Tuesday, January 23

Halfway Home

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.


Anonymous said...

I agree with your analysis but there is a small chance Sonics could get to 41 wins and a bigger one that they get to 39. Would be unusual for 8th seed in west to only need that many wins but 8th seed is sitting right at .500 now and could slip 2 games lower by season's end. Not quite as likely as climb 2 but possible.

Nonetheless you are right this is mainly too late excuses and optimism to keep fan interest. They fell too far off the pace in last few weeks.

Playoff probablity: between 1-5%.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the PI is smelling a playoff chance as well ...

"Sonics look to right ship and make run at playoffs"


Anonymous said...

The other thing people always forget to mention when it comes to making the playoffs is the number of other teams between you and the playoff spot.

For example, in the PI story Gary Washburn says the Sonics are only 5 games behind Minnesota for the final playoff spot. What he doesn't mention (and Nuss you should have mentioned this to back up your point) is that 5 OTHER TEAMS ARE ALSO AHEAD OF SEATTLE for that final spot.

In other words, the Sonics not only have to play better than Minneosta, they also have to play better than the Clippers, Warriors, Blazers, Kings, and Hornets. It's so ludicrous it makes me laugh.

People might bring up the M's taking down the Angels in '95 as an example of how teams can come from behind, but they forget the Mariners didn't have to pass 6 teams to win the title, they just had to pass one team, the Angels.

Anonymous said...

I wish the management would just come out and say hey it's better for all of us that we keep losing this season so let's just do it. Give all those "potential" players a chance to prove themselves until the end of this season to see how much they develop (like we don't already know... I mean how much better is Petro gonna get?). Then grab Oden and let the other centers play with pick up groups around Green Lake so they learn how to play ball.

And for god's sake fire Hill already. It's not like he's this coach who's been getting badass results with other teams. To me, hiring Bob Hill and expecting good results is like buying a beat up 87 Civic and trying to race with it.

Oh... and every few years, if you get a chance, give a shit about the fans.

Anonymous said...

Despite the fear of sounding too much like the myopic homer I am, is it too early to start lobbying management to fire Hill and re-hire Dwane Casey?

Anonymous said...

Dwayne Casey got fired by the T-Wolves today - and kevin mchale is their new head coach.

Casey got screwed if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

You've got to love this line from McHale (who isn't going to coach the team) on his hire of Randy Wittman:

"Randy is a known quantity who has a great amount of experience in the NBA. He's been an assistant coach, a player and a head coach in the league."

What's known about Randy Wittman? That he went 62-102 in his career with the Cavs? That in his 2 years with Cleveland he was a complete and utter disaster?

Man, as good a player as McHale was with the Celtics, he's that bad of a GM with the Timberwolves. From Joe Smith, to destroying a team that made it to the Conference Finals, to everything in between, Kevin McHale has got to be right up there with Isiaih as far as running a team goes.

Anonymous said...

This is a bit of a Rick Sund bash, but here goes ...

In explaining why he took 7-foot projects for three consecutive seasons, Sund claimed that because talented big men are so rare, it behooves teams to take them whenever they're available.

Well, I was looking at the draft expectations for 2007, and here are the guys listed 6'10" or better that are supposed to be studs:

Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, Spencer Hawes, Joakim Noah, Brandan Wright, Josh McRoberts, Tiago Splitter, Yi Jialian, Jason Smith, Aaron Gray.

That's just in the Top 15 - 10 guys who are expected to contribute immediately (okay, the last 3 or 4 are project-type guys), but still that's at least half-a-dozen guys who are probably better than the 3 guys we've got on our roster now.

You know what drives me crazy? If the Sonics wind up with a lottery pick, I can almost guarantee that we'll take a big guy - BECAUSE AFTER DRAFTING CENTERS FOR 3 YEARS STRAIGHT, THE SONICS BIGGEST HOLE IS AT CENTER.

It makes me so mad, I want to just vomit.

Anonymous said...

Nuss I agree McHale has shown no special insight or talent as GM.

Wittman had a bad and short time in Cleveland and I dont know the situation in detail but a quick look at those rosters they werent that good and he had a lot of player turnover to deal with and Z was injured one of those seasons.

He played faster the first year then slowed down. Wonder if Wolves will try to go uptempo to change this season. Seems like a lot of their personnel would be better in that type game. I assume they went anyway from it as Garnett aged but that might have been a wrong choice on balance.

Anonymous said...

Dang peoples. Here I was enjoying the Sonics play as of late and I didn't realize I should be annoyed! Why don't you change the name of the site to SuperSonicEmo for the remainder of the season?

We are so far out of it that I don't care, I want to enjoy some wins! Even if its foolish I want to enjoy some double/doubles from Wheezy and Nick with a big helping of Raydar Luv. Could we finally be nearing the end of the cycle as the West's bottom feeders? God I want to keep that hope.

Has anyone else enjoyed that Calabro has come back to life the past few games?

Yea, were all totally convinced that the Supes are out of the playoffs. Now convince yourself to enjoy it when the Sonics win because you don't know how long they'll be here.

Were out of it and I don't care if we draft the fifth pick or the fifteenth. I want some wins and a few magic carpet rides.