Monday, May 30

Feeling a Draft: Part II

MARTELL WEBSTER – SG
Ht: 6’7” Wt: 235 Age: 18
College: Seattle Prep / Committed to UW


At 6’7”, Webster is the ideal size for a shooting guard, almost too tall even. The star guard from Seattle Prep has committed to the Huskies, but after playing well in post-season all-star games, and hearing from NBA scouts, realized it would be well worth his while to explore the draft.

A seemingly mature young man for his age, Webster already possesses a strong jump shot. Built like someone who’s already in the league, Webster doesn’t seem to have the ability (yet) to use it in the post against smaller players. Defensively, he will need to work on his lateral ability, and there are plenty of areas of his game that could use improvement to become ready for the league. Still, at 18, how many guys come in ready to play?

It is expected that Webster will sign the Goodwins as his agent(s), which, of course, does not bode well for Seattle-Webster negotiations should he drop to the #25 spot in the draft (Interesting quote from the PI on Webster’s relationship with the Goodwins, from his great aunt/guardian Beulah Walker: "He's been talking to them," she said. "I told them to back off. I don't trust them."). He started out as going as high as 11th in the draft, but has slipped recently, to the point where draftcity.com has him at the 23 spot to Sacramento. Meanwhile, cbssportsline.com has him at 11th or 14th in their mock draft.

Webster averaged 27.7 ppg his senior year, a remarkable figure that attests to his ability to drain the long ball. It’s this ability that makes me think he’d be a good pick for the Sonics. I can imagine a scenario where Seattle re-signs Ray Allen, drafts Webster, then allows Allen to tutor Webster for the next 3-4 years, as the youngster slowly gets more and more playing time. By the time Allen starts to lose his game, Webster should be ready to step in.

Add in his obvious ties to the area, and it makes a good fit for both parties. He’ll likely go higher than 25, but in case he falls to this spot, he’s got my vote.

Friday, May 27

Feeling a Draft

Free agency beckons, of course, but the Sonics also have 3 draft picks in the upcoming Stern-a-thon. Who should they take? Should they trade the picks? Does this column have any upside? These are the questions you need to know. I thought I’d take this opportunity to start looking at some of the players the Sonics could possibly pick.

CHANNING FRYE – PF/C
Ht: 6’11” Wt: 250 Age: 22
College: Arizona


Frye is long-limbed, fast for a big man, and relatively agile, making him an effective player on the fast break and in blocking shots (at least at the NCAA level). Combined with the ability to hit a 15-footer, Frye is a more than capable offensive player for a big man. Further, his jump hook is a potent weapon that can score in any league. Add in an 80% rate at the line, a seemingly calm, professional demeanour, a history of playing in front of big crowds and in big games, and Frye seems to be the whole enchilada. Husky fans will no doubt remember his 30-point outing against the Dawgs last February in Seattle, although they’ll probably remember UW’s 93-85 win even more. You also have to like that he’s played well in the tourney, consistently getting double-doubles in the best competition the NCAA has to offer.

The negative is that Frye is relatively lean, and may not be able to bang with NBA centers. Built more like Keon Clark and Chris Bosh, Frye is going to struggle to score in the post when people like Jerome James, Greg Ostertag, Shaq, etc. start shoving. Frye has been able to get away with using his height to get rebounds in college – that won’t work in the NBA, where people like Reggie Evans will give up their first-born son for a board. Labeled as “soft” throughout his tenure at ‘Zona, Frye will have to work hard to overcome that adjective. As draftcity.com mentions, it’s hard to figure exactly how he’s going to score and who he’s going to guard. Likewise, knickerblogger’s comment that Frye’s a “tweener” is apt.

To me, Frye would work best as part of a Twin Towers set-up, alongside a 7-footer with some heft. With the Sonics, Frye would likely be paired with Collison, Fortson, or Radmanovic (assuming the roster stays somewhat intact, a dubious assumption). None of those combinations is good for Seattle, since it leaves nobody to cover the big man down low. In an offense like the Kings’ or Suns’, Frye could be an effective player, but not on the Sonics. He’s not worth a 1st-round pick to Seattle, who would be better off looking for someone with more heft. After all, don’t we already have a thin 7-footer taking up space on the bench?

Wednesday, May 25

Who's Coming Back?

Curious to hear what everyone would like to see happen next year. Here's the list of players under contract for next season:

Lewis ($8.5 mil)
Fortson ($6.5 mil in 2005-06, $6.9 in 06-07)
Collison ($1.8)
Swift ($1.7)
Ridnour ($1.6)

Daniels has declined his option for next season. Radman is a restricted free agent. Everyone else is on their own.

So, out of JJ, Allen, Daniels, Radman, Potato, Evans, Cleaves, Flip, and Damien, who should the Sonics be looking to keep? Just as a quick thought, I'm for keeping AD, Radman, and Damien, and ambivalent about the rest. As we all know, I'm against giving Ray the bank, JJ's not likely to be consistent for a whole month, let alone a 4-year contract, Potato is possibly worth a small-value 2-year deal, Evans is a one-dimensional player who has outlived his usefulness, and Flip is seemingly never going to realize his potential.

Thoughts?

Tuesday, May 24

Grist for the Mill

With the season over (Ray's shot still isn't hanging in the air, is it?), the Rumor Season starts now. I'll try to cull whatever rumors float out there and share them with you, our valuable readers. Here's a couple:

* According to the Times, Danny Fortson is rumored to be headed for DC in exchange for troubled center Kwame Brown, the former #1 pick in the draft. The enticing 7-footer has displayed ability, as well as getting his butt suspended for the playoffs by a frustrated Wizards' management.

Likelihood: 60%

* The Knicks are interested in McMillan, but it probably won't happen. Likewise, the Rockets want him too. Wally Walker, according to the PI, ain't gonna let it happen anytime soon, though. He has put an embargo on talks to Nate and GM Rick Sund until June 30th.

Likelihood of either leaving: 60%
Likelihood of both leaving: 20%

Friday, May 20

Post Mortem

I’m not going to go into a big, long, protracted piece on where all the Sonics are headed in the off-season, or who we should keep, what free agents to get, etc.

No, it’s way too early for that. I’d prefer to digest what happened last night and over the past couple of weeks. Too often in North American society, we gloss over what just happened, moving on to what’s coming next while ignoring the opportunity to savor recent events.

With that in mind, here is one man’s list of his favorite – and not-so-favorite – memories from this post-season. Feel free to add yours in the comments section.

· Jerome James wearing a cape made from a garbage bag at the end of the Sacramento series.
· Ray Allen’s off-balance 3 to win game 4 against the Kings.
· The agony in Antonio Daniels’ face as he missed the first of two FTs in the final game with the Spurs.
· The sound from the Key Arena crowd after the Sonics knocked off Sac. for their first series victory in what seemed like 20 years.
· Reggie Evans’ post-dunk, muscle-man, what-in-the-world-is-he-doing? thing.
· Braids. Do I need to say any more?
· The incredible, Maravich-esque move Ridnour made on the Spurs in game 3.
· Being more surprised when Allen missed than when he hit, I feeling I haven’t had for a Sonic since Dale Ellis circa 1987.
· Losing Vlade, then Allen in the span of what seemed 3 seconds.
· Rashard Lewis in street clothes.
· Watching Womanu Ginobili get knocked to the ground. Repeatedly.
· Danny Fortson guarding players 6 inches taller than him.
· The emergence of Nick Collison as the best PF on the team.
· JJ cruising down the lane looking like a Cadillac flying down an alleyway.
· The 1/10th of a second from when Ray’s shot left his hand last night to when it clanked off the rim. For that 1/10th, anything was still possible, the season was still alive, and now ...

Thursday, May 19

High Noon



If there's one line you take away from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, it's Paul Newman's ubiquitous "Who are those guys?" Newman repeats it over and over again, in reference to his pursuers, and usually in exasperation.

I have a feeling the Spurs feel that way about the Sonics this series. Far from a cakewalk, Seattle has posed a formidable challenge to San Antonio, both talent-wise and physically. From Danny Fortson's hard fouls to Antonio Daniels offensive skills, the Sonics have demonstrated they are - while not the equal of the Spurs - at least in the same neighborhood. In doing so, they've given Sonic fans reason to love their team. Damien Wilkins' brilliant game 4, Luke Ridnour's same, AD's consistent play, the courage of Ray Allen, the improvement of Nick Collison, Jerome James' 7-for-7 game 3, great memories every single one.

Sadly, the euphoria we've been feeling may end tonight. As Ray Allen mentioned in the Times today, this could be the last home game any of these Sonics play in Seattle. After all, a win only guarantees a return trip to Texas, where as Fortson said, "I'm sick of that Riverwalk."

What can we look for tonight? The Sonics will inevitably jump out to an early lead, buoyed by an enthusiastic crowd and more than a tablespoon of desperation. The key as in all of the games this series, will be Seattle's ability to free Ray Allen from Bruce Bowen. If the Sonics can find a way to get Allen some open looks early, I have a feeling he could go for 40 points tonight.

After a crushing defeat on Tuesday, I predict Seattle will respond tonight. Vegas says Spurs by 5 1/2. I say Sonics 108 - Spurs 103.

Lewis Out Again

Not that it comes as a shock, but the Times is reporting that Rashard Lewis is out for Game 6 tonight. I'll try to piece together a preview later on today, but I wish I could have written that "the addition of Lewis to the Sonics could well be the piece they need to get their offense on track."

Bank



Here's a little note I got from Ian Cohen, who works on ESPN:
Thought you may like this little thing we whipped up way before the playoffs. We are here in Seattle, but work on ESPN and wanted to challenge ourselves to see if we could make the SPURS cool. We are Sonics fans, but thought maybe other Sonic fans might get a laugh out of this due to the nature of the series.
Check out "Take it to the Bank". It is DOPE!

True Hoop

It seems the Sonics have more fans than we thought!

Henry Abbott, who's written for HOOP, Inside Stuff, and Men's Journal (!), gives The Soul some love over at his excellent basketball site, True Hoop.

Wednesday, May 18

TV "journalism" at it's finest



It seems as though the dimwits at KARE-11 in Minnesota can't count to seven.

Thanks to Wayne for the tip!

We can still win this

Seattle SuperSonics' Ray Allen sits on the bench during the third quarter against the San Antonio Spurs' in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals Tuesday, May 17, 2005 in San Antonio. The Spurs beat the SuperSonics 103-90.<br />(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

I know what you're thinking:

"It was a good run, but this series is over."

"The Sonics just got lucky in games 3 and 4."

"The Spurs are an unstoppable force of unstoppableness."


Well, cheer up, sour-puss. This series is far from over.

When the Sonics got off to another fast start this season, everyone expected them to collapse by December again. They didn't. When the Sonics limped into the playoffs, everyone thought they would lose to the veteran Sacramento Kings. They won. When the Sonics got blown out the first two games against the Spurs, everyone thought the Sonics would get swept. They won the next two.

The fact is, the Sonics have defied expectations all season. Just when you're ready to sell your lucky Ray Allen bobblehead on eBay, they do something amazing to pull you back on the bandwagon.

I can't tell you how many times during this series I turned off the TV or radio because the Sonics were getting beaten soundly, and then, out of morbid curiosity, checked back in only to see they'd tied the game.

Could the Sonics use a big boost from Rashard in Game Six? Absolutely. Will the Sonics positively get thrashed without him? No, because if there's one thing I've learned from watching the Supes this year, it's to expect the unexpected.

Tuesday, May 17

Street Fighter

The Seattle Supersonics take on the San Antonio Spurs tonight in game five of the second round of the NBA Playoffs.

Yes, it's going to be a street fight in San Antonio tonight. David vs. Goliath. Ali vs. Foreman. Us against the world. Will there be blood spilled? Probably. Will Danny Fortson sit on Manu Ginobili? Hopefully.

You've seen the stats. You've done the math. Homework is over - it's game time.

3 Is the Magic Number

Ray Allen and the Seattle Supersonics take on the San Antonio Spurs tonight in the second round of the NBA Playoffs.

The more I analyze this series, the more I realize that the Sonics hold their fate in their hands. Conventional wisdom dictates San Antonio is the superior team, and that they lost games 3 and 4 more than the Sonics won them. However, that just isn’t true. For proof, let’s look at some numbers (did you really expect anything else?) from the Spurs-Sonics season series, including the playoffs:

Sonic Wins
FG%: 47
PPG: 102
3PM: 6
3P%: 36

Sonic Losses
FG%: 41
PPG: 83
3PM: 3
3P%: 27

Spurs Wins
FG%: 49
PPG: 101
3PM: 6
3P%: 38

Spurs Losses
FG%: 42
PPG: 93
3PM: 6
3P%: 35

Can you believe the Sonics average 20 points a game more in wins than losses? And that they shoot nearly 10 percentage points higher from beyond the arc in wins? If you throw out the Sonics’ fluky win over SA in game 3, where we can all agree the Spurs threw the game away at the foul line, the differences are even more extreme. In their 3 other wins over the Spurs this year, Seattle shot 43% from 3-point range, a deadly figure by any stretch. Conversely, the Spurs play the same regardless of a win or loss, a testament to their steadiness.

So, you ask, what does this mean? I’ll tell what I think it means. It means the Spurs are at the mercy of the Sonics’ 3-point shooters. If Seattle is on target – by which I mean, if Ray Allen is on target – the Sonics will win. If Allen is off, then the Sonics have little or no chance. That’s great news for Seattle fans if you ask me, as Ray Allen has decided to show the world he’s every bit the money player as any other superstar.

That being said, here’s my fearless pick: Sonics 103 – Spurs 97.

Monday, May 16

Idiotville

On the internet, you're bound to find stupid things. Writers these days are forced to come up with clever angles on boring stories, and we're as guilty as anyone else.

Still, Lang Whitaker's article at si.com today is unbelievably bad. Go, take a read, then come back.

Finished?

Okay, here's some of his logic on why the Spurs will win:

Peace: The Spurs have it, the Sonics don't. Huh? The Sonics had exactly 3 days of conflict in the entire season. Not exactly the '04 Lakers.

Desire: The Spurs have it. Really? Where was it yesterday? Did they leave it in Brent Barry's hotel room?

Understanding: The Spurs edge the Sonics again, since they “know their roles.” Give me a break. If any team in the history of this league understands understanding it’s these Sonics. Has anyone complained about minutes the whole year? Other than Ray Allen a few times, no one has bitched about anything.

Then there’s this classic: “When the Spurs lose, they either lose by a few points right at the end, or they get behind early and just kind of pack it in. They did the former in Game 3 and the latter in Game 4.” So, the Spurs either lose by a couple of points, or they get blown out. Um, Lang, what other way to lose is there?

Finally, gander at this: “All season [Seattle has] been Phoenix-lite, a run-and-gun team with fewer outside threats than the Suns but more interior depth and hustle.” In reality, all season experts have been calling the Sonics a run-and-gun team, but they’re completely wrong. This team doesn’t run and gun. If they get a shot early, they’ll take it, but McMillan has gotten this team to sit on the ball until late in the clock if their shot isn’t there. Take a look at 82games.com, and you’ll see that the Sonics take a higher than average number of shots late in the shot clock.

I have no problem with people saying the Spurs are going to win. Heck, if I was wagering $100 on this series, I’d probably take SA, because they’ve got 1) home court advantage, and 2) Tim Duncan. What I have a problem with is people being lazy and not bothering to research their articles before forming an opinion. Lang, if you want to say the Spurs will win, great. But next time spend more than 10 minutes researching something before you throw it out there.

We can win this.

Seattle SuperSonics forward Antonio Daniels gestures to a referee after a foul call against the SuperSonics in the first quarter against the San Antonio Spurs in Game 4 in the Western Conference semifinals in Seattle, Sunday, May 15, 2005. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Antonio Daniels: "Read my jersey, punk!"

Does anyone doubt the Sonics can win this series now?

The Seattle Supersonics crushed the San Antonio Spurs 101-89 Sunday night to tie their second round playoff series 2-2. Even without their second and third leading scorers (Rashard Lewis and Vladimir Radmanovic, who were out with injuries), the Sonics scored over a hundred points (including 36 in the third period alone) against the best defense in the league.

Ray Allen had yet another incredible playoff performance, scoring 32 points on a bum ankle. Antonio Daniels (19 pts/7 ast/1 stl) and Luke "Frodo" Ridnour (20 pts/6 ast/3 stl) had their best games of the series.

The Sonics once again got a huge lift off the bench from Damien "The Omen" Wilkins (15pts/6 reb/ 5stl), who is looking more and more like Desmond Mason with a jump shot ever time he plays.

The national media will try to make this into another playoff collapse by San Antonio, but the truth is, the Sonics are the better team. The Sonics can win this series. The Sonics will win this series.

Sunday, May 15

sunday, Sunday, SUNDAY!

Baby, I haven't been this hyped up since the Mariners signed Pete O'Brien as a free agent. Would 4 pm hurry and get here for crying out loud?

Here are the questions upon which I expect tonight's game to turn: (my picks in parenthesis)

Can Ray Allen hit his shots? (Yes)
Will Rashard play more than a token role with his bum toe? (No)
Can TD and the Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight hit more than 60% of their FTs? (Yes)
Will Tony Parker & Manu Divac rediscover the magic from games 1 and 2? (No)
Will JJ continue to throw down monster dunks? (No)
Who will take the offensive slack left from Vlade and Rashard? (AD and Collison)

And, finally, who's going to win? (Sonics, 101-93)

Vegas says Spurs by 6, with a 186 over/under. I'm not embarrassed to say that my pick has absolutely nothing to do with logic, and absolutely everything to do with blind, unabashed love of the green and gold.

Let's go, Sonics!

Kill and Kill Again!

The Seattle Supersonics take on the San Antonio Spurs in game four of the second round of the NBA playoffs tonight.

We're back. And this time, it's personal.

Our Seattle Supersonics once again face another "must-win" game tonight against the San Antonio Spurs, and, once again, we're throwing out sports clichés like old Macarena records.

Let's do this thing.

Friday, May 13

Pro v Con

Hey, we’re living large. The Sonics are back in it, or are they? Here’s 5 reasons for and against continued euphoria:

FOR
1. Ray Allen has to play better than he did in Game 3. He’s a better shooter than what he showed, and that bodes well for the Sonics.
2. Nick Collison’s offensive skills are a more than adequate replacement for Fortson’s. Early this year, the Sonics thrived because of Fortson’s ability to score in the paint. Now, they’re living off the youngster’s abilities.
3. Barry, Horry and Manu are all shooting way above their season averaged from beyond the arc. None of them hit 40+% during the year; through 3 games they all are.
4. The entire Spurs team is shooting over its head. They hit 45% during the season, 44% against the Nuggets, and nearly 50% against the Sonics. The law of averages says this must go down (and that includes you, Manu, unless you think the Argentinian can continue hitting 61% of his shots against the Sonics).
5. The Spurs are going to have to choose between continuing to slack off the big man in the pick and roll – allowing JJ to continue throwing down – or switch off, enabling Ray, Shard, et al to get some open jumpers.

AGAINST
1. Jerome James will not – repeat – will not go 7-for-7 from the field in Game 4.
2. The Spurs, while a bad FT shooting team, are not as bad as they showed in the 2nd half.
3. The Sonics did not score a point in the final 1:50 of Game 3.
4. I love AD, but I can’t imagine he’ll continue averaging 16 ppg for the rest of the series.
5. Rashard Lewis has apparently gone on early vacation.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

SONICS WIN! SONICS WIN!

Seattle SuperSonics forward Reggie Evans (30) gestures after scoring in front of San Antonio Spurs forward Robert Horry, left, in the third quarter, Thursday, May 12, 2005, in Game 3 of the second round of the NBA Playoffs in Seattle.<br />(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Who says these guys can't play defense?

The Seattle Supersonics made big stops in the fourth quarter to defeat the San Antonio Spurs Thursday night, 92-91 in the NBA Playoffs. San Antonio wilted under pressure down the stretch, missing clutch free throws and wide-open shots, including a five-footer by Tim Duncan that would have won the game.

Seattle, meanwhile, overcame a bad night from Ray Allen (6-23 from the field/ 0 points in the fourth) and a nightmarish one from Rashard Lewis (3-10/0-3 from 3pt Range) to come away with a much-needed win. The Sonics showed the kind of tough, swarming defense that helped them blow out San Antonio two times during the regular season. They also got clutch performances from Nick Collison, Antonio Daniels, and "Big Game" Jerome James, who was 7-7 from the field.

The most amazing stat from this game? The Sonics were only 2-16 (.125) from three-point range. The Spurs were 8-19 (.421). Yes, the Sonics won the game without relying on threes, and without a star performance by either of the big two. This game was won by sheer force of will.

Let us enjoy this victory, my friends: It's a whole new series.

Thursday, May 12

Game Three: Kill or Be Killed!

The Seattle Supersonics take on the San Antonio Spurs tonight in game three of the Western Conference Semifinals.

This is it. It's now time. The time is now. (Insert sports cliché here)

Everyone knows how much the Sonics need to win this one, so let's just drink up and enjoy the show, shall we?

Too bad the band left members behind


What could have been...

Seattle Supersonics vs. San Antonio Spurs
Game 3:
7:30PM Pac time, Thursday May 12, 2005 @ The Key

The location has changed. The problem remains the same.

I’ve been far too depressed and too busy doing my stupid stand-up routine to properly throw a proper evaluation on the series and its evolution, or more appropriately its deterioration in terms of the Sonics’ hopes.

San Antonio is up 2-0. You could argue that all they’ve done up to this point is hold serve and should we do the same over the next two we’d be right back in this thing. You could. I don’t have the heart to argue you out of that stance. Much like you, I’ve still got my dunce/fan cap on and will be tormented by it till the bitter end. This is gonna be slightly incoherent babble, but here goes…

Dissapointment #1
The single most disappointing aspect of the series so far has been the mysterious disappearing act of Rashard Lewis. 2005 NBA All Star. The other part of the Sonics’ 1-2 punch. The Past, Present AND The Future.

2005 Season stats:
20.5 points, 5.4 boards, 46%FG 40%3PFG
2005 Postseason:
17.6 points, 4.7 boards, 42%FG, 23%3PFG
Round 2: games vs Spurs:
20.5 points, 5.4 boards, 44.5%FG 0-7 3PFG

Not that much there really, but factors aside from post-injury play:
-Sacramento’s game plan was to take Lewis out of the equation with repeated passive to aggressive double teams from a combination of different looks on the double team. Lewis showed a VERY poor ability to recognize the double team and proper decision, be it the outlet pass to the correct open man, or possibly going baseline if given the opportunity from a weak, poorly executed double team.
-It’s not a coincidence that ‘Shard’s 0-7 from the arc against the Spurs. As has been heavily documented they have the best 3 pt defense in the league, by a wide margin, and there has barely been a 3 point shot taken by the Sonics not contested by the opposition.

Here’s the kicker for me in all of this. The Spurs, as anticipated, decided to throw Bowen on Allen and have decided to guard Lewis, on many an occasion 1-on-1, with generous helpings of double teams mixed in. Furthermore, his defender has come from a platoon consisting of the following: 6’-7” Brent Barry (a terrible defender), 6’-6” Manu Ginobili, Robert Horry, and on some occasions Nazr, Bowen, Parker!, & even Udrih! I am dead serious!

Plain and simple, for the Sonics to win Rashard Lewis has to rise up to the fans’ lofty expectations that he is a legitimate player of All Star offensive ability, more than capable of taking advantage of every instance he is given that 1-on-1 mismatch. I noted in my preview of the series that if the Spurs were still using this strategy on Lewis come games 3 or 4 it means 1) Lewis has failed in his responsibility & 2) We’re f**ked. Check. Check.

There is NO excuse for Lewis not demanding the ball as he looks down and sees Barry or Manu on him. Even IF the double team comes and it forces the ball out of his hands, it still, with proper passing/intelligence, leaves the team with an advantage with the Spurs D out of sorts scrambling to reset and putting a man on players/the ball. I’m seriously beside myself watching Lewis shy away from the responsibility/opportunity.

Spurs fan’s are gonna come in here and see a deranged Sonics’ fan with a foolish belief that Lewis has a better game than he really possesses. They may partially be right. Lewis was not wholly consistent through the season in his post up game. Much like the team, he simply didn’t bring it every game and was actually invisible at times. But for those who watched 82 games, they can attest to the fact that Lewis’ play progressed as the season went, that is until his injury and his post-season malaise.

Dissapointment #2
The Sonics played 82 regular season games; 63 were played with Radmanovic & 19 without*.

With Radman:
Points scored- 100.5
Points allowed- 97.1
Point diff- 3.4
3PM- 8.5
3PA- 22.6

Without Radman:
Points scored- 93.9
Points allowed- 95.2
Point diff- (-)1.3
3PM- 6.8
3PA- 20.8

*I actually ran this stuff in a previous post with about 8 or so games left in the season to kind of show Radmanovic’s effect on the team aside from his personal stats: i.e. he spreads the floor, causes defensive problems for opposing teams. Like that last post’s stats, these numbers of course have other mitigating circumstances, noise, as the statheads like to call it. Lewis was out a certain number of games as was Allen. The disappearance of solid play from The Fort. Strength of opponents is not taken into account etc… And again, it’s no shock to anyone who has seriously, or even casually, followed the team: The 1st half Sonics were playing at a superior level to the 2nd half team (in particular the 1st third of the season vs. the last third.) What this stuff does indicate, but not prove, is that Radmanovic has more influence on the Sonics' performance than most people realize, or would care to admit.

Here is my summary of that old post verbatim regarding a particularly tough Sonics' late season losing streak, including grammatical mistakes:

So again you might ask, what the hell’s your point? Simply put, the current state of guarded pessimism taken on by Superfriends everywhere is a bit misdirected at this current time towards the nosedive the team is in. I don’t consider the slide any indication at all of the team’s ability to win (in the playoffs). I don’t care if the team as is loses by 3 or 30 to the Lakers, cause they ain’t gonna do s*** in the playoffs as is. Rashard is expected to return after a few more games, and Vlad’s tour of duty in IR is scheduled to end either today (if you believe the 4 week timeline) or by the start of the playoffs. What is of importance is the team’s ability to re-incorporate two of their most important players back into the fold, and to again develop that chemistry that made the offensive execution a thing of beauty during the first half of the season. If they’re not able to do this, consider the Season record your only present (this) year, cause the Sonics ain’t going nowhere in the playoffs without a little of that magic they conjured up in the beginning of the season.

Now, BEFORE I get the expected crap, I am NOT throwing this out as an excuse for the Sonics poor play or for their 2-0 series deficit to the Spurs. This is NOT an exclamation saying that with Radman we’d be just as good as the Spurs, or you’re so lucky you didn’t catch at full strength type nonsense. I’ve believed and said this at the halfway point of the season, at the end of the season, and at the start of the playoffs: The Spurs are the best team in the NBA. Should they do what they need to do, it should result in a trophy in their hands when all is said and done.

What I am trying to say is simply… this effort we’re seeing is NOT representative of the full capability of the 2004-2005 Sonics. I had wished and hoped that THAT team would have shown up. It would have been fun to watch. Lewis continuing his evolution and making San Antonio pay for the Barry/Manu insult... Ray winning his inferno deathmatch duel with Bruce... Our combo standing toe-to-toe with the mighty Duncan-Manu heavyweight… Radmanovic hitting outlet rainbow threes... Hanging in, hanging in, resilience shining in their eyes... It truly would have been fun. But I guess it just wasn't meant to be.

Wednesday, May 11

Game 2 Recap: We lost

Sorry to the readers there's no full game recap yet. For now, hopefully you can tide yourself over by heading over to nbaspurs.blogspot and read the running thread myself, Matt & Co. did at his site (I was hoping a change in venues would equally shake up the outcome: Negative)

Anyways here it is. I (or another Soul member) will update this stuff later today.

http://www.haloscan.com/comments/sungo/111577381119112726/

Tuesday, May 10

Sonics. Spurs. Do Over.


Alright, Jack... Suit up! The Spurs lead the Sonics 54-42 at the half. Once again, I don't have cable, so I leave it to you, the loyal Supersonicsoul readers, to give us the play-by-play. Start the ranting... NOW!

Pickin' Time

The Spurs are laying anwhere from 9 to 11 for tonight, and while Allen's health is a big question, to me this is a solid bet. Game 2 is always Revenge Night in the playoffs, and if the Sonics of 4 years ago, led by Vin "Is That My Beer?" Baker, can take one in San Antonio, there's no reason this year's edition can't do the same.

So, that said, I'm picking Spurs 102 - Sonics 95. Sonic Nation, what say you?

Monday, May 9

Memories Are Made of This

“Be not afraid, only believe.”
Mark 5:36

This is the time, Sonic fans. Green and Gold fanatics, we stand at a crossroads, with paths so divergent even google.com/maps would fail at including them in a single page.

At one branch: the sour taste of disappointment. Color it how you wish, but if the Sonics fail to step up in game 2, then fall over themselves and drop 3 and 4 at home, this season will end distastefully. With Ray Allen and a half-dozen other players – not to mention Saint Nate – set to leave via free-agency, this season will not be remembered for the great run to the top, it will be remembered for the disastrous fall back down.

At the other branch: the sweet fragrance of redemption. Allen returns, JJ awakens, and the Sonics snatch a game 2 win before the Spurs can even jingle-jangle.

What will it take? Nothing less than a supreme effort from 3 corners:

1. Ray Allen has to – has to­ – make this his moment. Even if it is only to cash in this summer, Ray’s got to tell his bum ankle that it doesn’t hurt, and that he is the man to lead the Sonics to the promised land.

2. Rashard must build on his effort in the second half. The Incredible Vanishing Lewis that we saw at times on offense against Sac. and in the first half against the Spurs, the same disappearing act Sonic fans are accustomed to from this enigmatic small forward, has to leave, and the New Rashard take its place. If Lewis and Allen match Duncan and Ginobli, we’re in good shape. In game 1, the Spurs’ duo outscored our heroes by 24 points, which was, not coincidentally, almost the same margin as the game.

3. Seattle needs to find a way to get open 3’s, and make them. The Spurs are exceptional at prohibiting 3-pointers, and the Sonics are exceptional at making them. In game 1, the Spurs’ excellence outdid Seattle’s. Going 2-for-10 from long-distance will not cut it in this series.

So, there you go. 3 things Seattle must do to have any chance. If you read the Times, Steve Kelley says we have no chance. I say the Sonics can win, for the same reason they’ve won all year: they are a combination of potent offensive forces and tenacious rebounders that can wear down opposing teams over 48 minutes.

Let’s hope I’m right.

Sunday, May 8

That was fun...


A picture speaks a thousand words...

San Antonio 103, Seattle 81
Spurs lead series 1-0
Next Game: Tuesday at San Antonio at 6:30PM

Player(s) of the game:
To single out one player would be a shame. The Sonics made the entire Spurs team look like a bunch of superstars. But for consistency's sake let's do this. Tony Parker had 29 points on 11-18 shooting and had 9 points on 4-4 shooting in the 1st 8 minutes of the game. I have promised not to mention certain topics for the remainder of the playoffs so, readers, please read between
these: ---- "____ _______" -----.

Breakdown:
- Welcome back to Earth, Jerome and all us demented Sonics fans.
- If anyone attempts to justify the injuries as being the primary cause of this Sonics' loss, they will have all commenting privileges taken away.

Reasons to remain optimistic:
- Crickets chirping...

- X-rays? Negative. Hallelujah.
- Due to NBA playoff guidelines, there was no technical way that the Spurs could count that can of whoop-ass for anything more than a 1-0 series lead.
- Collison, for the few brief moments he was in there, looked like he carried some the late season, 1st round, energy minutes over into this game.
- Lewis, for a very scant few minutes in the 4th, reattached his frank and beans to his groin, and got a few promising slop points in at the end.
- (Heading to kitchen, scrounging through cabinets, looking for any more straws to grasp. Negative.)

Question(s) of the night:
- Can Ray be as effective playing ball on a sprained knee as he is playing the gee-tar and singing?
- Lewis: You've lost... that no-one-can-stop me feeeeling, woa-oah, that unstopabble feeling. Can you get it back in time to make it a series?
- Will the Sonics read and react?

Spurs. Sonics. Game 1. We're on it.

The Seattle Supersonics take on the San Antonio Spurs tonight in the second round of the NBA playoffs
We're totally breaking their ankles!

Gametime: 5:00pm Pac Time on TNT (KJR for Paul - Ed.).

In case any of you are gonna be sitting at home watching this, feel free to do your yelling and screaming, and venting out your anger here.

Game on!

(Photo courtesy of Paul's homoerotic 70's wrestling archive. - Ed.)

Friday, May 6

And the band played on…

2005 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Round 2:
#2 San Antonio Spurs vs. #3 Seattle Supersonics
Game 1: Sunday, May 8, 5:00PM Pacific time

Bench & Starting matchups/comparison:
I don’t really feel comfortable doing one since these teams, the Sonics especially, actually have bench guys playing more minutes, and in at crucial minutes at the end of the game (at least I hope so.) For the Spurs I fully expect to see Horry taking over at the 4 spot & Duncan shifting to the 5 spot. For the Sonics I hope the finishing combination will include effective contributions of James, Radmanovic, & Collison. Lastly you can go to ESPN, Yahoo, CNNSI etc. and get a much more involved analysis than I’d give. Try Chad Ford; I think he’s got Vitaly Potapenko being the X-factor or something.

Here are the lineups that concern me:
Spurs finishing 5:
Duncan
Horry with occasions with Rasho instead
Bowens
Manu
Parker

Sonics finishing 5:
James with generous portions of Collison in an undersized rotation
Even distribution of Collison & Radmanovic
Lewis
Allen
A.D.

Ideal distribution of Sonics time (5 spots at 48 min = 240 minutes)
Ray Allen: 42 minutes (39min season average)
Rashard Lewis: 40 m (38)
Antonio Daniels: 35 m (27)
Jerome James: 25 m (17)
Nick Collison: 25 m (17)
Vlad Radmanovic: 25 m (30)
Reggie Evans: 15 m (24)
Danny Fortson: 14 m (17)
Luke Ridnour: 14 m (31)
Damien Wilkins: 5 m (-)

Plays I’ll be looking out for:

When Sonics have the ball:
1) Set play: Lewis and Allen on the wings, Evans slightly to one side of the key, James/Collison/Fortson setting the pick for Rid or A.D. at the top of the key. At onset of pick and roll, Lewis and/or Allen go to motion, using Evans pick to rub defenders off and find an open spot outside, usually on opposite wing they started at. Pick man rolls, PG drives and decides whether to 1) drive to the hole and shoot 2) drive & kick out to an open Lewis or Allen, 3) hit the rolling pick man or Evans.
2) Set play: Lewis and Daniels isolated on one side. Remaining players on other half with a typical configuration of Radman setup for a straightaway 3 and Allen for an elbow 3, with Evans or Fortson in position to chase an offensive board. Lewis and Daniels run a pick & post in which Lewis takes the PG to the block and sets up Calabro for a “there’s a mouse in the house!” call with a high percentage post up opportunity, or 2) defenders sloppily switch off pick and A.D. gets an open lane to the hole for an easy shot or 2 free throws, or a rotating defense which leads to an outlet pass to a waiting Radman or Allen.
3) The cat & mouse play (or the Reggie Miler special): PG with the ball at the top: 4’s and 5’s (and maybe Rashard as well) setting picks, SG running through both picks to rub his defender off of him for a catch and shoot. The effectiveness in which the Sonics will be able to get the ball to Allen off this play for a clear shot without Bowen still stuck on him like glue will speak volumes as to who’s winning the Sonics O vs. the Spurs D match up.

When the Spurs have the ball:
1) Parker and a big (Rasho or Horry primarily) executing a high pick and roll at the top of the key. The best defense against the pick and roll I’ve seen recently was from last year’s Pistons. Billups wouldn’t even have to call the switch and the big (Sheed) would AGGRESSIVELY use his mobility to close the gap on the speedy PG, and use his wingspan to prevent a quick pass out. PG would be forced to stop his dribble and/or reset the offense, allowing the defense to reset itself as well. It kinda helps when every guy on the team is a + on the ball defender. Now that I’ve mentioned Billups & Wallace… imagine Parker & Duncan/Rasho/Mohammed running this against Ridnour & James. That is a nightmare sequence. James does not possess the lateral mobility or the basketball IQ to stop Parker from driving off the switch, Ridnour does not possess the toughness to fight through the screens (just watch how many times he gives up on a screen due a lack of toughness, there are just so many hidden f**kups on Ridnour’s part that are attributed to other players it pisses me off), and or the PG will see the breakdown and pass to the cutting big man or the big man posting on Rid, which will cause defensive rotation, big man getting it a high percentage shot from a wide open teammate.
2) Duncan on the block, particularly on the left (or right?) side either facing his defender up and taking the 16-18 bank shot his defender gives him, or posting/getting by with a quick first step and driving into the key (almost never goes baseline) for a high percentage 4-8ft shot.
3) Spurs on transition: Because of the Sonics’ tendency to allow the 4’s and 5’s to go after an offensive rebound opportunity, it is paramount that Rid/Allen/Rashard and their bench counterparts stop transition penetration from Parker/Manu/Udrih and force them to setup their half court O, (and allow us to set up the D)

For the Sonics to win ALL of the following must occur:

1) Ray Allen & Rashard Lewis must come close to matching the offensive output of Tim Duncan & Manu Ginobili.

2) All indications are that the Spurs will go with a game plan of Bowen on Allen. This will mean that:
a) The Spurs game plan will be to minimize Allen’s efficiency with Bowen, minimize the output of the other 3 players with 1 on 1 D, and force Lewis to prove his ability to reliably score against the likes of Ginobili or Horry. To reiterate: Lewis must decisively win any 1-on-1 matchup against Ginobili or Horry.
b) The game plan will be to passively or aggressively double team Rashard when he gets the ball and, unlike in the Kings series, prove that he’s capable of evading the double team by going baseline to the rim, splitting the double team, or making the correct outlet pass to rotate the ball to an open man/shot.
If the Spurs are still on one of these game plans come game 3 and 4, it will mean that Rashard failed to adjust to the defense and is not capable of providing a reliable enough offensive production/output to complement Allen. Translation: We’re f**ked. An ideal Sonics situation would be Rashard being crazy effective forcing Pop to place Bowen on him and Manu on Allen, and the Sonics duo capitalizing.

3) Tony Parker must be limited to 3 monster games min, meaning of course, in 4 of the games the Lewis/Allen duo will only have to contend/match the output of the Timmeh/Manu duo for the Spurs. This will require either one of the following or a combination:
a) Parker will pull his inconsistency act, not have a great shooting night, lack confidence in his shot to be effective on several nights. Maybe we can send Eva some lingerie and some Oysters the night prior to the game to weaken the Frenchman’s legs come game time…
b) A.D. or possibly Damien Wilkins will be effective in limiting the drives Parker takes resulting in open 6-8 floaters, lay-ins, passes to open players. Ridnour will be chained to the bench during this time and only allowed on the court when Brent Barry or Beno Udrih assumes the PG spot for the Spurs. And maybe one restroom break at halftime.
c) The Sonics will be marginal to above average in their defense of the high pick and roll.

4) Jerome James will NOT have to go Bizarro on us and chip in with 15pts & 10 boards a night. What is needed of him is to be defensively active, with fast enough footwork/reaction to stay out of foul trouble and be in proper position to alter Parker floaters & the maniacal-Manu lefty lay ins. Numbers wise the team will need a minimum average of 25 FRISKY, ENERGETIC, & SMART minutes, 8 or so rebounds, and several blocked/ altered shots a game.

5) The defensive rotation off of a Tim Duncan double team must minimize the number of wide-open Spurs 3-point shots. If the combined shooting stats from Parker/Bowens/ Udrih/Manu resulting from poor rotation results is 5 or so made treys at a 45% clip or greater, score this a failing grade. Also, proper rotation execution must be made by our 4's & 5's when our 2 & 3's go flying towards Manu/Parker/Barry beyond the arc, and they subsequently drive in. There's going to be a bunch of Supes running around like monkeys reacting to San Antonio ball movement/penetration/player movement, and its gotta play itself out like controlled chaos for the good guys.

6) Collectively, the production that the Sonics get from the 96 minutes at the 4 and 5 spots must give us a decided advantage over the Spurs counterpart sans Duncan. This means you Nick Collison, Reggie Evans, Danny Fortson, & Jerome James. You guys must at least double the output of Rasho Nesterovic, Robert Horry, & Nazr Mohammed.

7) The Radmanovic/Daniels/Ridnour trio will average roughly 22 pts/game. I’d specifically like to see this group counteract any production from Parker during the 4 Sonic victories.

For the Spurs to win:
Any scenario not containing ALL the factors stated above will provide the Spurs with a series victory.

O.K. Before you skewer me with statements like “Where’s No. 8: The kitchen sink?” please take a look each one of those addendums individually. None of them is a mountain moving request and they certainly fall within the realm of this team’s capability.

But for all of them to occur in the series? Indeed, the odds are staggering against the Sonics, and an application would need to be written for the hand of God to make a series appearance. Yes, the Spurs are that much better.

The odds are that grim for a Sonics victory. Almost as grim as… the odds of the Sonics entering the playoffs as the No. 3 seed… As slim as the preseason chances for the 2005 NW Division Championship banner to end up hanging under the Key Arena roof... As unlikely as the chances of a na├»ve high school kid, agonizingly watched by a nation having his lottery dreams crushed in the 1998 NBA draft, blossoming into that rarest of species: an All Star plucked from the 2nd round junkheap... As improbable as the Jerome James’ 1st round outburst coinciding with Lewis taking time to regain that unstoppable feeling & A.D. getting his legs back…

This to me is everything the playoffs are about. Dreaming the impossible dream. Seeing the mountain defiantly standing in the way of glory, and defiantly walking forward in turn. I’ll be watching this team doing the same from the nosebleeds of The Key in games 3 & 4. I’ll be in full denial mode of the task ahead of the Supes, screaming myself hoarse. I hope to see you there too. Game on.

Sonics in 7. Onward.






What will the outcome be of the Spurs-Sonics series?




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Beating a Dead Horse

I swore before that I wouldn't write about this anymore, but I'm going to try one more time to explain how absolutely stupid it is to award the MVP to Steve Nash.

Shown below are the stat lines of three players, who shall be nameless for the time being.

W-L....ppg....apg...fp%...mpg...spg...to...3p%
60-22... 18... 7.... 47..... 33..... 1.5.... 3.4.. 41 (A)
62-20... 16... 12... 50.... 34..... 1...... 3.3... 43 (B)
64-18... 14... 11... 55.... 35..... 3....... 4..... 42 (C)

Now, from those stats, can you tell me which one is the MVP, and which two finished out of the top 10? Really? What number jumps out at you as the glaring example of why that player, more than anyone else, deserves to be MVP?

There isn't a number, because it's all a load of crap. As you would never have guessed, player (A) is Nash from 2003, (B) is Nash this year, and (C) is John Stockton in 1997. You'll be interested to find out that Nash finished 11th in the voting in '03.

Stockton?

He wound up 15th, with less than half as many votes as Anthony Mason, and two votes ahead of Tom Gugliotta and Steve Smith.

Folks, this is a simple case of the Emperor's new clothes. Rather than question the premise of Nash's candidacy, the media has swallowed this nonsense without debate.

Crazier still, O'Neal will once again fall short of the award he so richly deserves. The man who has been unquestionably the most dominant player of the past decade has all of one MVP trophy. Ridiculous.

Breaking (Nussbaum's Heart) News: Nash is MVP


Photo courtesy Chico's Bail Bonds

According to this newsflash from Marc Stein, it's all but official.

I'm irked they didn't even wait until the SupersonicSouljas turned in their ballots for the 2005 SUPERSONICSOUL-GLOW AWARDS. That could've at least split the vote A-Rod vs. Junior-style and given Shaq the Juan Gonzalez.

Antonio says No-No to Tomatoes!



Breaking news!

Nussbaum's favorite Supersub Antonio Daniels, who is about to face his former team the Spurs in the second round of the NBA Playoffs, doesn't eat his veggies according to the Seattle P.I.:
"I've come to the point where I quit asking him," said (his fiancée) Sonia. "He does not like any kind of vegetables."

Except for potatoes. He'll eat those baked or mashed.

He likes steak. Chicken, too, but he'll ask for it without any sauce. He's so predictable that the staff at Benihana's knows he likes fried rice without the onions.

His game-day routine is just as rigid. Before every home game, he goes from the team's shootaround to the same taqueria and orders the same thing: Two almost-jumbo burritos. He eats one, most often with teammates Damien Wilkins and Allen. He takes the second one home, eating it after his nap.

Read the rest of this shocking story at the Seattle P.I.
Yes, playoff fever is affecting my brain. (Or is it effecting? Holy crap, my brains is scrambled!)

Match Game


If I were running USA Today, the first thing I’d do is give a raise to the guy who makes those cool matchup charts. You know the ones, where you’ve got the Sonics on one side, the Spurs on the other, and a check mark by each position player who has an advantage. Then you add up the advantages, and whichever team has more wins. Of course, it gives equal weight to the power forward position as it does to the bench, but, hey, it’s quick and easy and everyone loves it.

Well, I’m not running USA Today. I’m writing for some blog that’s the equivalent of the Valley Daily News. Actually, that’s an insult to the Valley Daily News. I think we’re more like the equivalent of Voice of the Valley, but without tractor ads.

That said, here’s my breakdown of the matchups in this series. You’ll have to imagine the check marks.

POINT GUARD – Mr. Longoria v Frodo
Edge: S.A.
Like the erstwhile Luke, Parker started out slowly in the first round, not that that stopped him from jacking up 17 shots in both game 1 & 2. A horrific 3-point shooter (below 30% in both post- and regular-season), Parker is a good option to leave alone outside the perimeter if the Sonics decide to double on TD. He turned the ball over much more than Ridnour, but his quick offensive moves make up for this fault. You only need to see his 21 ppg average against Seattle this season to know that he will have his way with Cool Hand Luke.

OFF GUARD – Jesus Shuttlesworth v My Sworn Enemy
Edge: Seattle
Now, it remains to be seen if Brent Barry will continue to start for the Spurs, being that his 34-year-old legs are going to have to chase around arguably the hottest player in the NBA right now, Ray Allen. Bones was an afterthought in the Spurs’ offense, going scoreless as often as he hit double-figures. Count on Bones to stand around outside the line and wait for the pass for a flat-footed 3, then give Manu a pat on the ass when Pop calls him to the sidelines. Expect Bruce Bowen to get the majority of time guarding Ray, if for no other reason than to take him out of the fantastic zone he’s currently enjoying. Nate’s planning on running lots of screens for Allen to free him up, but both MacMillan and Allen are expecting a much tougher go of it this round.

SMALL FORWARD – Rashard v The Instigator
Edge: Seattle
Bowen averaged an abysmal 3 points on 25% shooting in round 1, and is nowhere near the offensive threat Lewis is. ‘Shard did most of his scoring down low against the Spurs this season, and converted a high percentage (65%) of his non-3-point shots in four games. At 6’7”, Bowen’s going to need help on ‘Shard, and Lewis’ ability to pass out of the double-team will be crucial. (Cut to the hoop, Jerome!) A perennial member of the All-Defense Team, Bowen will spend much of his time on Allen, leaving us to wonder: Just who the heck is Brent Barry going to guard?

POWER FORWARD – TD v Mr. Glass
Edge: S.A.
Cancel those parade plans, Sonic fans, Tim Duncan has not left the building. While he played inconsistently against Denver, Duncan still averaged 22 points, including a 39-point barrage in game 4. TD averaged 26 against Seattle this year, one of his better marks against any team. Don’t expect to see too much of Evans in this series, though, as Mr. Glass played fewer than 20 minutes per game against the Spurs due to his extreme disadvantage against Duncan.

CENTER – Mohammed v The Hefty Bag
Edge: Seattle
This is a tough one to call, inasmuch as you have to predict which JJ will show up. Is it the second-coming of Dikembe Mutombo a la round 1, or the JJ we saw for the past 3 seasons? Mohammed is no stiff, either, but his 6’10”, 250-pound frame will get a workout against Big Game James. Even if JJ comes down a notch off his incredible series against Sac, he’s still a vital weapon for Seattle’s offense, and a useful shot-blocker on defense.

Well, that’s enough for one day. I’ll let Booth, Paul, or chunky go over the benches, coaches, mascots, etc. I’m gonna go look for Larry King’s column in the paper.

Thursday, May 5

Beat S.A.! Beat S.A.!

San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan, top, ties up Denver Nuggets forward Marcus Camby as Camby pulls in a rebound in the fourth quarter of the Spurs' 126-115 victory in Game 4 of a Western Conference first-round playoff series in Denver, Monday, May 2, 2005. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Frankenstein must be destroyed!

Now that the Spurs have finally dispatched the pesky Nuggets, they will be facing our beloved Supersonics in the second round, starting this Sunday in San Antonio. That can only mean one thing: BASKETBALL BLOG DEATHMATCH!

That's right, our pal Matthew over at the foul-mouthed Spurs Blog is sure to be talking some heavy smack in the coming weeks, so I say let's get the jump on 'em! Get out the pool cues and chains - We're calling you out, Matthew!

(And when I say "we", I mean Nussbaum, because I fight like a sissy.)

Where have the NBA Giants gone?


An experiment gone awry... & The Next Coming?

Now that we have this brief respite from meaningful Sonics games, at least until the Spurs handle their business, here’s some filler material, until the folks here at The Soul tackle the task that is the 2nd round analysis:

Some of you young’uns may not believe this, but there was a time not too long ago when the NBA actually had centers with skill.

I went back to the early 1990’s, particularly years 91- 93 and came up with this list.

The Elite:
Patrick Ewing- HOF
Hakeem Olajuwon- HOF
David Robinson- HOF
Shaquille O’neal- HOF
Pretty Darn Good:
Alonzo Mourning
Dikembe Mutombo
Brad Daugherty
Not so much, but still offensively talented/serviceable*:
Kevin Duckworth
Vlade Divac
Moses Malone (still had a few miles left in years 90-92)
Rik Smits
Derrick Coleman
Robert Parish (HOFer but not in the late 90’s, still serviceable from 90-92)
Rony Seikaly
Sam Perkins
*(Please go to basketball-reference.com to refresh your memories on some of these guys before you start ROFLMAO, and understand I’m merely saying they did have some skill.)

There were 27 teams in the League: Of those, 4 had HOF’ers, 7 had All Stars, and 15 had decent centers with marginal offensive capabilities/game affecting ability.

Here’s my point: during that age, there were a bunch of teams who had centers with capable offensive game or game influencing capabilities. You couldn’t deny the face staring straight at you from the 7’ body tossing 8ft jumpers over your team: they were beings that had to be deliberated on and accounted for. If you went into a playoff series facing one of those 4 teams with the HOF’ers or one of the 7 teams with the All-Stars without someone/something to combat them, they would make you pay, probably with your playoff life. I believe the reaction to this was two-fold:

1) Where/how can I get me one of those?
2) Where/how can I get me someone to stop one of those (particular the select studs at the top.)
For those teams on the outside looking in on this phenomenon there was one particular reaction: we can build one of these guys for our team.

And so the novel idea was formed: Size was the premium and talent & skill the by-product of work/experience that could be nurtured into the player given time. Like a Chia-pet, a team could simply purchase a starter kit from K-mart, add water, sit their ass on a lawn chair, and watch their investment grow into a gifted center of equal offensive/game changing ability. (One example: Purchase (1) gangly 7’-0” rookie, sit on bench, watch games from bench, hire once great center to teach aggressiveness, teach skill, work out X amt of hours to change body to desired product, add 20-30lbs, wait 2-4 years – become All Star.)

GM’s whom fans and owners entrusted with their teams fate thus began the their ill-fated experiments. What came out of their laboratories was a Frankenstein monster for the NBA: a mutated being bearing only a passing resemblance to the giants they were meant to imitate. They walked around with awkward gaits, had barely acceptable control of their appendages, were zombie-like in their reactions/ hand eye coordination and they mercilessly terrorized their cities for years on end with their terrifying long-term multi-million dollar contracts.

All of you people entering this Supersonic team site know very well of these creatures I speak of. Jim McIlvaine… Calvin Booth… Chris Dudley… Michael Olowakandi… Rasho… Adonal Foyle…Brian Grant… Non-Bizarro Jerome... Potapenko… The monsters were unleashed on the League and nothing was ever the same again.

But, just like Mary Shelley’s story, the fan realized (or should have, at least) that the true monster was not the misshapen being now forced to wander the world in shame in their tricked out Cadillac Escalades, but rather the mad, God-playing, GM’s that created them… (Translation: F**k you Wally Walker.)

Fast-Forward to the present time:

Check out the list of centers in the league today:

The Elite:
Shaq- HOF
Pretty Darn Good/O.K.:
Yao Ming (some may throw him in with Shaq)
Not so much, but still offensively talented/servicable:
Z. Ilgauskas (maybe he should be with Yao)
Brad Miller
PF’s 6’-10” or less in height/playing stature, playing the 5 spot with offensive game or impact power:
Amare Stoudemire
Ben Wallace
Emeka Okafor
Rasheed Wallace
Marcus Camby
Frankenstein’s still roaming around in the league:
Mark Blount
Shawn Bradley
Brian Grant
Booth
Raaaasho
Olowakandi
And on and on….
(The omission in this list is the cause of this post; please bear with me.)

Take a look at that list:
There is just one guy who can truly dominate the game from the 5 spot. There are only 2 others who you could justify as having a decent enough offensive game. The rest of them? Either A) they’re 6’something” PF’s disguised as “centers” in the 5-spot who you could/should better defend with 6’something” players of your own, or 2) 7’ stiffs without sufficient offensive skill to need to truly concern yourself over/ require some crazy acquisition on your teams part to counteract.

I don’t know exactly what happened, but much like the woolly mammoth, the great centers of the NBA have disappeared, with only a few still in existence. Maybe it’s a cyclical thing and in its next manifestation the League will once again be the land of talented giants. Regardless, I think it would be wise to 1) learn from the past mistakes of our ancestor GM’s and B) not feel the need to risk unleashing further abominations in a league which no longer requires a solution to great centers.

And now here comes 2005 playoff Jerome James, lumbering around right in front of our very eyes. How appropriate is it that we have a genuine Sasquatch sighting here in Key Arena, in the Pacific Northwest. We’re awestruck at the sight. Could it be? Is this real or am I dreaming? WTF is going on here!?!

I’ve called him Bizarro Jerome on occasion because of the infrequency of his appearances on our planet. But now, these 5 straight playoff game sightings… Is he a creature genetically brought back from the DNA of the extinct NBA Center of the past? I’m stumped. But you know what? If I’m a GM and this offseason I’m faced with the decision, I take a look at recent history and I make certain I don’t become the Frankenstein of my team.

Jerome James: Free Agent? You can take him, I’ll pass.









Who will Jerome James most closely resemble in the 2005-2006 season?
Jerome James season 2004-2005
Jerome James 2005 playoffs round 1
Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Yao Ming
Jim McIlvaine



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Wednesday, May 4

Round One Report Card

Seattle SuperSonics Jerome James wears a plastic garbage bag as a cape as he celebrates the Sonics 122-118 win over the Sacramento Kings Tuesday, May 3, 2005, in Game 5 of the first round Western Conference playoff at KeyArena in Seattle. The win will allow the Sonics to advance to the next round of the playoffs. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
J.J. would've received an A+ if he hadn't worn a garbage bag like a crazy person.

With the first round in the books, I thought it’d be interesting to revisit how each Sonic did. Here’s a quick and dirty on the contributors to OUR FIRST SERIES WIN ON THE WAY TO A CHAMPIONSHIP, BABY! YOU SUCK, SAC-O-TOMATOES! KINGS? HUH, YOU GUYS AREN’T EVEN JESTERS!

Okay, I’m calm again, so here goes:

Ray Allen – A+. I think even the biggest Ray-hater (yours truly), has to admit he stepped it up to historic proportions. An average of 32 points, 2 steals, 5 boards, and 5 assists is positively Jordan-esque, and add in a tremendous 2nd-half in game 4 when the Sonics really needed him, and, well, he just could not have done any more.

Luke Ridnour – B-. I’m sorry, but shooting 31% from the field won’t cut it. His lack of D on Bibby didn’t help, either. Saying that, you’ve got to wonder why he rates even a B-, and that’s where his tremendous ballhandling and lack of turnovers raised his grade. 1.5 turnovers in 30 minutes is fantastic, and Cool Hand Luke deserves all the credit for that. His game improved as the series wore on, and I expect him to do reasonably well in round 2.

Rashard Lewis – B+. Lewis’ D on Peja was the unsung story of this series. The Kings’ SF was dynamite in games 4 and 5, but in games 1 to 3 he was a nonentity, and Lewis deserves credit for that. Yeah, Peja was injured and he always stinks in the playoffs, but Lewis still managed to hold him in check. Shard’s offense showed up in games 4 and 5 (not coincidentally, when Peja began to score as well). Count on big things from him if the Sonics meet the Spurs, as SA is going to have matchup hell guarding him (he shot 51% against the Spurs this season).

Reggie Evans – C+. After a 15-rebound performance in game 1, Mr. Glass sort of disappeared in the rest of the series. His frenetic energy was always appreciated, but he was never the best PF on the Sonics: that role belonged to Nick Collison.

Jerome James – A-. Unbelievable. I was trying to explain to my wife how incredible his transformation was, and the only way I could was to tell her to imagine if next week she decided to run the Vancouver Marathon, and not only finished, but beat out all those Kenyan chicks. Again, unbelievable.

Nick Collison – B+. You’ve got to love this guy. I didn’t appreciate his game early in the season, but his knack for finding the ball is wonderful, and he handles the rock in the paint better than any Sonic big man – JJ included. His 15-point, 9-board performance in game 5 has me looking forward to a full season of him as a starter.

AD – B-. The only reason he doesn’t grab a C is his fantastic job in the 2nd half of game 5. Anybody else notice that Luke rode the pine for the entire 4th quarter while my man AD ran the show? Like Ridnour, he handled the rock well, and, like Ridnour, he shot like crap most of the series. AD’s tendency to dribble around the court can drive you nuts, but his tenacious D and passion is always appreciated.

Radman – C-. 6 points per game is lousy for a guy whose defense is subpar to begin with. A decent game 2, but other than that, a non-entity.

Fortson – C-. Like Radman, a non-entity. Like Radman, his only decent game was in game 2, but his proclivity for fouls and T’s earned him too much bench time to be of any use. The Sonics need his tenacity and ability to draw fouls, they don’t need his constant complaining and ridiculous fouls.

Tuesday, May 3

Sonics stuff Sac, Win Series!

Seattle SuperSonics forward Reggie Evans dunks after Sacramento Kings center Brad Miller, right, misses the block and Kings forward Peja Stojakovic (16), of Serbia-Montenegro looks on in the first quarter Tuesday, May 3, 2005, in Game 5 of the first round Western Conference playoff at KeyArena in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Brad Miller: "My new fighting technique is unstoppable"!

Led by seven (!) players in double figures, the Supersonics beat the Kings 122-118 to win the first round series 4-1.

Ray Allen, who became the first player in Sonics history to score 30 or more points in three consecutive playoff games, led the team with 30 points. Rashard Lewis, who had struggled early in the series, had 24.

After the game, Jerome James got a big ol' garbage bag out and started waving it around. Nobody knows why.

The Supes will play the winner of the Spurs/Nuggets series. Get your second round tickets here (when they go on sale).

Sweep the leg!



Game Five. Sonics vs. Kings. In the words of my favorite Seattle Electro-Robotic Band , "It Is On".

Now, let the smack-talking (and Karate Kid references) begin!

Game 5: Pickin' Time


Is DaFort Da Key? Probably not.

To me predicting game 5 is equivalent to predicting the Sonics playoff chances in its entirety. True contenders take out the pretender Kings in 5. As Barkley says, championship teams stomp on their necks when they have 'em down. Should the Sonics end it in 5, optimism will blow the roof off the joint here at the Soul, and maybe it’s justifiable. That trophy would feel oh so tantalizingly close to our grasp…

I’m sorry to burst this post game 4- bubble of euphoria, truly I am, but I just can’t see it: This team is not there yet. There are the Spurs, Heat, & Pistons at the top, and the Sonics are at a rung somewhere below them (yeah, I know, I doubt I could come up with a wimpier statement!)

Reasons I’m still pessimistic after game 4:
-To beat the dead horse yet again, I believe A.D. is by far a better player/option at point guard over Rid. The fact that Ridnour has been outperforming him leads to one of two conclusions: Ridnour has been playing basketball at a higher level than he did in the regular season or Daniels has been playing at a worse level than his regular season performance. Of those two, and based on watching their playoff performances, I’m going with the latter. Daniels 2nd half performance in game 4 was promising however.
-Lewis has not played to a level that is required of him for this team to truly take it to the next level. C'mon Lew! Don't fight that feeling anymore! Remember? The one where noone could stop you? Please say you remember. (Oh yeah, maybe that whole injury thing is a factor too.)
-The X-factor, Radmanovic, has been playing below average to downright awful. He’s clearly not in full form yet (did you see the errant pass directly thrown at Peja for a 2 points at the end of the Game 4 1st half? I couldn’t even imagine a retarted kid learning how to play basketball doing that.)
-Danny... Daniel Fortson (you come into this house right now mister!! You’re in big trouble!) over the past 3 games: 17 points… in 31 minutes of play… due to FOURTEEN personal fouls. The game-changer refuses to drop his hack-act. Sure, you can blame the officiating, but let’s be honest, it’s THE glaring flaw in his game and he refuses to adjust.
-And Jerome… seriously, I could write a whole book on my feelings about this guy. To summarize, I don’t trust the mirage. Wish I could, but I just can’t do it.

Prediction:
Game 5: Bibby reads and reacts, Jerome settles down, Kings make a valiant last stand, & Sonics provide us with inconsistency yet again. And I get the strangest feeling we're gonna see a mini-fracass with an imploding Fortson in this game as well.
Final Score: Sacramento 104- Seattle 103

Nussbaum Tags in Simmons to Finish Off Nash

Superfly Snuka is on top of the cage!

Is P-Nussbaum ghost-writing for the Bill Simmons, or what? I'm surprised P-Nussbaum hasn't mentioned this himself, but everyone's favorite Sports Guy has chosen sides in the Steve Nash vs. P-Nussbaum Canadian Steel Cage Match:

After watching last night's Suns-Grizzlies game, I came to the conclusion that this whole "Steve Nash for MVP" thing is the dumbest argument in the history of basketball. How can anyone argue that Amare Stoudemire isn't the most important player on that team? For instance, let's say you replaced Nash in Phoenix with Kirk Hinrich for the entire season. Would the Suns still be a top-five team? Of course they would. Even if you replaced him with Jason Williams or Tony Parker, they're still probably a top-five team – they're just too loaded. But who could possibly fill Stoudemire's shoes on that team? Is there another athletic big man in the league who brings as much to the table? He's an absolute force of nature.

I just don't understand this whole thing. Seriously, I'm flummoxed. And why hasn't anyone written the "If Steve Nash were black, nobody would be mentioning him as an MVP candidate" column yet? If the late Ralph Wiley were still around, he and the Road Dogg would have had three 4,500-word conversations about this topic already. Do you honestly think Steve Nash would be considered a top-three MVP candidate if he looked like Baron Davis? Come on. He's not even the best player on his own team. This is crazy. I wish I could use the pseudonym "William X" on Page 2 and write an entire column about this.
(More Cowbell: April 28, 2005)

The only way it would be more uncannily Nuss-like is if he'd said "Allen Iverson" instead of "Baron Davis."

In the coming weeks, you can count on each member of the Double-S-Soul having his final say on the end-of-season awards, in our first-ever SUPERSONICSOUL-GLOW AWARDS.

Monday, May 2

The Big Three

Former Seattle Supersonics guard Dale Ellis
Who wears short-shorts? Dale did!

After Ray Allen tied the Sonics’ all-time playoff scoring record with 45 points in last night’s win over Sacramento, several newspapers listed the other top playoff performances in Sonics history. In case you missed it, they were:

#1 May 1, 2005 - Ray Allen - 45
(tie)
#1 April 15, 1976 - Fred Brown - 45
#2 April 28, 1987 - Dale Ellis - 43
#3 May 23, 1987 - Xavier McDaniel - 42
#4 May 14, 1987 - Tom Chambers - 38
#5 April 18, 1979 - Gus Williams - 38

(courtesy of Wayne)
Now, look at numbers two, three, and four: same season, three different players going for 35+ points in a game. Has that ever happened for ANY team EVER? Doubt it. That's why I love the 1987 team more than any other (yes, even more than the 1979 World Champs). The Big Three: Dale Ellis, Xavier McDaniel, and Tom Chambers (who won the All-Star Game MVP that year… in Seattle… as a RESERVE!), along with rookie (!) Nate McMillan and shot-blocker Alton Lister, made up the starting five. The bench consisted of several tough journeymen role players like Clem Johnson, Kevin Johnson, and former all-star Maurice Lucas.

Like this year’s squad, no one thought much of the 1987 Supersonics. They only won 39 games and barely squeaked into the playoffs. After getting blown out by the Mavericks 151-129 in game one, most of the media (including Steve Kelly, I vividly recall) counted the Sonics out. In the next game, however, Dale Ellis scored 43 points to exact sweet revenge against the team that dumped him (sound familiar?) and the Sonics won the next two games to win the best of five series.

The next round was against Houston Rockets and the original Twin Towers: Ralph Sampson (before his knees disintegrated) and Hakeem Olajuwon. This series will be forever remembered for game six, a double OT thriller that the Sonics won despite Olajuwon’s 49 points and 25 rebounds. Tom Chambers scored his 38 somewhere in this series, but all I can remember is Olajuwon going off for 49 and 25 – that’s just filthy.

And X-man’s 42, you ask? That came against the Lakers in one of the most painful losses that I can remember: Game 4, 1987 Western Conference Finals. After upsetting Dallas and Houston in the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Sonics were down 3-0 against the Magic/Kareem/Worthy Lakers. All appeared lost going into game four in Seattle, but, once again, the Sonics shocked everyone by sprinting out to a 20 point lead in the first half, punctuated by one of the greatest breakaway dunks of all-time by the X-man to close the half. Yes, the Sonics were surely going to upset the great Lakers and win the rest of the series, just like against Dallas and Houston. Right? RIGHT?!

The Lakers came out in the second half and calmly tore into the Supes like a giant tearing machine, leaving Sonics fans across the northwest feeling like they just got kicked in the nuts.

So will the 2005 playoff run end in joyous celebration (1979) or beer-filled depression (1993, 1994)? It’s too soon to tell, but either way, I’ll be wearing my cup.

Sunday, May 1

Playing for a penny (or two)

 Half-man Half the Offense   </
Half-man/Half the Offense

Seattle 115, Sacramento 102
Sonics lead series 3-1
Next Game: Tuesday at Sacramento 7:30PM Pac time

Player of the game:
Ray Allen was simply sensational: 45pts, 4 boards, 6 assists, & 4 steals. Regardless of the play, defender on him, or defensive scheme, Allen scored at will. In a segue/interview shot before the game by TNT that was almost an omen of his performance Ray Allen said something to the following extent when describing the deceptive quickness/ease of his shot: It’s like a man trying to catch a fly with his hands; he thinks that he’s got the fly (with his quick hand movement) but the fly escapes. To the fly, the hand is in slow motion. Everything feels like it’s in slow motion when I’m shooting. Again, I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea.

Breakdown:
-Repetitive, I know, but Allen & James great play in the series has the Sonics on the verge of advancing to the next round. Would the Kings stars play any better had they been in contract years, as Allen and James are? Sounds reasonable to me. And, another thing, how great would it be if corporate America handed out guaranteed multiyear contracts to cubicle gophers? Can you imagine the discrepancy in performance from workers with and without contracts?
-After his heroic game 3, Bibby came back with a suspiciously quiet game 4: 13pts on 4-17. Read and react: the mantra of the playoffs.
-The broken record: Jerome James coming through again with 17pts, 8 boards & 4 blocks. To my eyes his play in games 1 & 4 were slightly more energetic & valuable to the team (being a more offensive, rebounding, and defensive presence) than his play in games 2 & 3. Really though, WTF is that to nitpick over? My apologies Bizarro Jerome. You can be my wing man anytime. (Bulls**t Ray, you can be mine...)
-I am the first to scream the belief that A.D. is the superior option at PG over Rid, but Luke has clearly been the better option in the series. Take a look at these numbers for further info.
-Radmanovic had a terrible defensive performance. Kings’ players were totally taking advantage of him at times. Also, there was one play where Rashard was defending Peja 1-on-1, and could’ve taken a slow moving elbow/clearout to the face for an offensive foul, but didn’t. He saw it coming and moved his face out of the way to avoid injury. I doubt I would’ve taken it, I’m sure many star players wouldn’t have as well, but the Artests, Bowens, & Wallaces of the league sure would have.
-horn-tootin’: I predicted Allen & Lewis would combine for 60pts and Seattle would win 113-108. Final numbers: The duo got 64pts and the score was Seattle 115- Sac 102.

Question of the night:
Let’s try this one more time: What now are our adjusted expectations for the series, heading back to Seattle up 3-1?

It's pickin' time for Game 4!

 The folks at ARCO arena have the prescription to Rashard’s fever… More Cowbell!!!
The folks at ARCO arena have the prescription to Rashard’s fever… More Cowbell!!!".

Before reading any further please read this link.

Alright. It’s funny what a 1st lost game on a road trip may do to expectations. From dreams of a possible Kings sweep & of unleashing the monster that be Jerome James to the rest of the unsuspecting playoff teams to now contemplating a potential 1st round exit…

To start with, I always felt the following:
-Sonics at full strength vs. Kings full strength would result in Seattle advancing in 7 (or 6)
-Sonics weakened (i.e. Lewis & A.D. injured to partially effective) vs. Kings weakened (i.e. 2 of Peja, Miller, B-Jax trio injured to partially effective) would result in Seattle advancing in 7 (or 6)
-Sonics with a gimpy Lewis & A.D. vs. Kings full strength would result in Kings in 7 (or 6)
Updated:
-Sonics full strength w/Bizarro Jerome: 2nd round, taking the Spurs to 6 games (or 7) and with EVERYONE playing at their absolute peak, possibly winning the ‘ship.

That said, the Rashard injury/absence to me is the single most dominating series/playoffs subplot for the Sonics. From the Seattle Times :

Lewis declined to answer questions after the game, but he was asked if he was OK physically and nodded.

It is in the volume speaking absence of words that Rashard showed after that demoralizing game 3 loss that I took the most solace in.

That folks, sounds like someone who feels like he has a gargantuan chip on his shoulder... Someone who has a hunger for nothing short of redemption in game 4… Peja & Co. beware...

Rashard Lewis has a fever, and the only prescription is MORE COWBELL!! And since they’re still in the bell-clanging friendly confines of ARCO arena, in the immortal words of generic baseball broadcasters everywhere: Let’s play two!

Prediction:
Kings yet again perform admirably with the backing of the homecourt crowd, but…
Sonics bounce back with overall inspired play & Lewis comes back in a major way & combines with Ray Allen to score 60+ points min. Result?
Seattle 113 - Sacramento 108

It's pickin' time yet again folks... You make the call, what's the game 4 outcome? The prize: free soup for you!

Oh yeah, and there’s this fun little tidbit:

"And Evans -- you talk about Vlade [Divac] being a flopper? This guy is taking it to a whole new level. He goes down when the air conditioning comes on.
"They're doing their jobs, but I think there's times when they go overboard, and I think the officials should be aware of that."


-Adelman on the atrocious officiating and ridiculous flopping job done by the opposing team in the Sacramento-Seattle series. I’m Crash Davis, letting you, the loyal reader/batter, know that a fastball is coming up straight down the middle… Please, take this present, and hit it out of the park. And please don't go disrespecting my pitcher by lollygagging before running the bases...