Monday, April 30

Glove(s) Off?

Former Seattle SuperSonic Gary Payton-Lego StyleIt’s all speculation right now, but some writers in the Miami area are predicting that Alonzo Mourning and, more importantly, Gary Payton could be headed for Del Boca Vista after the Heat were swept aside by the Bulls.

Well, if the Sonics are leaving town, it only makes sense for Payton to retire as well. In a perfect world, the Sonics would bring Gary back for one last season in Seattle before he calls it quits. Considering the 07-08 campaign is shaping up to be pretty dismal – what with the moving vans backed up to the Key Arena parking lot and all – would it really be that bad of an idea?

It’s possible the Sonics deal either Earl Watson or Luke Ridnour this summer. Mike Wilks was great in his short stint at the end of the year, but the Sonics could really use a guard with some decent size coming off the bench; why not Gary?

It’s a pipe dream, I know, but Payton remains the greatest player in team history (sorry, Paul, Ray Allen isn’t even close), and it would be a wonderful move for the fans to bring him back to Seattle, if, of course, he’d even want to play here.

But let’s say Gary calls it quits; what will he be remembered for? I don’t mean statistical rankings or playoff wins, I mean what will YOU remember about Payton?

Personally, the enduring images of Gary Payton are many:

-Backing down an opposing point guard the way an old man backs up his Buick – with a “I don’t give a shit what you think, I'm backing this thing up” attitude

-The gum chewing; nobody chews gum harder and with more intensity of Gary Payton

- The defensive posture; the way he cinches up his shorts before he got into position, as if to say, “Alright, motherf$)*#er, let’s go!”

- The way he backpedals down the court after sinking a 3, arms raised jauntily by his side, bent at the elbow, with the intensity of a spring training jog

- The trash talking – always the trash talking, especially when his head tilted slightly to the right as he talked, as if he was trying to get the words to move upwards

But most of all, the winning. Gary Payton – at least in Seattle – seemed to be about winning. It’s not something common to Seattle athletes; we are, after all, home to Edgar, Ray Allen, and Steve Largent. Classy men all, but you never associated in-your-face intensity and attitude to those gentleman the way you did with Gary.

Well, I could go on for paragraphs more, but let’s cut it short. Gary Payton might be retiring soon. What will you remember?

Bennett Changes Tactics

After receiving a bit of a reprimand from David Stern - issued through intermediary Jim Gary - Clay Bennett - using his intermediary Jim Kneeland - is no longer using Las Vegas as an option for the Sonics. (The best quote was from Stern when Gray prompted him to comment on Bennett's Las Vegas comments. "I don't think he said that," sayeth David. When Gray pressed further, Stern revised his Moses-on-Mt.-Sinai attitude to one of, well, maybe he'll take it back.).

I never really believed Vegas was a likely choice; for the simple reasons that they don't have an arena and they haven't yet buckled under on eliminating betting on basketball. It's clear that Bennett was simply using Vegas as an excuse to extort the city/state into giving him what he wants - a beautiful stadium in King County, in which his only "investment" will be the money generated by naming rights.

The more I read about this story(ies), the more I begin to believe that Bennett might be between a rock and a hard place. His only real option at this point is Kansas City, and I can't imagine the league would rather have a team in K.C. rather than Seattle. While the legislature deserves some of the criticism it has been receiving for its Pollyanna attitude re the stadium, it warms my heart no small amount to think that a professional sports franchise is being forced to call its bluff.

Friday, April 27

Tale of Many Cities

The Sonics released yet another press release today (Team Motto: "Why talk when you can e-mail?") regarding the potential location(s) of the team in the future.

Not much in the way of news to be gleaned from the release. It concludes with this paragraph:

"At this time no one knows the confluence of events that could occur to land the teams in Oklahoma City. At this moment, everything is way too premature. While it looks bleak in Seattle, we are not ready to throw in the towel."

Wonder how the folks in OKC are going to enjoy being played against Kansas City and Las Vegas. Welcome to the show, Oklahoma, welcome to the show.

UPDATE! The Sonics have issued another press release!
This time, it's to state that yes, Lenny Wilkens is the official, fer-shure, no-foolin' President of Basketball Operations. Clay Bennett will remain President of Moving Operations. Nothing like making an announcement at quarter to 3 on a Friday to ensure that your team gets minimum exposure in the newspaper. Way to go, folks!


Anyone else beginning to feel a little queasy whenever the Sonics appear in the newspaper, or on the radio, or on television?

I lived through the Grizzlies’ departure from Vancouver, and I can tell you from first-hand experience that this situation is beginning to smell an awful lot like the stench that emanated from that one.

As Art Thiel points out today in the PI, Benikens is making it look as though Britney Spears is running the PR department. From the firing-by-telex, to Lenny Wilkens’ apparent screw up on anointing himself Team President, to Clay Bennett’s musings about Las Vegas, the Sonics are slowly descending into Clipperland, circa 1996, when a team routinely screws up everything it touches.

In fact, I think if you checked the “Robert Irsay Guide to Moving a Franchise,” you’d see that Bennett and Co. have gone according to plan:

STEP ONE - Check
Find team to purchase. This is important.

STEP TWO – Check
Attempt to put positive spin on non-local ownership taking over a beloved local institution. Make not-so-funny jokes about the differences between your hometown and your new team’s location.

Find some local types to put in “important” positions.

Make obligatory efforts to keep team in town, keeping Commissioner and League happy, as well as intimating that you don’t want to move. Be sure that the requests you make would never be accepted by local government, though; you don’t want to screw up and not be able to move the team!

Gut front office.

STEP SIX – Check
Start stonewalling media. Remember, no news is good news for your plan. The more you get people to hate you and your team, the easier it will be to move!

Call Bekins.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, April 26

Glory Days

I'm guessing the rest of you are, like myself, going through Sonics playoff withdrawals.

With that in mind, here's a blast from the past, 1978 to be specific. Ah, Brent Musberger, you're such a cunning linguist.

Perfect Storm

It's not often that a cheap fellow like myself finds himself with a bevy of options on television. I've straightjacketed myself into 20 channels (even worse: 20 Canadian channels), so on most nights my choices are limited, to say the very least.

And, yet, there I was last night, assaulted by not 1, not 2, but 3 fantastic options.

1) Golden State v Dallas
2) Bill Moyers on PBS, talking about the media's complicity in bringing about the Iraq War

And, thankfully, they all came through. Since this is a basketball website, I'll focus on #1 (but it should be mentioned: Judith Miller of the NY Times did not come off looking too swell in Moyers' show, and why in the hell did Desmond let that one-eyed jackoff walk away?).

Back to hoops. I only caught the second half of the Mavs-Warriors game, but even that snippet made me wonder the following:

1. If Dirk Nowitzki is the best player in the NBA this year, then the NBA must really stink. The Tall German was probably the 5th- or 6th-best player on the court when I was watching.

2. Even with the loss, G St. has to be feeling pretty good about themselves. I never felt at any point that the Mavs were clearly a better team. As long as the Warriors keep going strong to the hoop and throwing those 3/4-court length passes off Dallas makes, the Mavs are going to be one tired group of Texans.

3. I am amped to watch Bay Area fans bring the pain this weekend.

4. Baron Davis' beard deserves its own blog.

5. It kills me that the Sonics were on a par with the Warriors only a year or so ago. At this moment, they're not even in the same universe.

Wednesday, April 25

Carlisle Available

Another expected firing, this time Rick Carlisle in Indiana.

You'd think Carlisle would be in the mix for Seattle's opening, but he's been rumored to be in the mix for every opening, from Sacramento to Memphis to the Tahoma High School JV team (slightly kidding), so expect some form of a bidding war for his services.


Well, that was quite a shakeup Mr. Bennett issued yesterday, though it was as unexpected as a failed movie starring an SNL alum.

With Sund and Hill both out of the picture, I'm hoping that Bennett/Wilkens (hereinafter Benikens) first move will be to acquire a GM. Unfortunately, all the good GM candidates are kind of busy right now. There's this thing called the "playoffs" taking place, and anybody that's good at their job is likely involved in it.

That obviously puts Benikens in a crappy spot. Do they wait until late June to make a move, and pray that a coach/GM combination is available? Do they go for a guy like Adelman or Larry Brown now, then hope that whichever GM they get later on is cool with it?

Personally, I think the best move is to go GM first, coach second. With that in mind, here's a wishlist of GMs:

1. Kiki Vandeweghe; people forget how bad the Nuggets were before he took over in 2001. He transformed them to a playoff team by acquiring Marcus Camby, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, and George Karl. He also drafted Nikoloz Tskitishvili with the 5th overall pick in 2002. Ouch.

2. Jerry West; late of the Grizzlies, West obviously knows how to create a playoff team, but color me less than enthusiastic about him leading the Sonics. He radiates weariness of the NBA, and while he got the Grizzlies into the playoffs after a inheriting a woeful franchise, I don't know that he's the right fit for the Sonics.

3. RC Buford, Spurs; the safest pick, Buford leads the most-envied franchise in the NBA. He's found international guys like Ginobili and Parker and continues to mix and match veterans and youngsters. But I've got to wonder, why in the hell would he want to leave S.A. for Seattle?

4. Sam Presti, Spurs; Buford's assistant is only 30 years old, but is often mentioned as a potential candidate. I'd be wary of hiring him, only because he'd have the spectre of Lenny Wilkens hovering over him. I look at it this way: let's say the Sonics are poised to make a trade, with Presti arguing for Answer A, and Wilkens for Answer B. They go to Bennett to settle the argument. Who do you think Bennett's going to side with: the 30-year-old neophyte, or the 70-year-old wizard?

5. Lenny Wilkens, Methuselah; sorry, but I am really beginning to think this will be the answer. The Sonics are in such disarray right now that it's going to be really difficult for any GM to come in and do much of anything.

Think about how next year is going to go. Assume that the deadline for building a stadium comes and goes. In November, the Sonics will be playing in a half-empty arena with crowds that are booing their home team. The whole season feels like something out of "Bad News Bears." What GM in their right mind would want any part of that? I have the distinct impression that next year will be in wait-and-see mode, until the team packs up for parts unknown and begins its new life with a new GM and a new coach.

Tuesday, April 24

Seattle Sonics fire Hill, "reassign" Sund

"They fired ME?! But, I'm BOB HILL, damnit!"

From the Seattle P.I.:
The Sonics fired coach Bob Hill and reassigned general manager Rick Sund on Tuesday afternoon.

Team chairman Clay Bennett made the announcement in a statement sent to media outlets. Bennett and Sonics vice-chairman Lenny Wilkens will lead the search for a new coach and GM, the statement said.

Sund, who has a year remaining on his contract, will serve as a consultant next season.

"Bob Hill and Rick Sund are fine individuals of excellent personal character and are basketball men through and through," Bennett said in the statement. "They were both extremely helpful to us during the challenging year of transition."

The Sonics completed their season Wednesday with a 31-51 record. Only four NBA teams had fewer victories.
No big shocker here. The only surprise is they didn't do it four months ago. (Of course, that would have meant the owners were interested in winning in Seattle which, obviously, they weren't.)

Worst Drafts

The lottery is drawing closer, and with it comes rampant speculation on who the Sonics should select.

I thought it makes a great opportunity to review the Sonics’ draft history, specifically the worst drafts in team history. I also thought it would be a good chance to mention Billy Paultz in an article for no good reason whatsoever.

Here you go:

1970: With a first-rounder and two seconds you’d think the Sonics could do better than Jim Ard, Jake Ford, and Pete Cross. Sadly, the Sonics pass up John Johnson, Geoff Petrie, Jim McMillan, Calvin Murphy, Tiny Archibald, Billy Paultz (The Whopper!), and Dan Issel.

1972: Again, the Sonics have a first and two seconds, and, again, they come up empty, unless you consider Bud Stallworth, Joby Wright, and Brian Taylor as significant acquisitions. Taylor had a decent career in the ABA, but he never played a game in Seattle. (On a side note, the draft lasted for 14 rounds; the Sonics didn’t get anything in the other 12 rounds either).

1975: The Sonics reach for Frank Oleynick with the 12th pick of the first round. Oleynick’s sole claim to fame was attending Seattle U. Maybe the Sonics figured they could save on airfare. Also available at that pick were: Ricky Sobers, Joe Bryant, Kevin Grevey, Gus Williams, World B Free, and Dan Roundfield.

1978: Coming off a berth in the NBA Finals, you couldn’t expect much in the draft, but considering that of the five guys the Sonics picked, only one of them (Ralph Drollinger, UCLA) even played in the league, and Drollinger’s “career” consisted of six games played, well, that’s not much of a draft, folks.

1981: “With the fifth overall selection in the NBA Draft, the Seattle Supersonics select ...” Danny Vranes? Considering the Sonics could have wound up with Tom Chambers, Orlando Woolridge, Rolando Blackman, Kelly Tripucka, Danny Schayes, Larry Nance, Danny Ainge, or Eddie Johnson (the good one), that’s just lame.

1994: With an upper-echelon pick for the first time in a while, Seattle goes for Carlos Rogers with the 11th pick. Of course, they could have had Jalen Rose, but who had heard of him?

2004-2006: We will not mention these seasons.

Monday, April 23


- According to the Oregonian, the Blazers will pursue Rashard Lewis this summer. But wait, it gets better! The only way the over-the-cap Blazers can make the deal happen is to move Zach Randolph's Roseanne Barr-sized contract. Do the Blazers really expect the Sonics to 1) help them to acquire a young all-star (Lewis) and 2) help them to rid themselves of a guy who stopped at a strip club on the way to the airport for a funeral? Really? If I'm the Sonics' GM, I'd hang up the phone somwhere between "Zach" and "Randolph."

-The ever-reliable Sam Smith passes along that Sund and Hill are likely out the door (!) and that Clay Bennett is interested in acquiring some of the talent in San Antonio's front office. Oh, and Sam also mentions the sun is expected to set in the west tonight. And that the Sonics might be interested in PJ Carlisemo, because, you know, he did so well in the NBA the first time 'round.

-Gary Washburn is predicting a new coach this week in his blog. And that Bob Hill is having hernia surgery in San Antonio this week. It's unknown if the surgery will be more or less painful than what Hill went through this year.

-Frank Hughes thinks Rick Adelman would make a good choice for the head coach. I think a small part of me just died.

I don't care what anybody else says. The only serious candidate for the Soncis should be the (hopefully) soon-to-be-unemployed Rick Carlisle. The guy's resurrected a franchise before (Detroit) and he can do it here. The Sonics don't need an offensive wizard to help them. They need someone who will convince all the guys on the roster to play defense, and they need someone who commands their respect. Adelman and PJ both fail on those counts, Carlisle doesn't.

Friday, April 20

A History of #5

With the Sonics slated to pick #5 in the draft, I thought I’d take a look at the last 20 #5 picks in the NBA Draft:

1. Shelden Williams (Inc.)
2. Raymond Felton (B)
3. Devin Harris (B)
4. Dwayne Wade (A+)
5. Nikoloz Tstchivilli (D)
6. Jason Richardson (B+)
7. Mike Miller (B)
8. Jonathan Bender (D)
9. Vince Carter (A)
10. Tony Battie (C+)
11. Ray Allen (A)
12. Kevin Garnett (A+)
13. Juwan Howard (B)
14. JR Rider (C)
15. LaPhonso Ellis (C+)
16. Steve Smith (B+)
17. Kendall Gill (B)
18. JR Reid (B-)
19. Mitch Richmond (A-)
20. Scottie Pippen (A+)

The grades in brackets are my own, non-scientific grading of each player. You can feel free to disagree with the rankings, and they’re not based on anything more than a cursory look at statistics and my own memory of the players.

It broke down like this:
A’s: 6
B’s: 8
C’s: 3
D’s: 2
Inc: 1

That’s pretty good, on the whole. It means in the past 20 drafts, the #5 pick has yielded a B or A type player 70% of the time. Plus, only two real duds fell to #5 (Nikoloz and Bender), meaning there was a 90% chance the player at least started some of the time and wasn’t a “what a f*&^ing waste!” kind of pick.

The next couple of months will bring more draft goodness, but I thought I’d start off by taking a look at the history. After all, when was the last time you thought about JR Reid?

Las Vegas Sonics

Get ready to read alot more of this stuff this summer.

NBA to study possible move to Vegas


I thought I’d take a look back at how Chris Wilcox’ season went, based on the predictions I made for him at the start of the year.

In my prediction, I figured Wilcox would play 33 minutes (he averaged 31.5), score 14 points (13.5), average 8 boards (7.7), 2.5 turnovers (1.6), and 3.5 fouls (3). All of that came according to plan, including:

“On the whole, Wilcox should be a plus for the Sonics this season. I expect him to commit too many fouls, enabling Collison to get more PT (fine with me), to be occasionally frustrated with his role in the offense, to put up as many 25/15s as he does 8/6s, and to be generally acceptable as the team’s starting power forward.”

I’d say generally acceptable would apply for Wilcox. Of course, all of that verbiage above didn’t mention his “defense,” which makes sense because his defense this year was unmentionable anyways.

As for other predictions, here’s one that turned out well:

“No, the real breakout guy should be Deron Williams of the Jazz, who’s already putting up solid numbers in the pre-season. If AK-47 is healthy, and Jerry Sloan doesn’t kill someone on the sidelines, the Jazz could be pretty tough this year.”

And one that, unfortunately, was even worse than I expected:

“Total Wins: 37”

It’s pretty sad when you’re pessimism about the team turns out to be optimism.

Thursday, April 19

Not With a Bang, But a Whimper

Well, is that how it all ends, then? Is a Mo Sene missed 15-footer the final play in Seattle Sonics history? Downtown, Gus, Lenny, DJ, X, Tommy, Det, the Glove, the Reignman, Sugar Ray, Rashard ... does it all come down to this?

Nobody can possibly know the future of this franchise, and I mean nobody. In the next three months we’re going to hear five pounds of speculation for every ounce of fact, and it would be wise to keep that in mind whenever some “expert” details what the future of the Sonics is.

One more piece of nostalgia before I go. Last night marked Kevin Willis’ appearance in Seattle for the first time in a couple years. Willis has been plying his trade since the 1984-85 season and I thought you might get a laugh out of some of the other folks picked in the 1984 draft, along with Kevvy Kev:

Sam Perkins. Charles Barkley. Alvin Robertson. Otis Thorpe. Michael Cage. Terrence Stansbury. Vern Fleming. Danny Young. Rick Carlisle.

Hakeem Olajuwon.

Michael Jordan.

Congratulations, Mr. Willis, you’ve outlasted all of them, and you may have outlasted Seattle’s basketball team as well.

Wednesday, April 18

NW Division Roundup, Part II

More Northwest Division Goodness, (Part I here)

The reflex answer is to say Danny Fortson, and considering he played all of 157 minutes this year to the tune of $6 million, it’s not a bad answer, it’s just not the right one. Da Fort’s deal expires this summer, and that makes it a good contract for the Sonics. No, for bad contracts, we’re talking long-term deals that teams are going to be regretting for the long term. We’re talking Kenyon Martin’s (4 more years, $59.7 mil) Rock of Gilbraltar contract, so unmovable they’re thinking of anchoring the Queen Mary to it. We’re talking Raef LaFrentz, whose early termination can’t come soon enough for Portland, or Darius Miles’ horrific 3-year, $26.2 million deal. And don’t forget McHale’s Navy: Troy Hudson, Mike James and Marko Jaric, who will pull down between them $64 million in the next four years. But anyone who knows the league knows the worst deal goes to Zach Randolph at 4 years and $61.2 million. At 24 points and 10 boards, Randolph puts up numbers like nobody’s business, but it’s his off-court crapola that makes it such a bad deal. Do you know anyone outside of NYC who’d be willing to take on that deal? I didn’t think so.

It’s funny, but if you look at the numbers and you didn’t watch any games, you’d probably think Damien Wilkins is the second coming of Jeff Hornacek. The Omen knocked down 41% of his threes and a shocking 90% of his free throws. Considering that in his rookie year he was at 27% and 62%, that’s quite a shock. Still, Damien’s obviously not the best. Ray Allen’s the easy choice, but he didn’t have a great year behind the arc, and he struggled in a lot of late-game situations, which is unusual for him. Brandon Roy emerged as a standout this year, as did teammate Ime Udoka (41% from deep!), while JR Smith, Ricky Davis, and Linas Kleiza all could be considered. But I’m going with Utah’s Gordan Giricek, the Croatian Craig Hodges, who calmly hit 42% of his 3’s and 84% of his FTs. For a guy traded four times in a 5-year career, I’m sure he’ll gladly take the honor.

Yakhouba Diawara, Denver (47/167 from 3), Ronnie Brewer, Utah, 19 points, 2.8 steals per 48, Paul Milsap, Utah, 18 points/14 boards per 48, Brandon Roy, a positively Pippen-esque line of 4 assists, 4.4 boards, 16.8 points in 35 minutes a game, Sergio Rodriguez, for getting mentioned more often on True Hoop than half the guys in the All Star Game, LaMarcus Aldridge, trying to single-handedly make Blazer fans forget Sam Bowie, Randy Foye and his late-game heroics for the Wolves, Craig Smith and his forgotten 26 point, 8 board game against the Sonics as well as his 11 points, 7.6 boards per game mark in the final month. A lot of nominees, but the final five is Roy, Foye, Brewer, Aldridge and Milsap. Hey, is it my fault there isn’t a center in there? What do you want me to do, nominate Saer Sene?

Danny Fortson is two months older than Kevin Garnett.

Lots of “ethnic” flavor in the NW this year (and, yes, I detest that phrase as much of the rest of you; why is being from Asia or Latin America “ethnic” but being from Greece or Italy isn’t? End rant). You can choose from the French Connection of Gelabale and Petro in Seattle, Diawara (France), Kleiza (USSR), and Nene (Brazil) in Denver, Jaric in Minnesota (Yugoslavia, and, no it’s not him), Sergio Rodriguez (Spain), or Giricek (Croatia), Okur (Turkey), and AK-47 (Russia) in Utah. Obviously, AK or Okur are the two best, with the edge going to Andrei Kirilenko, even though he only averaged 8.4 points per game and went from being the Joe Rudi of the NBA to being Gene Tenace in about 17 seconds this year. But I’m going to give the nod to the ridiculous roster the Blazers put together. Somehow, Portland managed to find three guys born in the United States that absolutely nobody believes were born here: Raef LaFrentz, Joel Przybilla and Ime Udoka. Hey, if you’re going to get scrubby American guys to fill out your roster and free up future cap space, couldn’t you at least get guys with names that are easier to spell? Somewhere, Pat Buchanan is advocating building a wall to keep these natives out.

Denver: Woodrow Wilson. Lots of promise, but failed to live up to potential. Remains to be seen if the Nuggets will suffer a stroke in the playoffs, causing George Karl’s wife to steward them.
Minnesota: Ulysses Grant. Past glories fail to materialize in new situation, causing leader to continually make bad decisions in attempts to right the ship. Known for corruption (see, Joe Smith and Whiskey Ring).
Portland: Jimmy Carter. Youthful enthusiasm and a desire to rid the taste of the previous administration leads people to think that anything different is, by default, better. It’s not.
Seattle: James Buchanan. The final administration before a massive sea change, characterized by acts that look incredibly dumb in hindsight.
Utah: Harry Truman. Sometimes, hard work and shrewd moves pay off.

More to come on Thursday ...

Tuesday, April 17

Northwest Division Roundup, Part I

The league switched to six divisions a few years back, and I think we can all be forgiven if the affinity for those divisions hasn’t grown as quickly as, say, the affinity for Eva Mendes.

I can feel the old Pacific Division as an entity; Suns, Lakers, Blazers, Sonics ... but the Northwest Division? Doesn’t have a feel to it, not yet anyway.

Well, here’s one way to rectify it. Let’s recap the glorious 2006-07 season with a Year in Review for the Northwest Division, where two teams made the playoffs (Utah, Denver), and three others raced as fast as they could towards a lottery pick. It’s a strange group of teams, but there’s a lot of talent here. Just quickly, the NW has the NBA’s best shooter (Ray Allen), best fantasy player (Garnett), most dynamic scorer (Iverson), best one-name player (Nene), best midget (Boykins, okay, he’s in Milwaukee, but I’m counting him anyway), best shot-blocker (Camby), most inappropriate name (Boozer, Utah), and the worst guy averaging 24 points a game (Zach Randolph). It’s the Northwest Division, folks, what more can you say.

Um, gee, you think Jerry Sloan deserves the honor? His competition includes a guy who seemingly was fired last August (Bob Hill), the Billy Martin of the NBA (George Karl), a guy who’s record after two years with his current team is 53-111 (Mac-10), and a guy so white and gritty, Kevin McHale can be forgiven for mistaking him for a former teammate (Randy Wittman, who, by the way, is now 74-132 in his illustrious coaching career). Actually, Sloan’s only competition was Dwayne Casey, who compiled a 20-20 mark for the T-Wolves before being canned for making people think that McHale isn’t the smartest basketball mind in all of Minnesota.

Here are the nominees from each team: Earl Watson, Seattle; Matt Harpring, Utah; Randy Foye, Minnesota; Travis Outlaw, LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland; JR Smith, Denver. Not a bad group, but I think Matt Harpring is the smart choice. He might not get the boards that Aldridge does, or the steals like Outlaw, but Harpring puts the ball in the hole often enough to deserve it, and, unlike Smith, he actually gives passing interest to the non-shooting part of his game. Plus, he got to the line as often as Rashard Lewis, despite playing 400 fewer minutes. That has to count for something.

Now we’re getting to the meat of this division. Really it boils down to two teams and five guys: Watson and Ridnour from Seattle (hereinafter known as WAD), and Hudson/James/Jaric in Minnesota (TroJam). WAD gives you horrible 3-point shooting combined with infighting, all at the price of $7.8 mil this year and $38 mil in the next three years. TroJam gives you three guys earning a combined $16 million this season, plus $64 million in the next four years, none of whom shot better than 42% this year or averaged more than 3.6 assists per game. Worst of all, Seattle’s third-stringer, Mike Wilks, might be better than all five of them. In the end, the award has to go to Marko Jaric, who was signed to a huge, six-year deal before last season and instantly became the worst guy under a six-year deal in the entire league, non-center division.

You’ve got the Brazilian and Camby over there in Denver. You’ve got Collison (a surprising 8.2 boards per game) in Seattle. You’ve got Boozer in Utah (11.8), Randolph in Portland (10.1), and the Big Ticket in Minnesota (12.8). But do you know who got the most boards per 48 minutes this year? None other than the Ball-Grabber, Reggie Evans, who clocked 19.2 boards per 48. He doesn’t do anything else, folks, but the man knows how to rebound. (Side note: Earl Boykins averaged more offensive rebounds per 48 than Ray Allen, JR Smith, Ricky Davis, Randy Foye, or Martell Webster. You read that right.)

Normally, you’d want to include some sort of minimum attempt requirement, but Joel Przybilla’s “efforts” at the line this year were so shockingly bad they deserve mention. When he wasn’t busy cashing checks or attempting to buy a vowel, Joel managed to nail 10 out of 27 shots. Even Chris Dudley would shudder at that mark. You know you’re bad when a teenaged kid from Senegal (Saer Sene), whose basketball experience rivals Slater’s from “Saved By the Bell” drains a higher percentage than you (56% to 37%). Makes you wonder what the hell Joel learned at Minnesota, and whether he would have been better off joining the Peace Corps and building wells in Senegal.

More to come on Wednesday ...

More Sonic News

Obviously, the arena and lack thereof dominates the news today. But I saw this in the Boston Herald and it certainly raised my eyebrows:

Boston Herald: "How much [Michael] Olowokandi actually wants to play was called into question this season. According to league sources, he turned down a chance to go to Seattle in January to play more. (The Celtics would have waived him and thus not received anything in return.)"

Would have made for an interesting second half of the season, no? A no-risk proposition for Seattle and Kandi's contract expires at the end of the season (he only made $750K this year). I can't say that it would have made a whole lot of difference in this season, but the fact Sund was looking for a big man certainly refutes the argument that he just sat in his office playing Tetris all season.

Last Dance?

"Clearly at this time the Sonics and Storm have little hope of remaining in the Puget Sound region."

Clayton Bennett

Well, push has finally come to shove, as it were. With the state government's refusal to vote on funding the $500+ million arena project, Clay Bennett has indicated he has finally had enough of dealing with the local legislature, and all indications are pointing towards Oklahoma City. (You can read a much more in-depth view of the situation here and here).

So, what happens next? Couple of things; first, will the Sonics still play here next season? Bennett's purchase agreement included a clause allowing him to move the team elsewhere (read: Oklahoma) should the government fail to produce a new arena, and most speculation (prompted by Bennett's own comments) led everyone to believe that because the team missed the NBA's March 1 deadline to petition for relocation, the Sonics would, at the very least, play the 2007-08 season in Seattle.

However, the Daily Oklahoman's two stories about this situation believe otherwise. As reporter John Rohde put it, "Rather than endure lame-duck status next season in Seattle, Sonics ownership might seek an immediate resolution by buying out its existing lease."

Likewise, Barry Tramel writes, "[The failed deal] means the Sonics' Oklahoma City-based owners could, and almost surely will, campaign to leave Seattle immediately.

"No one is interested in a lame-duck season.

"Not the Sonic owners, not the NBA, not even the city of Seattle, which will posture otherwise to enhance its negotiating status."

Well, that kinda sucks, huh? Obviously, that is speculation on the part of the Oklahomans, but considering Bennett's fingertips are pretty close to the pulse of that paper, one must believe the writers have some insider information.

Naturally, the city of Seattle is less than enthusiastic about seeing the only major tenant at Key Arena split before the lease has run its' course, prompting City Finance Director Dwight Dively to comment that, "If they wanted to leave before [the end of the lease] we would demand substantial financial damages." Substantial meaning tens of millions of dollars.

The elephant in the room, in my opinion, is whether the Sonics were ever truly serious about this proposal. Especially when I read comments such as these:

"The Sonics just have not done that kind of full-court press," said Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, chairman of the House Finance Committee, who opposed the proposal. "I don't know that they're serious."

Hunter was referring to the efforts put forth by Paul Allen when Allen's Seahawks were asking for a new stadium a few years ago.

Honestly, I believe Clay Bennett would have liked to have had a team in Seattle. Financially speaking, the team is more valuable here than in OKC, and when you consider that Oklahoma's stadium isn't ready for prime-time, either, well, it makes you think that Bennett wasn't as conniving as Hunter would lead you to believe.

At this point, as Mike Seely points out at Seattle Weekly, about the only ray of hope is the possibility of a special session of the legislature, called by the governor, to specifically address the stadium issue.

Personally, I don't think it's very likely at all. Unlike the Mariners, the Sonics are not riding a crest of public sentiment. They're not the "Refuse to Lose" 1995 Dream Team, they're the "3-Headed Teenage Monster Center" 2006-07 Nightmare Team, staring the wrong way up at a 31-51 season.

Teams that rally from 15 games back in August behind dramatic 9th-inning home runs and freakish 6'10" starting pitchers get stadiums.

Teams that feature Mike Wilks and Johan Petro do not.

Monday, April 16

One More To Go

The Bataan Death March that is the Seattle Supersonics 2006-07 season is reaching its end, with only a home game against the Mavs remaining.

With the twin losses to Portland and LA over the weekend, the Supes are sitting pretty in the #5 spot. And yet, I'm having nightmares of this guy. Rick Sund wouldn't pick another inexperienced big man with the first pick, would he?

Would he?

Let's assume it plays out according to the script and the Sonics grab the #5 pick in the draft. Oden, Durant, Wright and Noah go 1-4 (I really think the Suns will go after Joakim). The Sonics could choose from:

Al Horford, Julian Wright, Yi Jianlian, Corey Brewer, Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert, Mike Conley (please, please), Spencer Hawes, and all the other stiffs. Who should they pick? Let's start the ruminations. I'm for trading down and taking either Green or Brewer, then dealing Rashard in a sign-and-trade (possibly combining those two into one deal).

Saturday, April 14

Lottery Update

Quite a few results from last night, and unfortunately, most of them did not go the Sonics' way. Here's what happened:

Atlanta, Boston, Knicks, Minnesota, Charlotte, Sacto, Portland


Um, yeah, that kind of hurts our chances, wouldn't you say? Anyway, were the season to end today, and the lottery was nonexistent, the standings would look thusly (losses in brackets)

Memphis (60)
Boston (56)
Milwaukee (52)
Atlanta (50)
Charlotte, Seattle, Portland (48)
New York, Minnesota, Sacto (47)

The Hawks will almost surely lose tonight at Cleveland, so you can go ahead put a 51 next to them. The Hornets will likely win against the Bucks, and then, of course, you've got the Battle for the Roses in Portland - Blazers/Sonics, tipping off at 7 tonight on FSN (or KGW if you swing that way).

I don't like to call any game "must lose," but if were to call a game "must lose" I would most assuredly call tonight's game a "must lose." The Blazers will be without Randolph, Aldridge, Roy, and Udoka. The Sonics are missing Allen, Ridnour, and Watson. That means the starting lineups will look like this:

Lewis, Wilkins, Wilcox, Collison, Wilks

Webster, LaFrentz, Magloire, Jack, Jones

Call me crazy, but I'm giving the edge to Portland, The Sonics are starting 3 guys (Wilkins, Collison, Wilks) who are all really bench players. Tonight will tell if the Sonics can continue pummeling the Blazers as in the past two games, but I'm betting on the Rose City.

Friday, April 13

Oden Odyssey

Much like Homer's Odysseus, the Sonics have wandered for an eternity this year. Will it pay off? Will the Sonics, like Odysseus, be able to shoot their arrow through the target and win the biggest prize in team history?

Well, this weekend will go a long ways towards helping or hindering the Sonics' odds. Here are the key games on tap for the next three days.

Wizards at Atlanta (W)
Milwaukee (L) at Boston (W)
Knicks (L) at Nets
Spurs at Minny (L)
Charlotte (L) at Bulls
G St. at Sacto (L)
Portland (L) at Clips
Atlanta (L) at LeBron
Charlotte (L) at Milwaukee (W)
Seattle (L) at Portland (W)
Sacto (L) at Clips
Minny (L) at G St.
Knicks (L) at Toronto
Seattle (L) at Lakers

Here's how it would shake down if it goes according to plan:

Seattle: 0-2, 31-50
Portland: 1-1, 32-48
TWolves: 0-2, 32-48
Knicks: 0-2, 32-48
Sacto: 0-2, 32-48
Charlotte: 0-2, 32-49
Bucks: 1-1, 27-53
Atlanta: 1-1, 30-50

That's a crapload of teams sitting at either 30, 31, or 32 wins heading into the final three days of the season. As the past drafts have shown, there is a HUGE difference between being #4 and being #8.

What does it all mean? I think we may see a major illustration of tanking in the next six days. It also sets up some interesting matchups, like, for example, Milwaukee at Cleveland on the last day of the season. Let's say the Cavs are locked into their playoff slot and play their bench guys to make sure Z and LBJ are ready to go for the playoff push. Well, the Bucks sure as hell aren't running Junior Bridgeman and Sidney Moncrief out there these days, now are they? If I was a NBADL player, I might just hang around the lockerrooms before game time, because there's a pretty good chance yet another Buck pulls up lame before that contest.

Or how about Mavs-Sonics to close out the year? The Sonics have no reason whatsoever to play hard, and neither do the Mavs. Does it turn into a video game horror show, where both teams start chucking up 28-footers out of sheer boredom?

It's certainly not something Homer - or David Stern - would ever write about, but it's the reality of the lottery era. All I can say is, Go Blazers Go!

Thursday, April 12

Valley of the Suns

Managed to catch the 2nd half of the game last night on tv, as the three people in Vancouver not watching the Canucks were able to catch the Suns-Sonics game on Sportsnet (thank you, Steve Nash!)

For those who weren't able to watch the game, the PI's Gary Washburn sums it perfectly:

"The result was more a reflection of the Sonics' lack of depth than Phoenix's

Amen, Gary, amen. At one point, the Sonics cut the score to 67-65 if memory serves, but the Suns just slowly edged away after that. A couple reasons why it happened:

-Nick Collison was a total non-factor. Whatever juice he drank in the first two months of the season has disappeared, and nowhere was it more patently evident than last night. As Eddie Johnson (!) pointed out on the Suns' telecast, and be patient, this is a long metaphor, "You know how when you go to a restaurant and have a great meal, then you go back to that restaurant ten more times and that meal never tastes as good? That's how Collison's playing tonight. He keeps thinking he's going to have that same meal that he did a couple of months ago, but it just ain't happening."

-Randy Livingston is a long ways away from being ready to play PG for the Sonics. It's just not fair to expect a guy to come and run the offense when he doesn't even know the plays. Livingston got called for a 5-second violation on an inbounds play; I think the ref had to pull the rule book out of his pocket so he'd use the right hand gesture. When was the last time you saw that happen in the NBA?

-Andre Brown left Shawn Marion open for 3's on two consecutive possesions while he (Brown) got tangled up in the paint.

-I know Rashard scored a bunch of points, but both he and Wilcox didn't look good to me, at least from what I saw in the second half. Wilcox seemed intent on dunking on every play, and I can't begin to count how many times he lost the ball in traffic. Lewis was jacking it up on every touch, and on at least two occasions he held the ball for at least 7-8 seconds waiting for something to happen offensively.

On the positive front, Mike Wilks really looked good, especially on one possession in the second half when he took the ball to the hole a la Steve Nash. The young man is definitely capable of being a backup 2 in this league.

Even more positive, the Sonics edged closer to the 5th spot in the draft. Vive le lotterie!

Wednesday, April 11


I got a cold slap in the face this morning upon opening the Vancouver Sun. As most of you are unlikely aware, the Canucks kick off their run for the Stanley Cup tonight in Vancouver with a game against the Dallas Stars.

To commemorate the occasion, the Sun blasted out a special section, chock-full of full page color photos, graphics, and all sorts of other things that give copy editors wet dreams.

I didn't read the section (I've lived in Vancouver for 10 years, and I still don't give a damn about hockey), but it made me nostalgic for the days when the Sonics were honored with sections like that.

You remember them: a graph detailing points per game, free throw percentages, turnovers there; a chart showing the matchups at the various positions here; a list of past playoff performances over in that corner. All in glorious, splendiforous color, to be pored over with eager anticipation by teenagers and middle-agers alike, the entire city giddy with the possibility of victories in spring.

Instead, rather than full color celebrations of glory, we have black and white agate of failure. This, sadly, is the Sonics circa 2007.

There's a line in James Joyce's A Painful Case, one of the dozen or so short stories included in Dubliners. The story is about James Duffy, a woeful man who tries to glide through life without any interest in anyone, to prevent himself from feeling the nick of sadness. When Duffy finally musters the courage to fall - somewhat - in love with a woman, it ends terribly. Joyce's description of Duffy is apt for a certain green and gold basketball team:

"He gnawed the rectitude of his life; he felt that he had been outcast from life's feast...He knew that the prostrate creatures down by the wall were watching him and wished him gone. No one wanted him; he was outcast from life's feast."

That's us, folks. The 2006-07 season has been an abject failure, and the Sonics are now outcast from the marvelous playoff buffet. While other teams have their entire rosters down to the last man on the bench examined and re-examined by a host of experts, no one will examine the Sonics' roster, because to do so would be a waste of ink.

So long, special section, we miss you so.

Sonics to Sign Livingston for Stretch Run

Former, current and future Seattle Supersonics Randy 'it's a' LivingstonAccording to Frank Hughes and Gary Washburn, the Sonics will likely sign Randy Livingston to back up Mike Wilks for the rest of the season. In his 10-year career, Livingston's played for 9 teams, including the Sonics.

More importantly, last night the Hornets shocked the Heat and catapulted the Sonics into the 5th-worst record in the league. With a loss to the Suns tonight (keep your fingers crossed!), the Sonics could be firmly entrenched in the #5 hole, with a decent shot at catching the Hawks for #4.

The Sonics close the year at Phoenix (loss), at Portland (even), at the Lakers (loss), and home against the Mavs (win). The Hawks are home against the Wizards (win), at Cleveland (loss), at Milwaukee (even), home against the Pacers (even). The Sonics will likely go 1-3 and the Hawks will likely go 2-2, putting Seattle with one more win than the ATL. It'll all boil down to the Blazer-Sonic game and the Pacer-Hawk game, at least from my vantage-point.

Can the Sonics manage to let Brandon Roy go for 30? Can Mike Wilks puncture his thumb opening up a Super Sip? Can the Hawks enable Jermaine O'Neal to post a quadruple double? Will Josh Smith curse out the entire city of Atlanta and invoke the name of General Sherman in the process?

Ah, the NBA at lottery-time, 's wonderful.

Tuesday, April 10

Seattle Sonics: Team of Mystery

70 plus games should tell you everything you need to know about a team, but after another lose one, win one, lose one weekend, we are left with more questions than answers about our beloved SuperSonics.

For starters . . .
After securing a site in Renton, are the Sonics serious about staying in the Northwest?

With Earl Watson probably out for the rest of the season, will Luke Ridnour Mike Wilks step up and show Sonics management that this is his team?

How the hell did Rashard pass Shawn Kemp on the all-time Sonics scoring list?
Sonics, I feel like I don't even know you any more.

Thursday, April 5

Da Fort

You’ve no doubt heard how Danny Fortson got out of traveling with the team to San Antonio and Oklahoma because of a dangerous tooth abcess, which his dentist allegedly said could “explode” on an airplane (let’s pray that the Taliban doesn’t read the Seattle Times).

All of which begs the question: What will Danny use as an excuse for the remaining seven games? At, we’re all about finding the silver lining in the dark cloud that is this season. Here’s one man’s guess at possible excuses conjured up by the Round Mound of Puget Sound.

April 6th vs Lakers – Got stuck at King’s Table Buffet on Thursday/Friday. They closed at 11, but I hadn’t had all I could eat at that point; spent the night curled up under the omelet station and finished up the next day. When it says "All You Can Eat for $11.99," doesn't that mean I get all I can eat? Am I being too philosophical?

April 7th at Utah – Airport security forced me to remove my Mormon temple garments. I got into a theological debate with the security guard and they detained me, and I missed the flight.

April 9th vs Houston – Was at the salon having my pigtails cleaned when some dude called me Pippi Longstocking. Da Fort don’t stand for that mess. A King County sheriff threw me in the back of his car until we got it all straightened out.

April 11th at Phoenix – You know I don’t fool with those Colangelos no more.

April 14th at Portland – “Hey, Bob, I’m here at the Key. Where is everybody?”

April 15th at Lakers – After I missed the Portland game, I thought I’d catch an early flight to LA and catch up with you guys there. My cab driver took me Inglewood, then we found out the Lakers don’t play there no more (you gotta understand, when you only play once every six weeks, it’s easy to forget these kinda things). Right now I’m stuck on the 405 and I don’t think I’ll make it in time. Catch you back in Seattle, dudes.

April 18th vs Dallas – Sorry, King’s Table called about my outstanding bill. They said they’re gonna garnish my wages since I’ve been running up a tab there since that playoff run two years ago and haven’t paid it. Gotta go straighten it out. Don’t worry, though, I’ll be ready to go for summer training drills. You know Da Fort’s gonna catch on with somebody next year.

Wednesday, April 4

Blackburn Uber Alles

Apparently, Bob Blackburn has a computer, and he's not afraid to use it.

If you haven't voted already, hop over to to vote for either the 1978-79 NBA Champions or Bob Blackburn (!) as the greatest icon in Seattle Supersonics' history.

It got me to thinking: Where does Blackburn rank in Seattle sports broadcasting history? Blackburn obviously had a head start on everyone, with the Sonics debuting 40 years ago, and he remains the only broadcaster to call a professional sports championship in Seattle history (not including the Seattle Metropolitans, winners of the Stanley Cup in 1917; their broadcasts were done using signal flares, and, hence, do not count).

Every city has its favorites, and Seattle's been blessed with some great announcers. Neihaus, Pete Gross, Blackburn, Calabro, Raible, ... how do you rank the greats?

Well, here's one attempt:

1. Dave Neihaus ("Looooooow and outside")
2. Pete Gross ("Touchdown Seahawks!")
3. Bob Blackburn ("And Williams throws the ball into the air!")
4. Kevin Calabro ("Oh, Shawn, nobody do the voodoo like you do!")
5. Bob Rondeau ("Touchdown Washington!")

Your results may vary.

Tuesday, April 3

One Shining Moment

I don’t know about the rest of you, but while I watch the NCAA championship every year, it’s usually with a sour taste in my mouth, because none of the teams in my bracket advanced that far, or if they did, I’m still out of it and have no shot at winning the pool.

Last night, though, was different, for a couple of reasons.

First, it was the first time my 3-year-old daughter actually sat still for an extended period of time and watched a sporting event. Mind you, I’m not complaining about her general state of hyperactivity – the one thing kids need less of in this part of the world is sitting still and watching tv – but it was enjoyable to see her attention span extend beyond 35 seconds.

For some reason, she took a shine to Ohio State (or as she calls them, “the red guys”). Maybe it was Greg Oden, maybe it was Ron Smith, or maybe it was the fact her dad was shouting PG obscenities whenever Florida scored. Regardless, for pretty much the entire second half she sat next to me on the couch and rooted for OSU.

From yelling at Joakim Noah (“I don’t like that ponytailed guy”) to inventing cheers (“Go red guys, go!” “Hey white guys, let the red guys win!”), she had a blast. She even explained to her grandfather that Noah isn’t a nice guy (“He’s always yelling, bapa. Yelling’s not nice, right? That’s why we don’t like that ponytailed guy.”)

That was part of it, for sure. Add in the fact I got to watch basketball for a solid 2 hours without her asking me to put on Dora was the cherry on top (sadly, though, she seemed to be riveted by those annoying car insurance ads featuring some cartooned woman trying to dunk over some sort of alien-type creature).

The other part was the talent on the court. I think that 15 years from now, we’ll all look back on this championship game as something special. While Oden was obviously the best player on the court, this wasn’t a case of a giant amongst midgets. Oden’s teammates (Conley, Smith, et al) are also talented, and it’s possible he won’t be the only guy on his team to play in the NBA. And, of course, it seems as though every guy Billy Donovan trotted out onto the court for Florida was NBA-ready.

It all means that 5, 6, 10 years from now, we could be watching an NBA all-star game featuring Oden, Noah, and Horford, and we’ll all look back at last night and remember they were all on the same court together, the way I remember seeing UNLV play at the Kingdome against Seton Hall.

For one night at least, I forgot all about the Sonics’ troubles, and remembered why I watch basketball in the first place: It’s a game that everyone can enjoy, regardless of whether they know nothing about it, or far, far too much.

Monday, April 2

Oden Watch

Future Seattle Supersonics center Greg Oden? Not likely.When you're watching tonight's NCAA Championship game between Ohio State and Florida, try not to think about how awesome it would be to have Greg Oden on the Seattle Supersonics next year.

Seriously, try not to.

You can't, can you? After another confounding late season win-streak knocked them out of the Oden sweepstakes, Sonics fans are left to painfully ponder "What if?", and pray to Sund that they don't draft someone from Norway.

By the way, if you missed John Moe and I discussing the dreaded "Lose to Win" philosophy on "Weekend America", you can listen to it online here.