Wednesday, December 24

ColecoVision!

A Christmas Letter to Santa


OK, not basketball related (unless you're talking about "One-on-One") but it's something I made for Christmas, and wanted to share it with you, my Supersonic lovin' internet family.

Happy Holidays!

NOTE: this video is totally NSFW---Swear words ahoy!

Sunday, December 21

Whoa, it's Wilt!

41 years ago this week: Nice "D" Snyder!

I don't know if it's the sadness of our first Christmas without the Sonics (sniff-sniff), or maybe all this talk about about our man Bob Blackburn, but it seems everyone is getting nostalgic about the Sonics. Check out the great story at the Tribune about Wilt dropping 52 points and 38 rebounds (!) on the Supes 41 years ago (!!) this week.

Friday, December 19

Blackburn

A sad piece of news to report from the Seattle Times this morning, where Steve Kelley reports that Bob Blackburn, the original Sonic broadcaster, is in the hospital after suffering a head injury in a fall.

Back in October, we ran our final SuperSonicSoul Hall of Fame article, and it covered the two titans of Sonic broadcasting, Blackburn and Kevin Calabro. In retrospect, I'm glad we were able to put that story up when we did, so that he could know the words came from pure appreciation, and not the inevitable sentimentality you hear when a legend's health is in jeopardy.

But I'm even more glad I had the opportunity to listen to Blackburn for more than a decade, that my initial introduction to basketball came from his voice, and that no matter what the future holds for basketball in Seattle, a part of my memory will always contain his descriptions of a Sonic highlight. At this point, I can only offer my best wishes and prayers to Bob and his family, and our hopes that he makes a complete recovery.

The greatest moment in Seattle sporting history occurred when the Sonics defeated the Bullets three decades ago. How lucky we are that a wonderful man like Bob Blackburn will live forever as the chronicler of that event.


UPDATE: If you would like to send your best wishes to Bob Blackburn, he can be reached at: Bob Blackburn c/o Timber Ridge at Talus, 100 Timber Ridge Way N.W., Issaquah, WA 98027 (courtesy of the Seattle Times)

Thursday, December 18

Sonics fans on The Simpsons Writing Staff?

Claymate of Bend It Like Bennett does a nice Ebert-style writeup on the latest episode of The Simpsons, which has an eerily familiar story. Definitely a must-read.



I stopped watching new Simpsons episodes years ago. The Montgomery Burns-Clay Bennett parallels never get old though. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to shop for a Springfield Excitement game jersey.

Wednesday, December 17

The Thunder Rolls (Mostly Downhill)

You know, I’ve heard the Thunder are pretty bad this year …

How bad are they?

The Thunder are so bad …

- when Clay Bennett fired PJ Carlesimo three weeks ago, PJ thanked him.

- Oklahoma State has scheduled them for a non-conference game.

- Vegas is considering taking them off the books for the remainder of the season.

- Ford is thinking of getting out of the naming rights for the arena because they don’t want to be associated with such a miserable product.

- that Luke Ridnour likes to watch OKC highlights, just to cheer himself up.

- the NBA is contemplating only playing 3 quarters when the Thunder play the Celtics in Boston.

- the Clippers/Thunder telecast Tuesday night came with a “May Not Be Suitable for Young Children” warning.

- Aubrey McClendon is actually glad to be at the office, just because it means he’s not watching them play.

- the team is starting to count broadcasters, trainers, and delivery men as part of the night’s attendance.

- Nick Collison asked Robert Swift if he could teach him how to injure himself.

- that when his wife asked what he wanted for Christmas, Scotty Brooks told her a bottle of vodka and a lobotomy.

- Clay Bennett’s wife cut his weekly allowance in half.

- their last broadcast was pre-empted to show Barry Switzer’s colonoscopy, and the ratings went up.

Durantula


Tuesday, December 16

Picture This


Passing the Buck

"Just because the access now, there's so much media availability and everything else. There's just so many bloggers; everybody's got an opinion."

-Kevin McHale, explaining to Don Seeholzer of the Pioneer Press why coaches and GMs are falling so quickly this season.


Personally, I blame Tom Ziller for Reggie Theus getting canned. If he would have just been more positive at his site, I'm sure Reggie's family wouldn't have had to burn his fur coats for heat this Christmas.

Would You Rather

Here's an interesting twist on the classic drinking game we all played at some time in our lives. Would you rather ...

Have the Sonics, but with the Thunder's current roster and record intact

or

Have no NBA team at all?

It's not so easy, is it? Bear in mind that the last time Oklahoma City won a home game, the stock market was at 9600 and Sarah Palin was in the running to be Vice President of the United States. Yes, it's been that bad for the good people of Oklahoma.

Begging the question, again, is miserable NBA basketball better than no basketball at all?

Monday, December 15

Better Data

When I started talking about NBA attendance a month ago, I received some criticism for how I presented the information. Specifically, the critics pointed out that I was using partial results for 2008-09 and comparing them to complete results from last year.

You know what? The critics were right.

It was unfair to use returns from a partially completed season and expect that to be an accurate reflection of how the season would unfold. All you have to do is look at how the 76ers attendance jumped dramatically in the second half of last season to know that early results are not necessarily predictive.

What would be better, then, is to compare how teams have done on a game-by-game basis from last year to this year. That would be much more illustrative of how franchises are faring.

So, I did it.

Through nine home games (the minimum number of home games every team in the league has played), here is how the entire league is doing compared to last season:

New Orleans, 46491
Oklahoma City, 40133
Portland, 17358
Atlanta, 15720
Indiana, 14996
Philadelphia, 11725
New Jersey, 11329
Milwaukee, 1278
Denver, 1162
Boston, 0
Cleveland, 0
Detroit, 0
LA Lakers, 0
Phoenix, 0
Utah, 0
Dallas, -309
Toronto, -1698
Chicago, -2840
New York, -2972
Charlotte, -3846
San Antonio, -4209
Golden State, -4834
Houston, -5782
Orlando, -7244
Minnesota, -7814
Memphis, -9320
Sacramento, -12761
Washington, -14197
LA Clippers. -18707
Miami, -26376

To sum the whole bag of numbers into one tidy sum, it looks promising for the league, as the overall attendance numbers through nine games has improved by 22,350 over last season.

But even a first-grader can see that things aren’t as rosy as all that. Consider that two teams, New Orleans and Oklahoma City, are responsible for 54% of the league’s growth, are both coming off of seasons that would have been nearly impossible not to improve upon. A similar number of the league’s decline (i.e., 54% of the league’s negative performers), would require four teams, indicating that while the positive reports are narrowly focused, the negative ones are much more widely spread.

Consider also that there are nine teams with improved attendance figures, but 15 teams with worse attendance. Again, this points to a small, deep pool of improved teams and wide, shallow pool of negative ones.

When David Stern was interviewed by Bill Simmons last week at ESPN, the commissioner denied Simmons’ inference that the league’s numbers may be a bit off this year, contending that, to paraphrase, they were doing just as well this year as last, and that last year was their best year ever.

Well, he was either lying or being disingenuous. Half of the teams in the NBA are showing a decline in attendance from last season. The Spurs sold out on opening night, and have see a decline from the previous year in nearly every game since. The Rockets, a team many expected big things from with their off-season moves, are off more than 7,000 from last year’s attendance. The Grizzlies, a team no one could call fiscally healthy entering the season, have done worse than last season in every game but one this year, and have drawn between 50-60% capacity eight times for every one time they exceed 90%.

I’ll go into the data more as the week progresses. As always, feel free to counter the data with your interpretations. I will say, though, that there are positives to take away from the numbers. The Blazers, Hawks, Sixers, and Pacers have all posted significant improvements, which is admirable considering the economic malaise afflicting North America. More importantly, looking at the data this way will enable us to more accurately see just where the NBA ship is heading, and will eliminate some of the speculation.

Wednesday, December 10

Stern Speaks

Bill Simmons' most recent podcast on ESPN contains an interview with Seattle's favorite commissioner, David Stern, and while Stern danced around questions with the grace of Fred Astaire, he did provide listeners with some interesting pieces of information.

None greater than his response to Simmons' query about the sad state of affairs surrounding the Sonics' departure and relocation to Oklahoma City.

"Everyone agreed," Stern stated, "that a new arena was necessary. Exactly how it would be funded became the issue, and that issue became contentious."

Of course, by "everyone," he means everyone affiliated with an NBA franchise. And by "the issue," he means the issue the NBA wanted to focus upon.

Lord knows, David Stern didn't think a new arena was necessary less than 10 years ago, or else he wouldn't have commented to a Seattle reporter that KeyArena was one of the best arenas in the league.

Funny how time changes one's perspective.

But that falls short of the most revealing part of the conversation. Early in the podcast, Stern rebuked Simmons for the host's statement that a handful of teams might be in financial trouble, claiming that the NBA's group of owners are sufficiently wealthy enough to withstand any economic "downturn."

And yet, less than 10 minutes later, he made this comment in regard to Seattle's chances at landing another team:

"This economy is going to contain certain disruptions, and out of those disruptions may come opportunities for some cities, and Seattle may be one of them."

Sadly, Simmons failed to point out Stern's hypocritical statements, although he did his best to get the commissioner to admit that what happened to the Sonics was beyond sad. Obviously, Stern knows as well as anyone how perilous the situation is in cities such as Memphis, and that big, fat carrot called "relocation" is being dangled in front of Seattle's politicians.

What remains to be seen, though, is if any of them are interested in biting.

Tuesday, December 9

Bizarro World

I've just finished a book about the Congo (In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz; worth checking out, although not as good as King Leopold's Ghost), and, among other topics, it covers the disparity between the wealthy friends of Mobutu and the rest of the country at the time of Mobutu's fall from grace. (Well, not grace exactly, perhaps fall from power is more apt ). Essentially, the country had a few folks living the high life, and the rest struggling to find ways to keep from starving to death.

Which takes me in a convulted fashion to the Western Conference of the NBA this year. At the moment, there are nine teams with 10+ wins, all winning close to 60% of their games.

And then there is the rest of the conference.

Of the six remaining teams, not one of them is winning more than 30% of its games. It's hard to appreciate the disparity when the teams have only played a quarter of the season, but imagine if you extrapolated the current records to a full 82 games.

The worst of the 'haves', Phoenix, would finish with 47 wins.

The best of the 'have nots', Golden State/Memphis, would finish with 23.

In other words, the nine teams competing for a playoff berth would have a two-month cushion over the next six teams. It's an amazing disparity of success, isn't it?

Perhaps someone with more diligence than I should comb through the records to see if, as the Zaireans did for so many years, the elite of the Western Conference are fattening themselves off of the backs of the poor.

Monday, December 8

Wager

Here's something I'd like to see the line for at Bodog sometime soon:

Price/share for Chesapeake Energy vs. Total Wins for Oklahoma City Thunder

At the moment, Chesapeake is winning, clocking in at a cool $14 after shooting up about $3 today. Meanwhile, the Thunder trudge along with the grand total of two wins. At this pace, the Thunder would finish the year at 8-74, but we all know that with the naming of Scotty Brooks as Head Coach, they're sure to go on fire and start winning games at a record-setting pace.

I'm putting them down for at least 10.

Thursday, December 4

The Rest of the Story

Last Tuesday (Nov. 25), I ran a piece about the NBA’s television ratings, wherein I questioned the merits of the previously linked Nielsen story which raved about improved NBA ratings.

My quibble was in regard to the way in which the data was presented. Rather than list all the teams’ ratings, it only listed the top ten, a completely flawed methodology. As I argued last week, how can you say the league’s ratings are improved when you only tell us half of the story?

Well, consider this the other half of the story.

Thanks to an anonymous commenter with access to local Nielsen ratings, here is the whole enchilada. Listed are the teams, and the percentage change in their ratings relative to last season. Note that these ratings are only for local broadcasts, and do not include ESPN, TNT, ABC, or whomever.

Hornets, 163%
Cavs, 105%
Hawks, 93%
Blazers, 44%
Sixers, 14%
Wizards, 11%
Grizzlies, 10%
Knicks, 10%
Lakers, 9%
T-Wolves, 6%
Pistons, 5%
Bulls, 1%

Nets, 0%

Rockets, -8%
Warriors, -15%
Celtics, -18%
Nuggets, -22%
Pacers, -23%
Magic, -24%
Bucks, -24%
Heat, -24%
Spurs, -26%
Suns, -38%
Mavericks, -54%
Clippers, -60%

Missing: OKC, Charlotte, Sacramento, Toronto, Jazz

Let’s assume Oklahoma City’s ratings are better than the Sonics’ (for the sake of Clay Bennett’s mental health, they better be). And, let’s assume the Raptors and Jazz are also doing decently. I think we can also assume that the Hornets and Kings are seeing lower numbers than before, simply because that’s what their attendance figures would indicate.

Regardless of the missing numbers, that’s a pretty whopping indictment of how popular the league is. The argument that attendance is down but ratings are up? Hogwash.

There are four teams with an increase of 20 points or more, but there are nine with decreases of 20 points or more (if you include the missing five teams, the numbers might change to five increases and ten or eleven decreases). The Boston Celtics – World Champs, etc, etc, - have seen an 18% decline in their ratings. The Mavericks are looking at a drop of nearly half from last season.

Now, there are rebuttals to this argument. For one thing, the season is still early and the NBA will obviously do better after the NFL and college football are in the rear-view mirror. Plus, the really meaningful games (and concurrent improved ratings) don’t occur until the spring.

Still, I think it’s safe to say that anyone who argues that the NBA is sailing along just fine, thank you, is burying his head in the sand.

Let’s face it, folks, if your best argument is that you’re more popular than the NHL, well, that’s not much of an argument.

Alright, Then

You know the hackneyed expression, "Oh, no he didn't!"

I think that applies here.

Oklahoma City, I'm not hatin' on you, honestly. But, man, when you're using stock footage of a group of four people ambling to your arena to show how hyped your city is for the NBA, and when your singer has to read the lyrics from his cell phone, well, maybe you just ought to go back to the drawing board on that one.

War "Not in Our House."

[courtesy of Bend it Like Bennett.]

Wednesday, December 3

NBA v GDP

Here’s an unusual question for you – what sort of relationship, if any, exists between NBA attendance and the US economy?

The reflexive answer would be a strong one. Naturally, when the economy struggles, people cut back on entertainment expenses, such as season tickets, luxury suites, Danny Fortson jerseys, you know, big-ticket items.

With that in mind, here are a couple of graphs which chart that relationship. To accommodate two disparate figures, I have listed two items:

1. The yearly percentage change in average attendance at an NBA game
2. The yearly percentage change in US GDP

For the Econ majors out there – I hear you. GDP is a crass measurement of economic activity. It fails to account for any number of items in day-to-day life and has been habitually adjusted by the government to hide deficiencies in economic progress. I get it. But, all that being said, it is the common measuring stick for the economy in the US, so let’s use it anyways.

Shown below is the data from 1963-2008.



As you can see, there is more than just a passing relationship between the two sets of numbers but, when viewed from this distance, it’s somewhat tenuous. However, as time has marched on, you can see that : 1) the two numbers have developed a stronger relationship, and, 2) that the NBA is much less prone to year-over-year swings in attendance growth now than in the past.

For example, from 1963 to 1993, there were seven instances of a yearly change in attendance greater than 10%. From 1994 to 2008, there were zero instances of that happening. What caused the decline in wild swings?

I think there are a couple of reasons:

1. The league has grown more popular. Up until the late 1970s, the league was such a marginal entity the NBA Finals were shown on tape delay. Since the days of Magic and Bird (and MJ), that’s no longer the case. The league has reached a somewhat consistent level of popularity, and is unlikely to repeat its huge increases (and decreases) in attendance.

2. Stadiums are much closer to capacity now, limiting the ability of the league to experience large levels of growth. Any increases now would be marginal, short of selling seats on top of the backboards or staging a “Winter Classic” at the Rose Bowl.

But back to the point of this story – what can we learn from previous GDP downturns? Do they have an effect on the NBA’s attendance?

It’s difficult to say, but looking at the numbers for the past two years, there is a very strong relationship between the decrease in GDP and the decrease in NBA attendance. (See enlarged chart below)


More than the relationship between the league and GDP, these charts show us that the league has essentially stagnated since 1997. In the decade since the strike which wiped out the 1999 season, the league has registered either negative or marginally better attendance figures every season.

As an illustration of this, from 1980 until 1999 the NBA posted a yearly attendance increase of more than 2% no fewer than twelve times. Do you know how many times they have matched that number since then?

Zero.

Which goes back to my point that the league is at a standstill. As I see it, there are two possibilities for the current set-up: Continued stagnation or decline. With the recession in full swing, it seems much more likely to me that – at least for the time being – decline is the more likely option. For those who wonder why the NBA is working so hard internationally to “grow the game” (and, yes, I, too, despise that phrase), perhaps this sheds some light. Perhaps the NBA has realized that any future growth for their sport will have to come outside the US borders, and that the American populace just doesn’t have any room in its belly for more sports.

[Data for this story was culled from the Bureau of Economic Analysts and the Association for Professional Basketball Research.]

Tuesday, December 2

The Outlaws

Just wondering, with Seattle sans basketball at the moment, and with Stephone Marbury close to being a former Knick, how about we prevail upon Steve Ballmer to make our own team, Harlem Globetrotter-style? No set schedule, no league, just a group of fellas out havin' fun. Just think of it …

PG: Stephon Marbury
SG: Bonzi Wells
SF: Darius Miles
PF: Juwan Howard
C: Scot Pollard

Bench: Ruben Patterson, Jeff McInnis, Danny Fortson

Coach: PJ Carlesimo
GM: Bob Whitsitt

Sure, it might not win many games, but it would a helluva lot of fun to watch. In fact, a very good 1980s movie could be made on just that premise (starring, of course, Chuck Norris as the coach). Heck, do you think any NBA team would want to go into battle against a this group of guys, knowing full well they've got nothing to lose? After all, the only thing scarier than Danny Fortson on a 3-year contract is Danny Fortson on a 3-week contract.

Free chalupas to everyone if the Sonics get more than 5 technicals!

Monday, December 1

Turkey Day Numbers

Given the state of affairs in NBA attendance this year, I thought we should take a quick look at how the league fared over the course of the four-day holiday weekend.

Thanksgiving means turkey, mashed potatoes, and basketball – at least to NBA fans, anyways. While it could be argued that Christmas Day is the start of the NBA season, the NFL is winding down, you get a couple of marquee games to watch, Thanksgiving is also a good time to gauge the temperature of the league.

So, how did the NBA do this past weekend? First, the raw numbers.

Thanksgiving 2008 – 17,687 avg., 91% capacity
Thanksgiving 2007 – 17184 avg., 89% capacity

That’s a fair improvement, especially when you look at how the overall numbers have gone this season. However, it could be argued that the Seattle/Oklahoma City returns might skew the numbers unfairly, so here’s how it would look if Sonic-Thunder were removed from the equation (and, yes, I agree, Sonic-Thunder sounds like a nifty 1987 band; can we get Sammy Hagar to sing lead?):

sans Sonic-Thunder
Thanksgiving 2008 – 17667 avg., 90% capacity
Thanksgiving 2007 – 17486 avg., 90% capacity

That narrows the gap a bit, but even a crusty old grump such as myself would have to admit that the league is at least doing as well this year as last.

Another way to view the numbers is to have a breakdown of % capacities:

90%+: 17 (2007), 21 (2008)
80-90%: 4 (2007), 3 (2008)
70-80%: 5 (2007), 2 (2008)
60-70%: 3 (2007), 3 (2008)

see chart below for complete breakdowns
Again, the nod goes to this year. This is an admittedly small sample size (29 games in total), and doesn’t take into account who was playing, weather, etc.

But, for a quick sampling of tastes from last year to this year, it gives us some insight anyways. For once, let me say, a pat on the back to the league for keeping its head above-water in difficult times.

Tuesday, November 25

Tuned In, Or Not?

One of the commenters to our story about the NHL vs NBA attendance debate brought up a point in regard to television ratings - namely, that NBA ratings are increasing over last season.

Seemingly, this is a fly in the ointment for the argument that the NBA is struggling right now. Or is it?

As evidence, the commenter pointed to this article from Nielsen. On the surface, it seems to indicate some rosy figures for the league. To wit:

2008-09 Season vs. 2007-08 Season Ratings, % Change
New Orleans, 163%
Cleveland, 109%
Atlanta, 97%
Portland, 44%
Orlando, 26%
New York, 17%
L.A. Lakers, 14%
Washington, 12%
Philadelphia, 10%
Memphis, 10%

Anyone else notice something missing from that picture? That is to say, what about the other 23 teams? If the top 10 on your list includes Memphis and Philadelphia, and their improvement is just a marginal one, what about the bottom ten? How have their ratings gone this year?

I'm not saying those other 23 teams are worse, and I'm not saying they're necessarily better, I'm just saying, well, I'm saying I have no idea, and neither does anyone else without access to the information.

Pointing to that website and saying, "See, I told you the league is prosperous!" is somewhat like pointing to a list of the top teams with the 10 best won-loss records in the league and saying, "See, I told you all the teams are winning this year!"

We only know 1/3 of the story. I can't imagine I'm the only one out there curious to see the rest of the story. Any ad-men out there with access to that sort of info, feel free to educate us.

Da Fort

Couple of brief updates on our man Danny Fortson.

The first is a fantasy piece that puts a smile on your face for combining "Danny Fortson" and "blueberry pie" in the same sentence.

The second, though, I can only hope is made-up, because it's just too disturbing otherwise.

Monday, November 24

Note to Self: Add More Pics of Cheerleaders

Looking at basketball blogs, through the viewfinder of genderanalyzer.com. Per the site’s own description: [GenderAnalyzes] uses Artificial Intelligence to determine if a homepage is written by a man or woman. Behind the scene, a text classifier hosted over at uClassify.com has been trained on blogs written by men and women.”

Site: Likelihood the site is written by a man
HardwoodParoxysm: 100%
Playboy: 99%
SonicsCentral:, 92%
Need4Sheed: 90%
Detroit Bad Boys: 86%
Sactown Royalty: 84%
Basketbawful: 82%
Ball Don’t Lie: 80%
CelticsBlog: 79%
3 Shades of Blue: 79%
BlogMaverick: 79%
TrueHoop: 77%
Empty the Bench: 76%
BlazersEdge: 76%
Oprah.com: 75%
Blog a Bull: 73%
Deadspin: 70%
Wizznutzz: 67%
SuperSonicSoul: 59%
Golden State of Mind: 45%

SuperSonicsoul: Still more manly than those man-loving hippy freaks in San Francisco, not quite as manly as those man-loving narcissists at Deadspin.

Beating a Dead Horse

Continuing my diatribe from last week, let’s look at another way to view attendance figures: Percent of capacity.

(As always, figures come from espn.com. Glad we cleared that up.)

Last season, out of 30 NBA teams, the percent of capacity scale broke down as follows:
90-100%: 17 teams
80-90%: 6
70-80%: 5
60-70%: 2

And this season?
90-100%: 17
80-90%: 5
70-80%: 4
60-70%: 4

That’s a pretty even distribution looking at it quickly, but if you delve deeper into the figures, the picture becomes bleaker.

Teams at 99%+ capacity
2008: 10
2009: 5

Also, as pointed out at Wages of Wins last year in a fine article about the NBA’s apparent popularity issues, the NBA has traded a city with poor attendance marks (Seattle) for one with strong attendance marks (Oklahoma City). However, despite WoW’s argument that Oklahoma City was 50% of the problem in last year’s attendance figures (i.e., the trade of OKC for N.O. and the lackluster figures in Seattle), the move of the Sonics to OKC has not alleviated the league’s problems at the gate. In fact, the numbers this year are even worse than last year.

But back to the main point of this story – the capacity scenario. Another way to look at the numbers is to compare each team to its’ figures from last year.

2008 vs 2009
Improved: 8 teams
Declined: 19
No change: 3

In other words, more than twice as many teams are facing declining numbers when viewed as a percentage of capacity this season, a staggering figure. Four of those teams are seeing their attendance drop by more than 10 points from last year’s totals, Philadelphia (from 73 to 62), Sacramento (from 82 to 70), the Clippers (from 86 to 72), and the Heat (from 99 to 81).

How many teams have improved by more than 10 points over last season? Just one, Oklahoma City. (Although, to be fair, the Hornets are on the precipice, at +9.2 from last year).

In other words, the only NBA franchise to see a substantial improvement from last season was the franchise the league decimated in its previous locale. Not exactly a stirring endorsement of the league’s fortunes.

Saturday, November 22

Adieu, PJ

I'm guessing that when Clay Bennett drew up the outline for how things would go in his triumphant return to Oklahoma City this season, it was quite dissimilar to the way the actual story has gone.

Following a Friday night loss to the Hornets which put the Thunder's record at 1-12, wundersenior PJ Carlesimo was sent packing in what was surely his final opportunity at coaching an NBA team.

If you doubt me, and think that Carlesimo will be the Stan Albeck of his generation - a perennial retread coach who always manages to find a way - take a look at these numbers:

19-63
21-29
6-21
20-62
1-12

That adds up to 67-187, and marks PJ's cumulative record in his final five seasons as an NBA coach. It is a remarkably inept performance, matched only by the buffoonery of the people who hired him in the first place.

Friday, November 21

The Great Wall of Payton?

Details are sketchy, but rumors are beginning to surface about Gary Payton making a return to professional basketball, but this time on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, at least as reported by solobasket.com.

I'm not sure what was more surprising in reading that article, that Payton would like to subject himself to playing overseas, or that Bob Weiss is a head coach in China. I wonder if Bob Hill is planning to snake Weiss' job over there as well?

In other news, Steve Scheffler has expressed interest in returning to professional basketball in the Turkmenistan professional league.

That interest, unfortunately, has not been reciprocated.

A Word, If You Will

Indulge your narrator, please, as he attempts to explain why he has spent the past three days putting up negative information about the NBA, and allow me to correct some misunderstandings.

#1
I am not a hockey fan, despite the fact that I am an American living in Canada. In fact, were you to tell some of my friends up here that people now believe me to be an NHL fan, they would spit out their Tim Horton Timbits quicker than Ben Johnson at Seoul. I hate the NHL, I hate hockey, I hate people who say that hockey players are the greatest athletes alive, and I hate it when sportswriters couch their racism inside melodious descriptions of “gritty” and “tough” hockey players.

#2
The attendance information I presented is factual, not something I made up on my mom’s computer (actually, my mom doesn’t own a computer, or a basement, but thanks for asking). If you don’t believe me, go to espn.com and do the research yourself.

#3
I get it. The NBA is more popular than the NHL. I’m not an idiot, and any league which broadcasts it games on something called Versus is not even in the same ballpark. I never said that the NBA was in danger of being surpassed by the NHL in terms of American popularity – only a fool would say that.

#4 – and most importantly
Why? Why bother bringing all of this up? Sorry to disappoint you, but it’s not sour grapes. Well, it’s partially sour grapes, although I ask you: How do you expect me to feel about a commissioner who felt his loyalty to Clay Bennett superseded the loyalty Seattle fans had shown the NBA for 40 years?

No, the true reason I brought this up goes back to what I wrote more than a year ago – that the NBA needs cities more than cities need the NBA. There’s been an emperor’s new clothes mentality for the past two decades about stadium building, and the continual escalation of arena modifications across North America resembles nothing so much to me as the Cold War.

Arenas are not refurbished because city’s need them to be, they’re rebuilt because franchises need improvements to better compete with the other teams who just had their arenas rebuilt.

It is my belief that the NBA – and perhaps sports in general – have reached a day of reckoning in this neverending one-upmanship. It is my belief that Seattle will enter into negotiations with the NBA with a completely different tact than in previous times, and that it – and other cities - will no longer have to be beggars for the NBA’s scraps.

And, finally, consider this: Do you know anyone who plays hockey? Did your high school have a hockey team? Do you and your friends get together for pick-up hockey on Saturdays?

I’m guessing the answer to those questions is no all around. And yet, despite basketball’s inherent advantages over hockey in terms of popularity in the U.S., here we stand, with hockey drawing more people this year. How is this possible?

Rather than castigate me for presenting facts, how about a frank discussion about the troubles the NBA is facing, and what can be done to fix it? Would that not be more productive than insults?

Nobody likes the guy who brings the bad news, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore what he has to say, either.

Thursday, November 20

Pretty Graphic

For further illustration of the NBA's situation, take a look at the chart below, showing the per-game attendance of the Philadelphia Flyers (pink) and 76ers (blue).

The Flyers started off the season with six consecutive losses. That's right SIX.

The Sixers picked up one of the top prizes of the off-season (Elton Brand), and were expected to be a contender in the Eastern Conference.

The Flyers have drawn more than 18,000 in all eight of their games this season.

The Sixers have yet to crack 16,000.

Can someone explain that to me? Is it just ticket prices? Is it something more?

Candid Camera

No matter what you think about the state of the NBA these days, you have to agree that the attendance numbers are, at the very least, slightly troubling.

With that in mind, it begs the question: Just how bad is attendance these day? If you go by reported statistical figures, it seems to be off by 5 to 10%, perhaps more, but just how accurate are those numbers?

I ask because I was a witness to the final days of the Vancouver Grizzlies. For three years, I "covered" the team for a small local paper, meaning I was courtside at nearly every game. With the woeful product before us less than enthralling, I usually spent as much time looking at the crowd as I did at the court.

After Michael Heisley bought the team it became obvious that something drastic had happened. Attendance in the arena dropped precipitously, and rumors began spreading that the previous ownership group had been giving away hundreds of tickets to boost attendance, and that they were inflating that artificially boosted attendance to boot.

I bring this up because the easiest way to determine if an NBA team is struggling is to look at the upper rafters. If there are massive sections of empty seats, well, things aren't going so well in that town.

And that, dear readers, is where bloggers come in. To many, the one asset bloggers lack is access. But that's only true if you look at it from the perspective of a traditional media member, who can speak with the coach, GM, players, trainers, and anyone else he/she desires.

Bloggers, however, do have a type of access the local media does not - freedom. Because we're not obligated to report on anything in particular, we can look at bigger pictures. And no picture right now is more important than the one taking place at arenas across the country.

What I'd like to have happen is to see bloggers - and their readers - start taking pictures of the stands during games. With the proclivity of camera phones these days, everyone is a walking photographer, so there's no excuse for us not to start documenting what's happening.

If you're in Philly, take a photo of the empty seats. If you're in Memphis, start snapping shots of empty seats. If you're able to get something good, email it to me at supersonicsoul AT hotmail.com, and I'll start posting them on our website.

Ideally, we could create a flickr-type presentation, but I'll let those more savvy than me get into that sort of thing.

For the time being, though, I'll try to post the best of shot of the day on our website every day, with the corresponding "attendance" figures for that game given to us by the NBA.

If nothing else, it beats me writing yet another story about Aubrey McClendon.

Wednesday, November 19

NBA and NHL

There are a hundred ways to talk about NBA attendance, a hundred ways to distort the truth, a hundred ways to rationalize, pervert, and obfuscate the facts.

In the weeks and months to come, the NBA will attempt to use all of those methods. They will load us down with facts and figures that explain how wonderful the league is, how healthy its balance sheets are, and how strong its ratings are.

Just remember, when you hear those words, what the chart below is showing you:





That, my friends, is the cold, hard hand of reality smacking David Stern in the face. In the past six years, his league has gone from dominator to also-ran.


Nice work, fellas.

[NOTE: To accommodate the NHL's work stoppage which eliminated an entire season, I shifted the NHL numbers from the previous season up into the empty gap.

NOTE2: Graph has been updated.]

A Transcript

The transcript from the inevitable David Stern press conference to discuss putrid NBA attendance:

DAVID STERN: While we’re certainly concerned with flagging attendance levels, I’d like to remind you that the season is still very early. I know the press likes to make a big story out of this, but if you review our attendance figures from years past, you’ll notice that our attendance levels tend to increase as the year progresses and fan interest improves.

REPORTER: While that may be true, the early levels have never been this low. Shouldn’t the creation of all these new buildings be a buffer against the current economic downturn?

DS: Well, just look at the numbers in Portland, in Atlanta, in Toronto, or in Cleveland, where you have teams playing before near sell-outs every night. I think that’s a testament to what happens when our superior marketing and innovativeness are given an opportunity to grow and prosper.

REPORTER: But what about Sacramento, where your team is barely beating Arena League numbers? Doesn’t that concern you?

DS: Well, with a new mayor in Sacramento committed to keeping the team in that city, I think you’ll see an improvement in the team’s fortunes in the near future.

REPORTER: You mean, when they get a new building?

DS: Yes, that’s correct.

REPORTER: You mean, like the new building in Memphis, where they average 11,706 fans a night?

DS: Well, Memphis is a unique situation …

REPORTER: Or in Philadelphia, where they attract only 62% of capacity with a playoff-caliber team in a sports-mad city?

DS: Now you’re just picking out random cities out to augment your point, but I think if …

REPORTER: Or in Charlotte, where a brand-new stadium and a brand-new team with a Hall of Fame coach and world-famous general manager have lead to less than 70% capacity? Or in Indiana? New Jersey? Minnesota? Miami?

DS: I think that if you look closely, you’ll see that nearly all of those situations involve teams which are struggling on the court, and that in almost all situations involving teams which are successful, the fans inevitably flock to the games. You can almost guarantee it.

REPORTER: So what you’re saying is that the buildings you extort cities to build while their police departments, educational systems, and infrastructure erode have less impact on attendance than the on-court product? That on-court success is more important than $300 million arenas? That a winning Sonic team in Seattle in an “old” building would draw more than a losing Grizzlies’ team in Memphis with a “new” building?

DS: Now you’re just putting words in my mouth.

REPORTER: That’s not the only thing I’d like to put in there.

Monday, November 17

Aubrey Keeping Busy

Fans of the Saugatuck Dunes in Michigan are cautiously optimistic, now that the man who planned to level those dunes and build McMansions in their place (you know, this guy), is now in closed-door talks with Saugatuck city to sell a portion of his land.

At first glance, one might come to the conclusion that either A) McClendon has grown a conscience, or B) needs the money. (Okay, fine, it's most likely B).

On the second glance, though, one might walk away with another thought. Why? Well, perhaps its because he is doing the same thing in his own backyard that he did in Michigan. And that other folks in other parts of Oklahoma aren't so thrilled with our boy Aubrey, either.

Arena Update

Chris McGann at the PI has an update on the KeyArena situation, specifically in regard to the likelihood of anything passing through Frank Chopp's iron fists this session in Olympia.

The posturing from the State Capitol is pretty obvious when you read the article, leaving an observer to come away with the clear message that, while the legislature may be willing to let the city keep its portion of the hotel tax, it may also be keen to keep using those funds for general revenue.

In a year where the national economy has gone from teetering on the brink of disaster to full-scale Defcon 5 emergency, Chopp and fellow members will have a pretty easy sell to the public if they cry poverty and give the thumbs-down to the city.

Friday, November 14

When World Collide

Anybody else wonder if they served Starbucks at the press conference?

Great Pics

In looking for a photo for a story recently, I came across this great cache of Sonic-related pictures, hosted on flickr by 'bballchico.'

Not all the Sonic photos are at that link, you'll have to surf around a bit to find them all. In fact, there's almost too much to look at, but if you're going to look at one photo, perhaps it should be this one:


There's a lot to see in that picture - the hair (of course), the knee pads, Rambis' glasses, the Hornet jersey, the odd combination of attraction and fear on the face of the woman in the blue shirt ... just a lot to digest. But after you laugh a little at the pure 80s-ness of that picture, more than anything, you're struck by this melancholy fact:
Neither of those teams exist anymore.

Wednesday, November 12

The NBA is Fantastic, or Something

Question:

What do you get when you cross a team with the fifth-worst home attendance numbers with a team with the sixth-worst road attendance numbers?

Answer:

10,165 in attendance, that’s what.

You also get a lot of pictures that look like this (try to ignore the blindingly white skin in the foreground and concentrate on the thousands of folks who came dressed up as empty seats instead):


Ah, it's too bad the Pacers don’t have a fancy-dancy new stadium. I’m sure that would solve all their attendance problems.

I’m sorry, what’s that now?

Friday, November 7

McClendon Keeps on Losing

First it was the value of the shares in Chesapeake Energy dropping by more than 70%, then it was being forced to sell off his shares at rock-bottom prices, and now Aubrey McClendon has lost at the ballot box as well.

Proposition 10 in California, which was heavily subsidized by our friend Aubrey to the tune of $3.5 million (which is, coincidentally, $3.5 million more than he volunteered to pay for the new arena in Renton), has gone down in defeat.

This comes despite the fact that backers of the proposition, including McClendon as well as T Boone Pickens and others, spent more than $25 million in support of the bill.

Opponents? They spent about $150,000.

The proposition, which would would have created rebate incentives for the purchase of cars and trucks running on natural gas or other alternative fuels looked to be losing by more than 15 points at the polls.

How sweet it is.

Memorial

As Brian Robinson points out at SonicsCentral, a public memorial for The Tuba Man will be held this Wednesday, Nov. 12th at Qwest Field in Seattle. The event is scheduled for 6:30 pm.

I'll assume that those reading this site are well aware of the tragic and disturbing circumstances surrounding Ed McMichael's death, but, if not, please read Robert Jamieson's fine piece at the PI for more in-depth information. It's a terribly sad story, and coming on the heels of everything else that's happened in Seattle over the past year, sadder still.

Anyone who has attended a game in Seattle in the past decade has memories of the Tuba Man. The baritone voice announcing the song just played, the odd times he would mix in an unexpected song ... it was, obviously, an underappreciated part of being a Seattle sports fan, and now he, like the Sonics, is gone.

If you're in the Seattle area, try to make time on Wednesday evening to attend the memorial. There is nothing we can do to bring the Tuba Man back to his family, but a large crowd would go a long way towards helping heal their pain.

Thursday, November 6

Not Very Thunderful

Oklahoma City Attendance

Game 1, vs. Milwaukee: 19,136
Game 2, vs Minnesota: 18,163
Game 3, vs Boston: 19,136

You remember the Oklahoma City faithful, right? They were the ones who spent the past year deriding Sonic fans for not supporting their team enough, insulting us for not showing the respect inherently due to the great and glorious NBA, mocking us for having our heads so deep in our granola bowls and espresso cups we couldn’t appreciate the wonderfulness of David Stern’s universe.

Yeah, those people.

Well, less than one week into their lifetimes as NBA hosts, they couldn’t bother to sell out a Sunday night game.

I’ll say that again: Game 2 of the NBA Experience-Dust Bowl Version was not a sellout.

Hey, I get it, it was the Wolves. And, who knows, maybe the AP made a mistake and entered the numbers incorrectly for the attendance.

Um, yeah, that's likely.

But, for crying out loud, if you’re going to mock us every step of the way for being “fair-weather” fans, if you’re going to spend every last ounce of your energy insulting Seattle for lacking the balls to be a great NBA city, don’t you think you ought to step up when you get your chance?

Tuesday, November 4

SSS Xmas List: X-Man Pin

Okay, granted, it's the NYC version of the X-Man, but I still think it would pretty darn nice pinned to my Members' Only jacket.

Just curious, was this a Knick-only item, or are there brass-backed pins of, say, Armon Gilliam out there as well?

Answers

The NBA world is certainly focused on Allen Iverson today, with everyone weighing in on the demise of his career, and how he ranks as an all-time great.

Bob Ryan, the nattering nabob of negativity of the Boston Globe, had this to say about AI (via TrueHoop):

"'The Answer' is what his adoring public calls him. Well, today's question is, 'Can you win a championship with Allen Iverson as your best player?' Thus far, the answer is no, and AI is now 33."

Ryan is nothing if not confrontational in his writing, and you can't take what he says too much to heart. The man, after all, is paid to write paragraphs that get people talking.

Still, his point is dubious, at best. After all, could you not say the same thing about Paul Pierce prior to last season? Not only had he not won a championship entering last November, Pierce had failed to make the playoffs in more than half of his NBA seasons.

What changed? Was it Pierce, or was it the addition of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen? Were Pierce and Iverson to have swapped teams last season, who would have finished with a better record? Does the idea of a Pierce-Anthony-Camby trio sound more playoff-ready than an Iverson-Allen-Garnett trio? Is Pierce somehow now a "champion" and Iverson is a "loser," simply because Danny Ainge was able to take advantage of his relationship with Kevin McHale?

No, the 'answer' to all of these questions is not that Iverson has been lacking, it's that he's played on some lousy teams. It is nearly impossible for a guard to take an NBA team to the finals without help, and for Ryan to castigate Iverson for doing so is foolish.

Allen Iverson is one of the toughest competitors in the history of professional sports. He is also, simultaneously, one of the biggest ball-hogs in the history of the NBA. Regardless, to say that he is responsible for his teams failing to win a championship is just plain wrong.

Monday, November 3

Now That's Different

Through three games last season, Kevin Durant attempted 19 3-pointers.

After three games this season, he has attempted three (and missed all of them).

Friday, October 31

SSS HOF #10 & 11: Blackburn & Calabro

Bob Blackburn & Kevin Calabro

Safe under the covers from the winter cold, lights off save for the glowing red radiating from a small clock radio on the dresser, tuned to a static-filled station. Coming through the crackling noise is a voice from thousands of miles away, but seemingly sitting there next to him in the room.

The voice tells the boy the score is close, his team has a chance. His heroes –Williams, Sikma, Johnson – will come through yet again. Tonight, he’s at the Cow Palace to extol the exploits of Teagle and Floyd, and Wednesday he’ll be at The Forum, that magical place filled with superstars the boy loves to hate. Every night, he’s talking to him from these places with names so incredible – Spectrum, Garden, Reunion, Salt Palace – they seem to have sprung forth from a Twain novel.

Each night, the announcer is the conduit for the boy. In an era before the internet, before cable, the broadcaster was your PDA, his voice your instant message.

He is Bob Blackburn, and, to a 10-year-old boy growing up in Seattle, he is a high-pitched messenger communicating from the heights of Mount Olympus.

-----

Driving through a drenching rainstorm on I-5, somewhere north of Portland and south of Olympia, a no man’s land of farms and utter darkness, the college student leaves his dial tuned to a station blasting only static. Soon, though, a voice will begin to interrupt the static, gradually becoming clearer and clearer, if only he can get close enough to Seattle to gain reception.

It’s late November, but already the season has taken on a sense of urgency and the student needs to know if his team can take down their hated Oregon rivals. He could listen to the Portland station, but, honestly, he’d rather listen to static than all that Rip City garbage.

No, he waits for his guy, his representative at the Coliseum, to tell him a bit of good news. To tell him Payton and Kemp are running like the bulls at Pamplona, Drexler’s jump shot is off, Porter is tentative.

He waits for Kevin Calabro.

----

In the field of sport-related recognition, basketball play-by-play men rank somewhere above ‘resin bag filler’ and below ‘groupie wrangler.’

Baseball has Harwell, Scully, and Caray. Football has Summerall, Enberg, and Jackson. NBA announcing’s upper echelon, though, is more famous for other pursuits (e.g., Marv Albert) than for basketball duties. Sure, there are Johnny Mosts, Bill Kings, and Chick Hearns, but as far as national renown, they rank far down the list. The most well known basketball announcers are Billy Packer and Dick Vitale, not Marv Albert and Mike Breen.

In Seattle, though, this is not the case. Kevin Calabro and Bob Blackburn are as well loved as anyone in this city, with the possible exception of the Mariners’ Dave Niehaus.

Growing up in this area back in the 80s, I was lucky enough to fall asleep on hundreds of nights with Blackburn’s somewhat nasal words echoing in my head. Sure, Calabro became the emblem of the team in the ensuing decades, but it was Blackburn who laid the foundation. His call of Gus Williams “hurls the ball into the air” at the end of the Sonics’ only world championship remains the signature utterance in Seattle pro basketball history, and the way he always brought excitement to any game, regardless of the score or the opponent, made him a continual joy.

In the years since he left the booth, Blackburn has faded from view, a relic of days gone by. For fans who grew up before Shawn Kemp arrived on the scene, though, Blackburn will always remain part of the fabric of Sonic lore.

Likewise, Calabro became as integral to the Sonic experience as Payton, Kemp, Karl, or any of the great players he covered. While even casual fans can tick Calabroisms (“Get up on that magic carpet and ride!”) off their fingers with the ease of a teacher counting heads on a field trip, it was the smaller contributions from Calabro that I appreciated more.

The majority of announcers are homers, and, to a degree, that’s just fine. After all, their listeners are certainly pulling for the home team to win, so a little rooting is certainly acceptable. Calabro, to his credit, would let you know he was delighted to see the Sonics doing well, but when they failed to perform up to their capabilities, he always let us know.

Teamed with Marques Johnson (a match made in announcing heaven), Calabro felt free to make disdainful remarks about the way the Sonics were playing. Not in a “this team is terrible and here’s why” sort of way, but in a “c’mon guys, you can do better than this” sort of way. It was that honesty made his excitement over legitimate greatness all the sweeter, and enabled him to catch on with the networks, allowing us to still hear his voice this season, albeit a voice that perhaps will never say Sonics again.

---

With the Sonics a piece of history now, I’ve often been asked by non-Sonic fans what it is I miss the most about the NBA. Is it the games? The rivalries? The daily activities?

Of course, I miss all of that, but, perhaps, what I miss the most is hearing about the team through Kevin Calabro. It’s been two decades since I first heard him tell me about Dana Barros, Derrick McKey, and the rest of the late-80s early-90s Sonics, two decades of marvelous phrases and beautiful intonations. Half my life passed in the interim, and KC has been the messenger of (mostly) good news for the majority of it. This year, though, is different. This year, I won’t have Kevin Calabro in my life.

No matter how hard I search on my clock radio.

Trick or Treat

We’ve traveled down this road before, and honestly, it’s one of my favorite columns to write of the year – our annual Halloween Costume Primer. So, with only a dozen or so hours before it’s time to get your trick on, here, as a courtesy to our readers, are the Top 5 Costumes for Sonic fans this season:

1. The Littlest Hobo – It’s a classic that’s been updated for today’s modern kids! Comes complete with Aubrey McClendon mask, a spoooooky stock values chart, and a terrifying invoice from West Virginia for $400 million. Also available in Tom Ward.

2. The Manipulator – Do your kids have trouble getting as much candy as they want as they go from home to home? Well, put The Manipulator to work for them! Comes with David Stern mask and a pretend list of ‘other homes’ that are ‘more willing’ to ante up the kind of candy you’re looking for. Sanctimonious and condescending attitude extra.

3. The Weasel – Face it, sometimes failure happens. But if your child struggles with keeping promises, then we’ve got the costume for you! The Weasel is perfect for children who like to make ‘five-minute plans’ about how much candy they’re going to get, then sell their bags to another kid, then sue the kid to get it back, then abandon the lawsuit when it’s no longer expedient. Comes with bag of espresso beans.

4. Sad Sack – Flannel? Check. Morose attitude? Check. Bottle of Jack Daniels? Check. Pearl Jam on the stereo? Check. Then you’re set for the Sad Sack Sonic Fan costume! In addition to all that, this outfit comes complete with Sonic pennants, VHS of the Sonic-Suns playoff game that those damn refs stole from us because they just wanted Barkley and Jordan, and couldn’t they see that the Sonics were clearly the better team? Oh, no, they had to have their precious game for NBC ….

Ahem, sorry about that. Anyway, it’s the ultimate costume for the depressed basketball fan in your life. Does not come with Blazer paraphernalia.

5. Il Signore – No Halloween would be complete without a reference to Il Rainman. Now get the continental version of this holiday classic! Includes rump filler, bag of cappellini, a liter of limoncino, 40-pack of condoms, and a one-way ticket from Rome to Houston (no return). Buona festa!

Thursday, October 30

Final Fantasy

The league is just about full, with a few stragglers still to sign up. I'm going to close the enrollment as of the end of the day today (Thursday), with the draft set for Friday (assuming Yahoo! cooperates).

So, if you've received the password/League ID and have yet to sign in, do so today, please, or else you'll miss out. Or, if you're interested in playing, shoot me an email at supersonicsoul AT hotmail.com.

Oh, and nice work by the Bucks yesterday.

Wednesday, October 29

Wagers

Some NBA-related totals to ponder as the season gets underway. I’ve put my selections in italics.

Thunder Wins vs.
Barack Obama States Won

George Karl’s Tenure in Denver vs.
Allen Iverson’s

Blazers Wins vs.
Darius Miles Games Played

Thunder Wins vs.
Chesapeake Energy’s Stock Value

Years before NBA is in Seattle vs.
Total Coaches Fired

50+ Win Western Conference Teams vs.
50+ Win Eastern Conference Teams

John McCain States Won vs.
Greg Oden’s Games Played

Rasheed Wallace Technicals vs.
Minutes Remaining on Sarah Palin’s 15 Minutes

Spurs Playoff Wins vs.
Tim Duncan’s Rebounds Per Game

Tuesday, October 28

Fantasy III

Just a friendly reminder to sign up for the completely free SuperSonicSoul Fantasy League over a Yahoo sports. Shoot me an email at supersonicsoul AT hotmail.com and I'll forward you the pertinent details. There are a couple of spots left, so if you think you know a better way to fill out a roster than Sam Presti, jump on in. Draft day will either be Thursday or Friday.

In the News

Gary Washburn sheds some light on how the former Sonics are adjusting to life in Oklahoma City, whether it's tossing cermonial coins at a high school football game or getting denied entry to nightclubs because of their race, today in the PI.

Speaking only for myself, I've moved on from this team. Brian Robinsonat SonicsCentral made a point a while ago about how emotionally unattached most Sonic fans were to this roster, and I have to agree. If this had been the Payton/Kemp/Schrempf Sonics, or the X/Chambers/Ellis Sonics, the pain would be much, much higher.

Suffice it to say I miss the Sonics, but I don't miss this roster. For all the lousy things I can say about Clay Bennett, at least he took the team when we cared for them the least.

ESPN Gets Some Soul

The nice folks at ESPN asked our opinion about a few NBA-related topics, and we (I) were glad to help out. You can see the results here.

(I know what you're thinking - did they also ask kansascitykingsforever.com? What about charlottehornetpride.com or thesdclipperjoint.com?)

Fine, smart guy, you got me there. But, anyway, at least it lets the rest of the sporting world know that at least some people in Seattle still care about the Sonics.

Monday, October 27

SSS Christmas Wish List: Wheedle

There is sad, then there is Wheedle-slouched-against-closet-door sad.





Some lucky soul out there already won the bidding for this gem, and I can only hope that he figures out a way to pose in the uplifting manner befitting the former mascot of the Sonics. As it is, however, it's a pretty accurate portrayal of Sonic fan spirits these days.

Dino Rossi? You've got to be kidding me

Like many of you, I recently received an email from the supposedly non-partisan group "Save Our Sonics" (whom a lot of us invested time and money with last year) with a special message from alleged number-one Sonics fanboy Dino Rossi:
"I proudly stood along the parade route in 1979 when the Sonics won the championship. I never wanted the Sonics to leave Seattle. Early this year, I was asked to remain silent on the proposed Key Arena renovation offer by representatives of the group of private investors so Governor Gregoire could support it without suffering political repercussions. But when I read the headline of the Oklahoman newspaper near the end of the legislative session that read 'Washington governor gives up: Official says there is no saving Sonics,' I knew we had to act and I publicly supported the public-private partnership. Still, Gregoire remained silent." - Dino Rossi
Does Rossi (a guy who openly hates the city of Seattle) really think Sonics fans are that dumb? Does he really think the working class fans of the Supersonics are going to vote for a guy who wants to lower the minimum wage just because he (supposedly) watched the '79 championship parade? Guess who else was at that parade? The Wheedle! Should we elect him for State Treasurer?

Worse, does Rossi really think Gregoire failed Sonics fans by not caving in to Clay Bennett's extortion demands? Anyone with half a brain (sorry Ho-Shu) knew from day one that Bennett had no intention of keeping the Sonics in Seattle. There is no way in high heaven Bennett would have allowed local business people to invest in "his" team.

As devastated as I was by the Sonics leaving town, I'm proud that the Governor stood up to Bennett the Bandit and told him where he could stick his $500 million dollar tax shelter. I love the Sonics more than any grown man should, but in the end, I'd rather wait a few years for a locally owned team playing in a renovated Key Arena.

Look, I know sports and politics go together like ice cream and dirt, so I have tried to keep my political views far away from Supersonicsoul (for instance, I have not once promoted my big "VOTE OR CRY" political comedy shows, next week on Nov 1st and 3rd--Be there!). I really wish S.O.S. would have done the same.

Perspective

Allow me, if you will, to drift back to Saturday night in Philadelphia, to an evening when sports jumped out of the box in which it is usually contained, and became something much, much more.

Jamie Moyer, a man more than a decade older than almost everyone else on the field that night, holds a team full of 20-somethings in check for nearly seven innings, culminating a more than 20-year quest for playoff glory.

(And, if I might point out, ponder this for a moment: Jamie Moyer, born Nov. 18, 1962, has been the poster child (man?) for older athletes for the past month or so. In fact, for the past half-decade he's been held up as a geezer. Well, think about this - Jamie Moyer is a full year younger than Barack Obama. How you like them apples?)

Anyhow, there was a moment in the sixth inning when Moyer, clearly nearing the end of his tether, is denied a strike by the home plate umpire. He receives the ball from the catcher, pauses for a moment to gather himself, toes the rubber, and leans in for the sign.

At that moment, watching on television, any person who had ever played competitive sports knew exactly what was running through his mind. "Jamie," he seemed to be thinking to himself, "focus." For more than 20 years he had been reaching for this opportunity, and he was not about to let it slip away.

At that moment, you would have had to have been made of stone (or from Tampa) not to be cheering for the man.

Later, after the game was finished and Moyer received his accolades for a job well done, I was reminded of Nate McMillan's frustrating experience as a member of the Sonics during the 1996 NBA Finals.

Like Moyer, McMillan was an immensely respected veteran player and, like Moyer, he was near the end of his career. This chance against Chicago would likely be McMillan's only chance at drinking from the championship cup.

Sadly, as all Sonic fans know, Nate's shot at glory was sidetracked by injury, and while he was able to get an ovation from the KeyArena faithful when he checked in during game three, you had to know his inability to play full out in the NBA Finals must have killed him, especially when his team lost a close fight with the Bulls in six games.

In any event, watching Moyer Saturday night reminded me again why we love sports. As much as we cheer for Moyer and as much as we cheered for McMillan, we were also cheering for ourselves, for the possibility of achieving greatness. With the Sonics leaving Seattle this year, I've grown more and more disillusioned with the NBA and pro sports in general. The continual begging for more public funds, the extortion of fans and cities, the betrayal of built-up loyalties, it's all there.

But on Saturday night, I remembered why I love following sports so much. Sometimes, beyond all the garbage, there's a beautiful moment. Thanks, Jamie, for reminding me.

Friday, October 24

Fantasy II

Looks like your trusty narrator has fouled up the log-in process for the league. Here's how it should work:

Send me an email at supersonicsoul AT hotmail.com expressing interest in joining the league. I'll email you back the Password, at which time you can click on this link, where you'll type in the league name and password. (I think I've got it right now). [UPDATE: Alas, I did not. The league ID # is 124389, which will accompany the emailed password].

[I think].

Luckily, I anticipated that I would screw this up, so we've got all of next week to get things rolling. The first game for the league doesn't start until the week of Nov. 2, so you've got the weekend and a couple of days next week to log yourselves in and adjust your pre-draft rankings.

That is all.

Fantasytasic

As my fellow Soul brothers will attest, I’m a grumpy old man, even if I haven’t reached 40 years of age.

As evidence, how many thirtysomethings do you know who: drive a Buick, don’t have a credit card, don’t like technology, have no idea how Facebook or MySpace works, don’t have a cell phone, and boil their own maple syrup.

Okay, I made the last one up (why should I boil it myself when it flows through the streets of Canada anyways?), but the rest of that sad, bizarre, grouchy list is entirely accurate.

Why do I mention this? As a segue to explain why I’m not much of a fantasy sports fanatic. Heck, I’m not even an aficionado, or a devotee.

I just never really cottoned to the idea that I have to root for someone playing against my team. If Allen Iverson’s on my fantasy team, and the Nuggets are playing the Sonics (ouch! yep, still hurts), I never could find it within myself to hope AI would score 40 points. As a result, fantasy sports and I didn’t get too close.

However, I had an epiphany this morning – suddenly, I am an NBA free agent. If I want to root for Iverson, I can, with no guilt or remorse necessary. Suddenly, I’m ready to jump on fantasy sports with all the excitement of a man discovering cable television. (And, yes, smart guy, I do have cable. I get all 18 all-hockey channels and both of the Tim Hortons channels).

With that fantasy revelation fresh in my mind, I decided we should kick start our 2008-09 SuperSonicSoul Fantasy League. As in years past, it’s open to SONIC fans from all over the world, as well as any other readers of this site who will refrain from making mocking comments about our team-less plight.

Among the special features contestants will enjoy:

-PRIZES! I’m ponying up some of my hard-earned Canadian money to provide the first-place winner with a suitable Sonic memento of days gone by.
-NOTORIETY! See your name in lights as we will weekly/monthly update notable achievements in the league on the website (updates subject to laziness).
-FREE! As with everything else associated with SuperSonicSoul, the league is free.

If you’re interested in joining, click on this link to be forwarded to the league’s home page. Yes, fellow recluses, you’ll have to get a Yahoo account to play along. Sorry, but them’s the breaks. If, for some reason, the link is not working or you have trouble getting your team registered, email me at supersonicsoul AT hotmail.com. Of note, to make sure our lazy readers have enough time to get their acts together, the kickoff to the League of Soul is Week 2 of the NBA season (i.e., games of November 2nd).

Oh, one final thing. In tribute to Sonic history, it'd be great if everyone could pick their favorite Sonic as their team name. I've already taken Nate, but Jim Farmer is still available.

Multiple Choice

Yesterday, Commissioner David Stern commented during a conference call with reporters that the NBA has made "positive contact" with a prospective ownership group led by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and that it is possible the league will return to Seattle soon. Based on that information, please answer the following multiple choice question:


Which thought runs through Mr. Stern's mind as he contemplates the reversal of fortune in Seattle, one in which a city hell-bent on opposing stadium funding has become one hell-bent upon spending $150 million on improving 10-year-old KeyArena?

A) "Egggggscellent."
B) Rubs hands together and makes evil cackling sounds.
C) "I love it when a plan comes together."
D) "Soon, it will all be mine. All of it!"

NBA Talks to Ballmer

It is becoming more and more apparent that the KeyArena remodel is not something that will go away anytime soon, regardless of the passion (or lack of) for such a project in Olympia.

Today's PI has an in-depth story detailing how the city is planning on using the Convention Center portion of the hotel-motel tax to fund the $75 million that the state government was either unwilling or unable to provide.

That's far from earth-shattering news, as the idea has been floated through all the local papers recently. What was newsworthy, though, were the comments David Stern made in a conference call.

In his first words regarding Seattle basketball since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City, Stern opined that "[the NBA has] had some positive contact" with the Steve Ballmer ownership group about the league returning to Seattle some time in the future.

How that scenario would play out, and whether it would be via expansion or swiping another city's team remains to be seen.

Wednesday, October 22

Player's Poll

You may have missed it, but nba.com has its annual poll of league GM’s up at the moment, chock full of interesting observations from the men who thought that giving max contracts to 24-year-old underachievers was a good idea.

Not found anywhere on the web but right here, though, is the NBA Players’ Association poll, with insights into what really makes the NBA the greatest league on earth for fans.

WHICH ARENA HAS THE BEST GROUPIES?
Miami – 37%
Los Angeles – 30%
Dallas – 15%
Phoenix - 10%
LeBron’s House – 8%

WHICH GENERAL MANAGER IS THE EASIEST TO TRICK?
Otis Smith – 33%
Danny Ferry – 20%
Kevin McHale – 20%
John Paxson – 15%
Isaiah Thomas – 12% (low total due to the fact he’s no longer a GM)

WHICH PLAYER WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO BE A TEAMMATE OF?
LeBron James – 99%
Brian Scalabrine – 1%
When informed he could not vote for himself, Scalabrine changed his vote to LBJ.

WHICH COACH IS MOST LIKELY TO GET A CARLESIMO THIS YEAR?
George Karl – 50%
PJ – 22%
Larry Brown – 15%
Jim O’Brien – 13%

HAMTILTONIAN FEDERALISM OR JEFFERSONIAN DEMOCRACY?
Jefferson - 60%
Hamilton - 30%
World B Freedom - 10%

WHICH PLAYER IS THE MOST OVERRATED?
Kobe Bryant – 100%

WHICH COACH WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO PLAY FOR?
Phil Jackson – 45%
Doc Rivers – 30%
Don Nelson – 15%
Mo Cheeks – 10%

WOULD YOU AGREE THAT THE DECLINING VALUE OF THE DOLLAR DUE TO INFLATIONARY PRESSURES CAUSED BY THE RECENT $700 BILLION BAILOUT MAY IN FACT WREAK GREATER HAVOC ON MIDDLE-CLASS WEALTH THAN ABSTAINING FROM THE BAILOUT WOULD HAVE?
Absolutely – 30%
Perhaps – 25%
Definitely not, as not pursuing the bailout would have rendered the credit markets impotent, and therefore would have driven the American economy to a complete and utter standstill – 45%

HOTTEST PLAYER WIFE
Eva Longoria – 55%
Vanessa Bryant – 25%
Yeliz Okur – 20%

PLAYER MOST LIKELY TO BE PRESIDENT
Shane Battier – 35%
Ray Allen – 30%
Ira Newble – 20%
Elton Brand – 15%

CHEAPEST TEAM OWNER
Donald Sterling – 98%
Micheal Gearon Jr. – 2%

(Tip to TrueHoop for the link).

Tuesday, October 21

Silver Lining

If there is a small silver lining to watching the Sonics pack up the moving vans and leave town in a cloud of dust, it's that Kevin Pelton now has more time to devote to writing about the NBA.

Case in point: Pelton's inaugural attempt at recreating baseball's PECOTA predictions in a basketball context. Naturally, he calls it SCHOENE, in honor of one Russ Schoene (and if you don't know who Russ Schoene is, why exactly are you reading this website?). He'll be investigating all the teams and divisions in the coming weeks, relying on his statistical predictions as well as his own common sense.

Sadly, there will not be any Seattle Sonic predictions this season. Happily, there will be plenty of others. Among them:

-Kevin Durant will average 23 ppg on 43% shooting
-Al Jefferson is penciled in for a 20/10 season
-TJ Ford will get 18 points and 9 dimes a night
-Shaq's ppg will be less than half what he got at age 30

Check it out.

Saturday, October 18

X in UFC

A humorous piece is up at World Hoops Blog about which current or former NBA players would be most likely to succeed at UFC. Of interest to Sonic fans is, naturally, seeing one Xavier McDaniel on the list (and, for the chance to, once again, catch a climpse of X going to town on Wes Matthews. No that does not get old AT ALL).

Leading one to wonder, naturally, which other players in Sonic history would answer the bell? I'd nominate Michael Cage (muscles; slippery, soul-glo-coated skin), Spencer Haywood (you don't think he'd be tough enough?), and, of course, Alton Lister, Shawn Kemp-embarassment notwitshtanding.

Any other nominations?

Friday, October 17

SSS Christmas List: Det

Casting likenesses out of plastic is an unenviable task. Even the best bobbleheads require the viewer to strain a bit to make out the face, but the recipient is usually good-humored enough to understand that the creator was facing a tough job.

But then there are other creations that, well, stink. Take, for example, this "likeness" of Detlef Schrempf, currently available on eBay.

Really? That was the best they could do? To begin with, I doubt Det's hair ever looked like that, even as a five-year-old in Germany. Second, it's the wrong color. Third, how hard is it to make a pasty white complexion when you're using plastic? And, finally, what's the deal with those eyebrows? Were they working on a Turkish line of dolls the day before they got to Det's, and just figured they'd save a few bucks and not adjust the eyebrows?

Which is why, friends, SuperSonicSoul is passing on the Detlef bobblehead and, instead, opting for this much classier piece. Take a look at the third row down, first painting on the left.



Because nothing says, "I have waaaaay too much money and don't know how to spend it" than dropping $2,200 on a painting of Detlef Schrempf sampling some Pinot.

Thursday, October 16

SSS HOF #9: George Karl, Part II

Coach Karl

Have you ever watched a five-year-old paint a picture?

In the beginning, the work appears, while often manic and confusing, promising. There are strokes of brilliance, a beautiful mixture of soft and hard brushes, and, at one point, it appears as if the entire project will become a smashing success.

Sadly, inevitably, the process cannibalizes itself. The five-year-old begins dumping all the paint onto the page, gets frustrated, throws things around the room, complains he wasn’t given the proper tools, and eventually walks away from the work before it is completed.

Likewise with George Karl’s various tenures as an NBA head coach.

I won’t speak to the other destinations in Karl’s version of The Odyssey, but even the heartiest defender of his time in Seattle would begrudgingly admit that it was a marriage marked more by conflict than agreement, a relationship headed for break-up almost as soon as it began.

That isn’t to say that Karl wasn’t beloved by Sonic fans – in fact, you could argue that he is more loved than any coach in team history, his off-the-cuff manner and everyman persona a hit with fans from Blaine to Walla Walla.

And yet, and yet … there was always something frustrating about the Karl Sonics. The Sonics’ first-round loss to Denver came the 2nd year of the Clinton presidency, yet it feels as raw and painful today as it did more than a decade ago.

There were numerous complaints about Karl’s team while he was in Seattle: that they lacked a competent half-court offense and that they could only operate successfully in the open floor were chief among them. (I can vividly recall hoping that Hersey Hawkins would prove to be the elusive spot-up jump shooter the Sonics needed at the 2-guard, only to see him be as mediocre as all the other players who passed through that spot. Was it Karl? Was it the dominating affect of GP in the backcourt? Hard to say.)

Still, those playoff frustrations paled in comparison to the wounds we would suffer as Sonic fans a decade later. Sure, it’s painful to get spurned by the girl you adore on the dance floor, but it’s even worse not to go at all.

Heck, in the decade after Karl left, Sonic fans didn’t even know there was a dance.

But back to the man himself. More than any other adjective stapled to his life in Seattle, George Karl was fun.

Frustrated because your team doesn’t have passion? Not when George is in town.

Want your guys to push the ball faster up the court? Gotcha.

Wish your coach would speak his mind and not talk in double-negatives and clich├ęs? Not exactly a problem with Karl.

And that’s why, with the Karl Era firmly in the rearview mirror, we can look upon it as a success from all angles. Yes, he should have nurtured his relationship with Bob Whitsitt and, more importantly, Barry Ackerly. Sure, he could have taken a page from the Chuck Knox Book of Life and played the cards he was dealt a little more happily. Naturally, a championship would have been the perfect topping to the mixed-up concoction he gave us for a half-dozen wonderful years.

But to have done that would have violated his bizarre methodology. George Karl, like that five-year-old, wasn’t one to paint by numbers. He wanted big, broad strokes and flamboyant colors, by damn, and nobody was going to tell him otherwise.

Speaking as a Sonic fan, I’m certainly glad he felt that way.

Wednesday, October 15

SSS Book Club

Perhaps you've seen or heard that Ricky Pierce has thrown his weight behind a new book project. It's a children's book entitled "Bouncing Billy," and, according to Amazon, "combining active play in an early childhood environment has never been so much fun."

Well, sure, if you limit yourself to books penned by shooting guards with a proclivity for ball-hogging, I'm sure Ricky Pierce's book is right up there with Chicka-Chicka-Boom-Boom and all the rest.

But Pierce is not alone among ex-Sonic writers, as the following covers unearthed from Amazon attest. From nutritional advice for pregnant women to a how-to book on trash talking, you can't go wrong when you turn to former Sonics for advice.







The More Things Change ...

Fantastic photo at Ball Don't Lie of Kevin Durant and PJ .... well, you just have to see it for yourself:

J.E. Skeets is soliciting captions for the picture, with the winner to run tomorrow, so get your creative juices flowing. There are a million possibilities, but my contribution would have to be:
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Carlesimo: Charlie Brown Adult Voice
Durant: Okay, so if I opt out after 2011, that makes 1,050 more days of his crap. Wait, is there a leap year next year?