Monday, March 19

Hill of a Year

I’m going to make a point today that I guarantee will surprise most of the folks who stumble across this site:

I think Bob Hill has done a decent job this year.

Now, I’m not nominating the guy for Coach of the Year, but considering the lousy circumstances in which he is forced to compete, Hill deserves some credit.

To what circumstances am I referring? Try these:

1. A front office that is mired in the quicksand of new ownership
2. A roster overloaded with inexperienced big men
3. A point guard duality that makes early the 20th-century Balkan states look like Club Med
4. A contract status that lets the players know he has no power
5. A power forward who is late more often than a hooker who forgets to take the pill

And, yet, in spite of all this, Hill has his team competing. Even though their playoff chances are somewhere around Adam Sandler’s Oscar chances, Hill has convinced them to play hard.

Some of that comes from Ray Allen, who has defied advice to have surgery and is instead enduring pain night after night just so the team doesn’t throw in the towel. Still, I think Hill deserves a bit of praise for the way the Sonics have continued to compete, despite everyone thinking they should board the good ship Lotteria.

After a horrific 6-game losing streak to start the new year, you could smell the blood in the water. The Sonics weren’t going to make any moves at the trading deadline, Lewis was hurt, Fortson’s follies were a continual distraction ... and the Sonics have somehow trucked along, posting a 13-15 record since that lousy spell, with only five games out of those 28 being blowouts.

Hill has his detractors, yours truly included, but if you look at this situation from his perspective, I think you have to give him the benefit of the doubt. Sure, playing Ray Allen 40 minutes a night when he’s got pain in his ankle isn’t smart, but what does Hill get out of saving Allen? He’s going to be fired regardless of how the Sonics finish, and his only chance of getting another job lies in the team getting as close to 40 wins as possible. You think his next employer is going to give a rat’s ass if he fell on his sword to help the Sonics compete better next year, when he’s long-gone? Of course not.

No, if you’re going to blame anyone for Allen or Lewis’ extended – and futile – minutes, take a look at Rick Sund, not Bob Hill. It is Sund, or his employers, that lack the gumption to just sack Hill and let an assistant run the show from here on out.

It all makes me think of the Spurs, for some reason. Can anyone imagine Popovich allowing the Fortson saga to drag on for what seems like 10 years? Can anyone imagine Phil Jackson permitting a point guard to tank the first half of the season because he didn’t like the minutes he was getting?

Of course not. But, then, the Sonics aren’t run by insightful, tough-minded people. They’re run by people that think it’s smart to draft teenaged centers three years in a row.


Anonymous said...

I guess you can say he's done a good job, if you're comparing him to Bob Weiss, which takes damning with faint praise to the next level.

Anonymous said...

I think Ray is the reason Ray's playing 40 a night. The guy lives to play, is a pro, and knows he's setting an example to the others by playing thru' the pain instead of taking it easy. I doubt Hill could bench him if he wanted to. All told, the team hasn't tuned the coach out (except maybe Fortson, possibly Earl for other reasons) which says something about the guy. I'd give him a 2 year contract (team option on the second) and see what he can do with a healthier roster than he had. Oh yeah, and if Sund drafts another center, string him up by the balls.

Anonymous said...

Though I can't find the details of exactly how NBA insurance works (I have heard several versions and can't which is right) I assume they will get part of Fortson salary back.

And the league has a 13 player minimum so they'd have to add a guy to take his spot and they dont want to.

Anonymous said...

From what I understand, a player has to be on the inactive list for an extended period of time (if I remember right, at least half the season, or 41 games) before the insurance kicks in. In Fortson's case, the Sonics activated him in early January for one game, which meant the insurance would only cover 1 or 2 games at the end of the season. That's why they went ahead and activated him a couple of weeks ago - before he went AWOL in NYC and Boston, earning him a suspension.

That means that the Sonics will get no insurance payout this season, at least if I understand the system correctly.

The most frustrating thing is that the money has been spent - they aren't getting it back. It would have made a heckuva lot more sense to send Fortson to Florida where he wouldn't bother anybody, then find a servicable, Mikki Moore-type player to be a reserve big man for the minimum. Instead, the Sonics kept playing games with Fortson for the whole season - and now they'll probably squander his $6 mill. in cap space in the off-season.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your basic shot

& ideas on Bob Hill...the only

thing I won't excuse him for is

not playing Gelabale since Lewis

came back.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Hill's had the worst situation imaginable for a coach as far as having a young roster and an organization that has been completely paralyzed since the sale of the team went through.

No question Sund's record has been underwhelming too ... but there's also a few things within Hill's control that only he can shoulder the blame for. he's still done a ton of lineup juggling, which never works and has a propensity for calling guys out in the media. As a motivational tactic that can work for coaches, but it has to be done sparingly. Hill's just about called out everyone on the roster not named Ray Allen by this point.

The quality that I liked the most about Hill last year and earlier this year was his commitment to playing the young bigs and developing them. It's rare to find a coach that is willing to do that since it invariably involves losing games. But somewhere this season Hill lost that commitment and has pretty much repeated all the bad habits that Bob Weiss had last year. So he is part of the problem, but at this point I am convinced that no coach can win consistently with this roster. It's too young.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how many other people have heard about this game, but AirPlay has a new NBA Live game that is like real-time fantasy on a cell phone interface. Has anyone else tried it out yet?

They've been getting a lot of press lately, and I just downloaded the free trial. It'd be nice to have a small competitive group going for Sonics fans, and this would be the right place to organize it. It'd be less depressing than arguing about our front office/coaching problems...

Eric Reynolds said...

I agree with your Hill piece, but I hope to god the Sonics keep losing the rest of the season. They're simply way too close to getting a top five pick to win for pride. I cheered when Arenas made that shot tonight. Right now, the Sonics have a pretty good shot at anywhere in the top five and if they keep losing it only takes one ping-pong ball bounce to land Durant. But if they win a few, we get mired in that 7 to 10 range and Sund will probably draft an 8' tall, 15 year-old girl from Poland. Or Spencer Hawes. Or he'll try to draft Robert Swift again; I mean, let's face it, he doesn't seem to remember he drafts crappy centers every single year. My biggest fear is they'll get like the #3 pick and take Hawes. That would be like having your pick of all the women on America's Next Top Model and taking Twiggy. I can actually picture the Sonics doing this. Or they'll land Durant and move to Oklahoma. Hooray!

Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter who we draft, as I'm sure the news will hit the NY papers soon enough, wherein we trade our pick (Durant, Noah, whoever) to the Nicks for Nate Robinson, Jerome James and whoever elese they want to get rid of. Oh, we'll probably throw in Lewis as well. You know they'll be writing it.

Anonymous said...

Well,'s article about Lewis and him firing his agents and trying to shop around the league means he's most likely not going to be in Seattle next season. I honestly think Rick Sund needs to get his ass fired as the most passive GM there ever was. Look what they did to AD... go shop around and come back with the offers you get and we'll see. They're doing pretty much the same thing to Lewis. If I were a player of Lewis' caliber I'd give em the middle finger and move on.

Now all that aside, Hill is a shitty coach, no one can deny that. Young and banged up roster? Sure. But none, I mean none, of the players have improved under him. He's over-reliant on an aging superstar. His team defends like a bunch of sissies and they just can't close games. Just look back at how many games we've lost starting the fourth quarter up.

So, sure... having a questionable roster probably added to the mix, but you can't discount Hill's piss poor coaching.

Anonymous said...

"Now all that aside, Hill is a shitty coach, no one can deny that. Young and banged up roster? Sure. But none, I mean none, of the players have improved under him."

Nick Collison.

Anonymous said...

I think losing the close games isn't as terrible as everyone makes it out to be. Kevin Pelton pointed out at that the Sonics had a winning record in those games last year, and Hill was the coach then, too, with essentially the same roster.

It's just a run of craptacular luck, combined with the utter lack of a reliable inside presence. Plus, Ray hasn't been as hot at the end of games this year as in years past. If the Sonics/Allen wise up and he has the surgery sooner rather than later, he'll be fully healthy for next year, and this lousy finish business might just go away.