to three-year window to contend for the championship. If we don’t win a championship in two to three years, we should be scrutinized very closely."
On Schrempf’s versatility:
"He’s a very versatile athlete who does it all. We think this move improves our shooting and gives us another player who can help us get to where we want to be."
On how Schrempf fits in with the team (via The Seattle Times):
"He fits into the way I believe the game is going to. Can he play guard? Yeah, he can play guard. Can he shoot? Yeah, he can shoot. Can he rebound? Yeah. Can he pass? Yeah, he can pass. He isn’t defined by a position, he’s just a player. He’s fundamental. He knows the game. He sees the game. He feels the game. He had the ability to make people better. There are very few big people you can say that about."
On how he’s a big fan of Schrempf (via Ellensburg Daily Record):
"I’ve been a big fan of Detlef’s ever since he came into the league in Dallas. He’s one of the few players in the game who makes other players better. He’s a guy who can get 10 assists as often as he can get 30 points."
On the heightened expectations for Seattle and competing for a championship:
"If we don’t, I’ll be very, very disappointed. I’ll want to know the reason why. Why would we run away from our expectations? I think we’re good enough to win it."
Before McKey’s return to Seattle (via Ellensburg Daily Record):
"Derrick gave us something that nobody else has. He’s a 6-10 guy who can guard all five positions on the floor. Don’t think it didn’t cause me to lose some sleep because we didn’t have that anymore. But now we have a guy who is consistent in the halfcourt offense."
Indiana Coach Larry Brown after trade (via Sun Journal):
"We all agreed that this would probably be the best thing for our team in the long run. I’ve gotten to see Derrick play a lot over the years… I don’t think the transition is going to be that severe. I would like to think that with a young kid like him… good athletes, we could put people in their normal position and go there."
On team needs (via The Free-Lance Star):
"We have more than one specific need. Detlef’s a great player, but I’m hopeful that Derrick can come in here and play the small forward."
On Derrick McKey:
"I never heard anybody say that he plays inconsistently defensively."
On McKey’s early-season injury problems in 1993 (via Ellensburg Daily Record):
"It’s been tough since he was really hurt when we got him. It was tough for Derrick because he’s expected to fill a big void for us and he’s not able to perform. He wasn’t healthy, and he hadn’t practiced. But since he’s come back, it’s been a different story."
On McKey’s talent:
"You see, Derrick McKey is a coach’s player. He can play for anyone because he’s such a great all-around talent, and he can do anything. Detlef is the same kind of all-around talent, but Derrick’s begins on the defensive end. He won with defense in Seattle, and some of what his strength is has rubbed off on the other players. People talk about how quiet he is, but he’s really been helpful. He gives a lot of insight to players in how to guard certain teams and what their weaknesses are. The whole team listens to him, and it makes my job a lot easier. Having players like him is what pro basketball is all about for me."
On McKey’s defensive impact:
"I’ve said this a number of times, but Bobby’s (Jones) the greatest defender I’ve ever been around. Derrick’s on the same level. But he has more offensive skills, and it’s up to me to start running the offense through him."
On losing Detlef Schrempf:
"Sure it’s tough losing Detlef. All the players said he was gone (via free agency) after this year. So instead of losing him for nothing, we got Derrick McKey. Now that he’s getting healthy, we’re winning. And that’s no coincidence."
Sonics guard Nate McMillan on Derrick McKey (via The Seattle Times):
"When all the guys on the team are looking to do a certain thing, like score, you need somebody in there to be unselfish, to keep the team balanced and happy. That’s what Derrick was doing. Like myself, he sacrificed his game, his ego and his pride to help keep his teammates happy. When the five starters are out there, there are different personalities, and I mean different personalities. You go up and down the court two or three times, and if some of your teammates don’t get the ball, they get upset, they quit playing, and you don’t want to deal with that. Me and Derrick both knew that."
On McKey’s unselfish nature (via The Seattle Times):
"I think he didn’t do certain things because of the structure of the team. He is very unselfish, too unselfish. People wanted him to look to his offense more, and when he didn’t he was inconsistent. But he always said he wanted to allow other guys the (scoring) opportunities."
On Detlef Schrempf:
"Detlef can play defense. He plays hard, and he’s a smart player."
Sonics forward-center Sam Perkins on Derrick McKey (via The Seattle Times):
"He (McKey) was really well-liked on this team. I liked him, too. He was fun to be around. I also liked him as a player, because of his court savvy and court awareness."
Sonics guard Kendall Gill on Schrempf (via Ellensburg Daily Record):
"Detlef Schrempf is a great player. He’s a 6-10 guy who can do everything. He’s a gutsy player and I love that. He’s got a big heart. He’s not afraid to take the last shot at the last second."
Sonics center Michael Cage on the trade via Ellensburg Daily Record):
"I think the Pacers are getting a pretty good deal as well."
Pacers center LaSalle Thompson on the deal (via Wilmington Morning Star):
"He’s an All-Star player and all the guys on the team liked him. A guy like that, you don’t want to see him go. Right now, we’re not thinking about whether it’s good or bad. We’re sad to see a friend go. We all really appreciated him."
Schrempf’s agent Jeff Neal on the trade (via The Seattle Times):
"We pushed for this trade, and they pushed for this trade. There were risks, but neither of us would have pushed for it if Detlef didn’t want to be in Seattle, and the Sonics didn’t want him there."
Portland Trail Blazers guard Clyde Drexler on the trade (via The Seattle Times):
"McKey’s a very good player. I think they’re going to miss him. Schrempf is good, but McKey did a lot of things well. They’re going to miss his defense."
Blazers head coach Rick Adelman on the trade (via The Seattle Times):
"It’s going to help them. Schrempf is more demonstrative as an offensive player than McKey was. Every night he’s going to come out and be aggressive. I’ve always thought Phoenix was the favorite in our division because of what they did last year plus adding A.C. (Green). You have to look at both of those teams now."
Former Pacers head coach Bob Hill on the trade (via Orlando Sentinel):
"Obviously the mindset of the management is that they didn’t feel they could commit to pay him next year when he becomes a free agent. There was a lot of discussion the last two years concerning Derrick McKey. But I was never in favor of trading Derrick for Detlef."