Not sure if anyone else caught the exchange between Lenny Wilkens and Kevin Calabro during the slaughter of the Bucks last Friday, but it’s emblematic of the misleading nature of even the smallest of win streaks.
Hepped up on the dunk- and layup-fest the Sonics were putting on, at some point in the latter stages of the 3rd quarter Wilkens mentioned that, “if the Sonics continue to share the ball this way and continue to play aggressively, they can start making a charge in the standings.”
Wilkens’ comments were followed up on-line by David Locke, who wrote the team must play well against Denver, L.A., and Minnesota because “the Sonics have to catch all three if they are going to make a second-half run.”
I’ll venture the minimum number of games needed to qualify for the playoffs in the West will be 43. That’s reasonable, considering the last time a team with fewer than 43 wins made the playoffs was 1998 (Houston, and I’m not counting the strike year, obviously).
Right now, the Sonics are 16-25. In order for them to win 43 games, they’d have to go 27-14 for the rest of the season. In other words, in the next two months the Sonics would have to play as well as the San Antonio Spurs in order to qualify for the playoffs.
That’s a joke. There is no way in holy hell the Sonics will play 13 games above .500 for the rest of the season. It’s just not going to happen. In fact, I’ll wager $500 against all comers that it won’t. Go to the comments section of this site and write your name and telephone number down. I’ll take all action. I’ll even give you 5-1 odds.
The simple truth is the first half of the season counts. Yeah, it stinks Swift got hurt and that Rashard and Ray both missed big chunks of the year, but that’s life. The fact Rick Sund thought the best way to go at center was to back an inexperienced high school kid (Swift) with an inexperienced Frenchman (Petro) is his own doing. The fact he thought Earl Watson would be happy playing second fiddle when the very reason Sund was able to obtain him was because of his unhappiness in Denver is nobody’s fault but his.
But that’s the past. The realty is the Sonics are now hopelessly out of the playoff race, and every game they win catapults them further away from Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, and closer to people like this.
Hey, I’m all for the team trying hard, and I certainly don’t expect them to pull a fade a la John Lucas’ Cavs of a few years ago, but it certainly doesn’t make any sense for the Sonics to give Ray Allen 45 minutes a night, the way they have for the past week or so, when he’s 31, nearing the downslope of his career, and his team is actually better off losing.
The question isn’t “What do the Sonics need to do to further their playoff chances?”; the question is rather “What do the Sonics need to do to improve their 2007-08 win total?” I can think of a few answers that would be helpful:
1. Trade either Ridnour or Watson. Only a fool would try this 2-point-guard situation next year, when it’s obvious that both of them want to start. Starting next season, their salaries are basically identical, and their trade value is probably the same. In a perfect world, the Sonics would deal Watson for somebody like Jeff Foster, but that’s just a dream.
2. Continue to start Gelabale until Rashard returns, then make sure he – not Wilkins – is the first guy off the bench. I don’t think Wilkins is the answer at SF if Rashard leaves this summer, and Gelabale could be. The Sonics need to know what holes they need to fill this summer, and giving minutes to Damien at Gelabale’s expense doesn’t make sense.
The problem in this whole equation is Bob Hill. At this point in time, Hill’s goals are at odds with the team’s. The best result for Bob Hill is to win as many games as possible, so that he has a better shot at coaching in the NBA next year. The best result for the Sonics sans playoffs is to lose as many games as possible, but that would result in Hill’s resume being sabotaged, a situation with which he is intimately familiar. As is often the case in the League, what’s best for the coach isn’t necessarily what’s best for the organization, and so long as Hill’s contract isn’t extended, it will remain that way.
In essence, the Sonics have three options:
1. Don’t extend Hill’s contract, and watch Allen play 45 minutes a night in a Quixotian attempt for the playoffs.
2. Extend Hill’s contract, and watch Petro get 30 minutes a night and Allen closer to 35.
3. Fire Hill, promote Sikma or another assistant, and watch the Sonics move down in the standings and closer to Odenville.
Considering they’ll be going hat in hand to the legislature this year, I’m guessing #1 will remain the franchise’s choice. And, once again, Sonic fans will get the shaft.