Tonight, the Sonics debut what is – in many ways – a brand-new team. As such, there will be a big bulls-eye residing on Coach Hill’s forehead for the next three months. After having to endure an incomplete roster for the beginning of his tenure, Hill has got all of the pieces he should need to create a winning team. I have always felt Hill has/had what it takes to be a successful NBA coach, and now we’ll find out if I’m right.
To me, with their recent moves the Sonics have finally replaced Jerome James and Antonio Daniels by acquiring Wilcox, Wilks, and Watson (add in Wilkens and we’ve got our own W-4!). Watson complements Ridnour perfectly, and Wilcox’ athleticism and aggressiveness are precisely what the Sonics need. One can only hope their attention to defense rubs off on Lewis, Allen, et al. Wilks’ surprising performance against the Heat only adds more excitement.
Watching the Sonics last year, the best lineup in my opinion was Daniels, Allen, Lewis, Radmanovic, and Fortson (at least while Fortson kept his fouls in check). That group’s combination of defense, scoring, and rebounding was exciting to watch. An aspect oft-overlooked was their exceptional foul shooting and – even more importantly – foul-drawing abilities. Unfortunately, Watson can’t hit FTs as well as Daniels, and Wilcox is no Fortson at drawing and making shots at the charity stripe.
Regardless, I’m more excited about the Sonics right now than at any point this season since October. Tonight’s game against the Hornets should be a wonderful opportunity for the Sonics to show Seattle fans that this team can still be factor in the playoff race. The Hornets have added a few pieces (Marc Jackson, Moochie Norris, Linton Johnson, Aaron Williams) to an already surprisingly good team, but the fact that Earl Watson will be wearing green and gold makes the thought of Chris Paul suiting up a little more palatable. This is no gimme in any way; the Hornets are a good team with a winning record on the road against Western Conference opponents and a 19-8 mark since January 1st. Their recent additions have played very well – both Williams and Johnson have posted double-doubles since being acquired – and Chris Paul is, well, Chris Paul. In the Sonics’ favor, the Hornets are 1-11 when teams score 100+ against them, something the Sonics ought to be able to do with their new roster inact.
Can the Sonics win, though? Good Lord, I hope so. Nothing would rev up this franchise at this point than a win against a good team. In a season of disasters both on and off of the court, Sonic fans deserves a ray of sunshine. Let’s hope we see it tonight.