Wednesday, April 30
Stern takes Seattle
Durant Named ROY
Durant's 20 ppg were apparently enough for people to justify the selection, despite the arguments from others that Al Horford of Atlanta was more deserving. We all know that Durant is the first Rookie of the Year from Seattle, but can you name the last Sonic player to make the first team of an all-rookie team?
Still waiting ...
Okay, now that you're back from looking at basketball-reference.com, you know the answer is:
McKey was joined on that squad by Armon Gilliam, Mark Jackson, Greg "Cadillac" Anderson, and Kenny Smith.
Yep, Armon Gilliam. Holy cow, that was a looooooong time ago. Other first-team all-rookie team members include Bob Rule, Al Tucker, Art Harris, Tom Burleson (!), Jack Sikma, and Xavier McDaniel.
SEATTLE SuperSonics highlights on ESPN.com
Also, in case you missed it, we posted the winning LOLSonics pics yesterday. Check it out!
Tuesday, April 29
How Ya Like Me Now?
Actually, come to think of it, you probably didn’t notice. With eight simultaneous playoff series it is difficult to focus upon all of them, and such anonymous clashes as Orlando-Toronto always seem to fade away.
The only news emanating from the series involves Dwight Howard, who lived up to his Superman nickname by rattling off three separate 20-20 performances in a command performance worthy of Moses Malone. In addition, Jameer Nelson leapt from mediocrity to acclaim, with one reporter going so far as to dub him the “story of the series.”
Not surprisingly, Rashard Lewis was the invisible man. Since readers here are Sonics fans, and since Lewis plied his trade here for one of the longest tenures in team history, I thought you’d be interested to see how Rashard did for his new team.
After a slow start in the first three games, Lewis exploded in the final two, posting 27 points and 18 rebounds in a game four win followed by 18 and 13 in the finale.
It was the rebounding which was most surprising; Lewis only made it to double figures twice all year in rebounds, so the fact he equaled that number in consecutive games is impressive.
Equally impressive are his +/- figures. Shown by game:
Game 1: +19
Game 2: +11
Game 3: -17
Game 4: +14
Game 5: +12
In a series Orlando won by a combined margin of 19 points, Lewis finished at plus 39, a difference of 20 points. Considering Lewis averaged 42 minutes a night, that’s a considerable difference.
Admittedly, Rashard’s outside shot was less than impressive, with a 42% success rate from the field, and his 0-for-9 performance from long distance in game two certainly didn’t help the cause.
Still, Lewis’ team prevailed and he played a key role on it. Granted, it’s only one playoff series, and the Magic weren’t exactly matched up against the 1983 Sixers, but a playoff win is a playoff win.
So, to those critics of Rashard, who say he 1) can’t rebound and 2) can’t play in the clutch, consider this: He just did both.
LOLSonics: We has winners!
We received dozens of entries for our LOLSonics Contest, and to my surprise, none of them sucked! They were so good, in fact, that it was almost impossible to choose a winner. In the end, I went with Ed Miller's "LOLCarlesimo" just because it made me literally laugh out loud. There were a lot of other great entries that could have easily won, so I've made some special awards for them as well.
Click below to see the rest of the winning pictures:
BEST USE OF NERD LINGO: Camp Jones
BEST LOL LANGUAGE USAGE: Ed Miller
Monday, April 28
Stern to Testify?
In what the lead lawyer from the City of Seattle called "a success," Federal Judge Loretta Preska ruled Monday that the NBA must turn over relevant financial documents pertaining to the relocation of the Sonics to Oklahoma City, and that David Stern may be called upon to testify in the future, depending upon the answers received from other witnesses.
In other words, if you're David Stern, do not book non-refundable tickets in June, because you could very well be headed for a Seattle court.
Make your own wacky LOLCATS picture featuring the Sonics (you can use this great online tool) and send it to us. We'll pick our favorites and post them tomorrow (and maybe send you some Sonics swag if I can drag my ass to the post office).
Friday, April 25
More Email Fodder
“[The concept Maureen Coyle] has put forth is excellent, but it does presuppose expansion which I don’t think is in the cards. Thirty is the right number for many reasons and with instability in Memphis, Atlanta, Charlotte, Sacramento and with Las Vegas, Anaheim, San Jose, Nashville and others in play, not to mention the China expansion, there is a lot to work on.”Obviously, Bennett is not solely responsible for doling out expansion franchises, so his opinion his just that, his opinion.
That said, it is a learned opinion (hey, you in the back, quick guffawing). Learned in that he has talked to David Stern about this subject as much or more often than just about anyone on this planet.
Why do I bring this up? Because Clay Bennett sat in front of a packed news conference a week ago today and completely contradicted everything he said in that email. Bennett stated (and I wish I had the transcript to quote him, but I will be relying upon memory here) that his willingness to leave the colors and name in Seattle was NOT a throwaway gesture on his part at all, despite what the media had argued previously. In fact, of all of his comments from that day, he seemed to increase his indignance level up the highest when asked about the subject.
Well, is that true at all? Considering that, first, Bennett and his people seem intent on re-branding the Sonics when they arrive in Oklahoma City, and, second, holding out hope for an expansion is as useful as looking for oceanfront property in Tulsa, is there any inherent value in the promise to keep the Sonics’ name and colors?
Sadly, no. Just like every other promise we have heard from Bennett & Stern Snake Oil Inc. for the past twelve months, it’s not worth a whole lot.
Anyone? Have we already forgotten the seminal work of twentieth century investigative reporting? Richard Nixon ring a bell?
Well, for those of you who either have forgotten that era, are too young, or never paid attention in social studies class, the book can be summed up in one sentence:
What did he know, and when did he know it.
That is to say, what did Richard Nixon know about the break-in at Watergate and when did he know it.
I bring this up, because I believe that chilling sentence can be applied to David Stern, at least in relation to the ongoing saga involving Clay Bennett’s premature attempts at relocation.
What did David Stern know, and when did he know it.
Recent emails demonstrate that Bennett’s partners, Tom Ward and Aubrey McClendon, had more than a passing interest in moving the team to Oklahoma City. That, of course, is news to no one, especially in light of McClendon’s comments last August.
However, what is newsworthy is Bennett’s premature fixation on moving the team, especially in light of the fact that he had purchased the team with a “good faith” clause that obligated him to put forth every effort for the period of 12 months to keep the team here.
This is where Stern enters the picture. On April 23, 2007, Bennett emailed Joel Litvin, President of League and Basketball Operations for the NBA, making the comment that the attempt to deliver a new arena to Seattle had essentially failed and that Oklahoma City was now be the best-case scenario. Bennett took great lengths to assuage any fears Litvin – and, tangentially, the NBA - would have regarding Oklahoma City’s market size, commenting that his hometown could “deliver a viable business operation and commitment to competitive teams.”
That email to Litvin preceded by four months the furor which arose when McClendon commented to an Oklahoma reporter that “we didn't buy the team to keep it in Seattle, we hoped to come here.” McClendon’s comments caused an email exchange between Stern and Bennett, with Bennett slobbering like a cheating wife to her cuckolded husband, explaining ad nauseum that McClendon’s statement was untrue, that his ownership group was committed to getting a solution in Seattle.
Stern responded to Bennett’s email by stating, “I have been acting on the premise that everything you say about aubrey [sic] and your efforts is true—well before you said them.”
Step back from that statement for a moment. Surely, Joel Litvin and David Stern talk on a frequent basis, and surely at some point between April 23 and August 13, the two discussed Bennett’s comments to Litvin, meaning Stern’s supposed naiveté about Bennett’s aborted efforts to get a new arena were just that, supposed.
Read Stern’s email closely – does that sound like the words of a man speaking to an audience of one, or the words of a man speaking to a future audience of thousands, if not millions, of readers? Unlike the infantile Bennett, Stern clearly knew emails reappear like call girls in an election campaign, and his carefully chosen words illustrate this. His “on the premise” utterance attempts to make it clear to his future audience that he believed Bennett was still trying to make every effort to make the Sonics work in Seattle.
But is, or was, that really the case? Did Stern truly believe that? Or is he trying to have it both ways – fidelity to Seattle from side of his mouth, fidelity to Bennett out of the other?
I am beginning to believe that David Stern will not hesitate to throw Clay Bennett under the bus, if and when it comes to that point. Consider that on August 13th Joel Litvin was already investigating whether Bennett and his partners were in violation of the “good faith” aspect of their contract, an investigation Stern would have no doubt been apprised of daily, if not hourly. Therefore, his August 18th email to Bennett, partially quoted above, becomes even more curious, in that he professes to believe Bennett was doing everything he could to keep the team in Seattle. If Stern believed that, why was simultaneously investigating Bennett’s lack of “good faith?”
I am not sure how this saga will finish, nor is anyone else. I am sure, however, that the city’s dogged pursuit of the white whale in this adventure, David Stern, must proceed, despite the NBA’s repeated efforts to keep Stern from the witness stand.
Either today or Monday, an answer will come from the courts determining if Stern will be forced to testify, or if Litvin’s testimony will be sufficient. If the judge should rule in the city’s favor, and Stern is compelled to swear an oath, this case, already riveting, will be become more riveting still.
Because then, and only then, will we know what David Stern knew, and when he knew it.
Thursday, April 24
supersonicsoultoon: Ranger Howie
So maybe Schultz looks more like a Mountie than a forest ranger. I must have been influenced by Pete's Canadian brainwaves. Especially since he came up with the idea for this one! Add "Art Director" to your job title, Pedro.
PS: For the background on this cartoon, read this article in the Seattle Times.
Wednesday, April 23
In an email written by Clay Bennett just two days before the sale, Mr. Bennett confided to his co-owners that he was comfortable with the Purchase Agreement’s good faith provision because, in the event a Seattle arena deal could be negotiated, the Oklahoma City group could simply sell the team in a “sweet flip,” and leave Seattle, and the Oklahoma City group “would still be in good shape for something in OKC.Unbelievable. Again, unbelievable.
How about we take a turn at playing “Guess David Stern’s Reaction!”.
1 – “The commissioner does not comment upon ongoing legal proceedings.”
2 – “I have not studied the emails, so I can not comment on them.”
3 – “Crap.”
Personally, I have always believed, and Stern mentioned this at one point if I am not mistaken, that the league was hopeful that an out-of-town owner would be more likely to persuade the city and/or state to cough up some money for KeyArena, inasmuch as out-of-town ownership holds a heavier sword over the neck of the local politicos than local ownership. Therefore, Bennett’s Oklahoma City ties would likely work in the league’s favor by prompting the local government to give in under threat of relocation.
But that’s where the plan went sideways. As Schultz’ lawsuit alleges, it appears that Bennett and his group had no plan at any time to keep the team here. It is entirely possible that Bennett not only defrauded Schultz, but Stern as well. As much as I despise Stern – and that’s a great, big bundle of despise – I do not believe he would be happier with a team in Oklahoma City than Seattle. While he would be willing to accept the relocation in the light of keeping the extortion threat alive for other teams in other cities, in a perfect world he would rather the team stayed in the larger city. It’s just common sense.
However, perhaps Stern was fooled by Bennett. We’ve already witnessed how owners such as Larry Miller in Utah were completely unaware of the situation in Seattle, and how their only information came from Bennett’s mouth. Well, perhaps Stern was acting similarly. We already know he’s a pompous and arrogant man who despises this city and its politicians. Is it that much of a stretch to think that he just disregarded everything coming from the Seattle media and websites such as SonicsCentral and relied on the information Bennett was providing to him?
If so, at what point does Stern cut his losses with these Okies? How many more emails need to be unveiled? How close to his deposition date, when he will be confronted on these emails? He’s not going to be able to cut off the prosecutor with the same petty reasoning he did at the press conference last Friday, he will have to answer questions he doesn’t want to answer.
I don’t know the answer to those questions, but Clay Bennett may be having some very interesting conversations with the NBA’s offices in New York in the next few weeks.
It’s about damned time.
Tuesday, April 22
It's written by some guy named Nussbaum. He sounds like a hack to me.
Most of the time, these “experts” used statistics, previous encounters, injuries, and all that “complicated” stuff that “regular” people like us have no way of understanding.
I mean, seriously, does anyone actually understand offensive efficiency? If John Hollinger says something like, “The Spurs’ Offensive Rebounding PER of 13.8 is the highest since the Lakers’ mark of 14.1 in 1987” would you have any idea what the hell he’s talking about? Sure, “math” is interesting and all, but does it measure “heart,” or “hustle,” or little thing called “desire?” I think not.
Well, I think there’s a better way of studying this, and, so far, it’s completely, 100% accurate. I call it the FSF – the Former Sonic Factor.
I first contemplated this before the playoffs started, but thought it too revolutionary for the masses. People weren’t ready for the truth, they needed to be eased into it. So, with a portion of the first round completed, and my prediction method now established with unassailable credentials, I’m ready to lay it on you. FSF is not complicated and requires very little math; certainly no math you would have learned after second grade. Herewith, the number of former Sonics per team, and how those teams are faring in the playoffs:
BOSTON (1) Ray Allen vs ATLANTA (0)
Celtics lead series 1-0
PHILLY (3) Calvin Booth, Reggie Evans, Kevin Ollie vs DETROIT (0)
Sixers lead series 1-0
ORLANDO (1) Rashard Lewis vs TORONTO (0)
Magic lead series 1-0
CLEVELAND (3) Eric Snow, Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West vs WASHINGTON (1) Antonio Daniels
Cavs lead series 2-0
S.A. (2) Brent Barry, Kurt Thomas vs PHOENIX (0)
Spurs lead series 1-0
L.A. (1) Vladimir Radmanovic vs DENVER (0)
Lakers lead series 1-0
NEW ORLEANS (0) vs DALLAS (0)
Hornets lead series 1-0
UTAH (0) vs HOUSTON (0)
Jazz lead series 2-0
It’s obvious, isn’t it? Of the eight playoff series, six of them include a team with a higher FSF. In all six of those series, the team with the higher FSF leads the series!
How much does Detroit regret sending Flip Murray to the Pacers now? Do you think Steve Kerr is even more pissed that Brent Barry signed with the Spurs rather than his Suns?
Of course, the obvious question is, how does Round Two shape up? Well, things get a little hairy, since the FSF system predicts Cleveland knocking off Boston and Philly topping Orlando. In the west, you have the Lakers over Utah and San Antonio over New Orleans/Dallas.
All of which sets up Cleveland beating Philly (note: in the case of two teams having an equal FSF, the team with the best overall player is declared the winner; the rule is known as Don’t Be a Dumbass Corollary) and San Antonio topping the Lakers, giving us the Spurs against the Cavs for the NBA title. This time around, Cleveland wins the rematch from last year as ABC executives impale themselves with blunt objects.
Gorton Talking Compromise
Obviously, Slade Gorton is not a fool, and if he senses that David Stern would be willing to commit a future expansion team to Seattle in exchange for a new and/or remodeled arena, he feels it is worth pursuing that option.
Kudos to Gorton for having the dignity not to take Stern's ridiculous insults personally, and for looking at the big picture. Personally, I think the favored options for Sonics fans would be, in descending order:
1. The current team stays, we keep Durant, Green, et al, Bennett sells at a loss to Steve Ballmer and rides back to Oklahoma City with his tail between his legs.
2. The current team leaves for Oklahoma City, Seattle gets an expansion team.
3. The current team leaves, we steal a team from another city.
4. The current team leaves after two years in Pacific Northwest Purgatory. We get neither a replacement nor an expansion team.
It's easy to say, "this team or nothing," and a large part of me wants to say that, simply because of the disgraceful way the NBA has acted. Another part of me, a much smaller part, admits that any team is better than no team.
And, remember, if the "Sonics" move to Oklahoma City, won't that give us at least one game a year where we can boo the living heck out of a visiting team? Can you imagine a greater scenario than screaming "Oklahoma Sucks!" at the top of your lungs while the NewSonics beat the OldSonics?
Something to think about, anyway.
Monday, April 21
Stern Gets Punked
Basically, it involves Mitch Levy and David Stern, with Stern opining about how wonderful the brand-new KeyArena is. Funny how 13 years can change things.
[Edit: Credit should go to "camhusky," who found the video. It's rare to be able to find something which illustrates your point so effectively, and rarer still to find a blowhard such as Stern being hoisted so completely on his own petard. As camhusky writes at the YouTube link, "I post this video to show fans in Oklahoma that what David Stern and Clay Bennett are saying now, about how wonderful the Ford Center will be with a remodel, in 10-12 years' time, they'll be coming after you. Just like in Seattle, that remodel will not be good enough anymore. You're going to have to go through it all over again. And if you say, "enough!", you will probably lose your team too." Good job, cam!]
Fans No More?
Admittedly, and regrettably, yours truly has done his fair share of this. To be honest, this is an emotional issue for all of us, and emotional issues tend to produce venom from even the friendliest snakes.
But one particular aspect I’ve heard repeatedly is the one from local fans works along these lines, “If the Sonics leave, I’m done with the NBA.”
That’s a jarring statement to make, considering how important following basketball is to Sonic fans. Yes, we’re Sonic fans, but we’re also basketball fans. It’s not as though as soon as the regular season ended we gave up on watching hoops. With the staggering Western Conference matchups in the first round this season, you can’t help but watch, right?
Is this really an honest assessment, that you’d go cold turkey on the NBA if the Sonics headed off to Oklahoma City?
Having lived in three states and one province in the past 15 years, I think I have a different perspective than someone who has spent his entire life in the Northwest. While I love the Sonics, I’ve moved around enough to have spent times in my life where I couldn’t easily access information on the team. During those periods, I’ve learned to broaden my horizons a bit, and pick up information on whatever the local media was providing (except hockey; a man has to have his principles). I’m not going to say I’m better than someone who has never moved away, but it’s just a fact of life that it’s not as easy to follow the Sonics in Los Angeles or Vancouver as it is in Seattle.
So, rabid Sonic fan reading this site today: How angry are you? Are you truly willing to cast off the league that gave your memory Kareem’s skyhook, the Iceman’s finger rolls, and Dominique’s 360s? Can you really say that if the Sonics were already gone that you’d pass up the chance to watch Phoenix and San Antonio battle this spring?
Enlighten us, Sonic fans. How angry are you?
Saturday, April 19
Option one is the one proposed by Mayor Greg Nickels. Essentially, it is to litigate the situation to buy time for the city to come up with an adequate (to the NBA) arena. Considering his bag already contains $150 million from Steve Ballmer & Co. and $75 million from his own city, he is 75% of the way there already. While it is difficult to find ways to come up with $75 million in a time span of one month, it is not difficult to find ways to obtain that much money in the time span of two years. Is $300 million the true cost of the arena redevelopment? Of course not, these estimates are always far short of reality, but that is not the point. The $120 million for the Ford Center redesign is a pie-in-the-sky figure as well, as is the money being trotted out for the new arena in Orlando. The key element to this option is the availability of funding, not only for the arena, but for the team itself.
Option two is the one proposed by Ron Sims, Pete von Reichbauer, and the NBA. Essentially, it entails the city engaging in settlement talks with Clay Bennett for the remaining two years of the lease. In this situation, the city would lose the team, receive somewhere in the ballpark of $50 million, and then hope that David Stern can convince another owner in another city to extort that city's taxpayers.
In other words, we would pull a Bennett.
Let's be honest, another expansion team is extremely unlikely at this point, as David Stern himself has stated on numerous occasions. If the city were to surrender the Sonics to Bennett, the only way for we as fans to obtain a new team would be to pull the same garbage on another city which Oklahoma City is currently pulling on us (and, yes, OKC, your hands are absolutely bloody in this mess; Clay Bennett may have ordered the hit, but you carried it out).
So, we have two options: first, hold our ground and wait for Bennett to cave, or, second, cave in and hope that we can screw over another city.
In the meantime, option one costs the city $75 million in exchange for a completely refurbished KeyArena. Option two nets the city something in the neighborhood of $50 million, an improvement of $125 million, but costs us $150 million in lost income from the Group of Four.
I'm sorry, but I can't see how anyone could go for option two.
Unless, of course, you happened to be a man possessed.
Friday, April 18
Press Conference Recaps
1. David Stern tried very hard to play the role of Regretful Leader before the press, but his animosity towards the Northwest is very evident. His description of Slade Gorton’s efforts to keep the team in Seattle as a “scorched earth policy” was illustrative of how he views the proceedings. At another point, he described his interpretation of the way the pro-Sonic faction in Seattle acted towards himself as “We’re gonna kill you” if you try and take our team.
2. Stern also wound himself up to avoid answering Chris Daniels’ questions regarding the emails. Much has been made of Stern’s lack of analysis of these emails, especially in regard to the fact that Clay Bennett was less than forthcoming about his group’s discussions of the team relocating to Oklahoma City. In a previous press conference, Stern claimed he had not studied the emails and was therefore in no position to comment upon them. Daniels pressed Stern today to see if he had managed to find the time to study them yet, but Stern dodged the question, and when Daniels attempted to redirect him towards an answer, Stern angrily cut him off, commenting, “Live or not, I am not going to be interrupted. I did not interrupt you when you were speaking. Let us proceed to another question.” Considering the vital nature of those emails, it is disappointing that Stern would hide behind petty rules of etiquette to avoid answering the question.
3. Stern also would not rule out a return to Seattle at some future date (“I never say never”), but indicated it would be unlikely given the current situation.
4. The meatiest part of the conference was, obviously, Clay Bennett’s attempt to clear up any “misunderstanding” of the emails he exchanged with partners Tom Ward and Aubrey McClendon in April of 2007. In those emails, as you all know, Bennett stated, and I quote:
"I am a man possessed! Will do everything we can. Thanks for hanging with me boys, the game is getting started."
This was written in response to Ward’s email, in which he wrote:
“Is there any way to move here [Oklahoma City] for next season [2007-08] or are we doomed to have another lame duck season in Seattle?”
Incredibly, Bennett said the intent of his email was completely opposite of what the press and the public interpreted it to be. “That exchange took place after the bill died in committee,” Bennett said, referring to the failed proposal in Olympia for a new arena in Renton. “When I said I was a man possessed, I meant I was a man possessed to get this done in Seattle.”
Obviously, Bennett’s comments defy logic, especially when you consider the response Ward wrote to Clay after his “man possessed” statement. To wit:
“That’s the spirit!! I am willing to help any way I can to watch ball here next year [emphasis added].”
So, apparently, not only were the public and the press “misinformed,” but Bennett’s partners as well, as they obviously interpreted his claim of doing anything he could to mean doing anything he could to get the team in Oklahoma City.
5. Even more curious, Bennett admitted that, “Aubrey and Tom wanted a team to be in Oklahoma City all along, but that it was not to be the Sonics.” He went on to say that, “They were behind me every step of the way.”
Huh? I know, it sidesteps any pretense of logic. Why would Ward and McClendon be interested in giving their money to buy a team they could never watch? If they really wanted a team in Oklahoma City, why would they “be behind [Clay] every step of the way” as he tried to keep the team in Seattle?
There was much, much more to get from the press conference, but I honestly couldn’t watch the entire conference due to work constraints. I’ll leave it to the reporters on the scene to fill in the blanks.
The final vote was 28-2, with only Mark Cuban and Paul Allen (via proxy) voting against the move.
Supersonicsoultoon: Behind the Scenes at the NBA Owners Meeting
Press Conference Televised
Of note, the press conference will be broadcast on both NBA TV as well as nba.com. Stay tuned; if we find a link we'll throw it up on the site.
However, being that Clay Bennett and David Stern will be giving the conference, it might be considered NSFW.
UPDATE: Press conference has been delayed until no earlier than 12 pm Seattle time. Apparently, Clay and David still had some things to do.
It is now just after noon in New York City, and while the owners of 30 NBA teams lunch on whatever millionaires and billionaires lunch on (caviar? $100 bills?), the fate of the Seattle SuperSonics, somewhat, hangs in the balance.
I say somewhat because, as we all know, that fate will be more concretely decided in mid-June during the court case between the team and the city.
But today’s vote will be interesting nonetheless. A number of possibilities await, among them:
-A unanimous or near-unanimous vote of YES to relocation (most likely)
-A vote of YES, with a condition attached related to the outcome of the trial (equally likely)
-A postponement of the vote (less likely)
-A NO vote (as likely as the three of us attending Karl Malone’s Hall of Fame induction)
Somewhere in between all of those options is the reality. In a numbers game, how many votes will Seattle get? Mark Cuban seems to be likely to say no, Paul Allen has been reported as leaning towards abstaining (way to take a stand, big fella), and the rest are seemingly on side with David Stern and Clay Bennett.
I’m putting the over/under on NO votes at 3. Feel free to chime in with your expectations.
UPDATE: Eric Williams at the TNT notes in his blog that the owners will be giving a press conference shortly, indicating the vote has already been held.
Sene Out for Next Season
The Senegalese center made great strides in the D-League this season, but that achievement has been tainted with news late yesterday that he underwent microfracture surgery on Monday, the same surgery which sabotaged Greg Oden's chances at glory this season.
Sene was already under the knife for a tear in his right knee when doctors found out about the additional injury.
Thursday, April 17
1. Scott Perry will not return as the Sonics' Asst. General Manager next year, having taken a position with Detroit Pistons, from whence he came to the Sonics a year ago. Perry is expected to be named the VP of Basketball Operations for the Pistons.
2. Gary Washburn reports in the PI that Sam Presti failed to confirm - not once, but twice - that PJ Carlesimo will return as the Sonics' head coach next season. I'll allow you to read Washburn's piece to get the rest of the story, but the bigger question is, Does it mean anything?
Perhaps not. After all, Carlesimo is a big enough boy to be able to withstand a few days or weeks of uncertainty, so it's not as though he'll be anxiously awaiting every text message and phone call he receives in the next little while.
On the other hand, Presti can't be terribly enthused with how the season went, especially the way in which the team seemed to tune out their coach and go on early vacation in numerous games in the second half of the season.
The franchise's utter lack of certainty in any aspect of its existence has more than a little to do with that, of course, but shouldn't Carlesimo's avowed dedication to defense shown up on the court at some point this year?
Luckily for PJ, both Kevin Durant and Jeff Green showed improvement in their games as the season went on, for if those two keys to the team's future failed to show any increase in skills after 82 games under Carlesimo, then that might have been it for the long-time assistant.
One other aspect to consider, naturally, is Gary Washburn's obvious disdain for the entire situation. It's only human nature to grow weary of a lousy situation, and covering the Sonics this year was a lousy situation no matter how you looked at it. GW, perhaps inheriting the Bitter Baron title from the since-departed Frank Hughes at the TNT, seemed to take the Sonics' failures down the stretch more than a little too close to heart, and his frustration at the season may have played a role in the quotes he obtained.
Bennett on the Attack
No matter your opinion on the ongoing saga between Clay Bennett, David Stern, and the City of Seattle, you cannot disagree with the sentiment that this situation has become much, much more difficult than either of the first two parties anticipated.
Whether you believe Seattle is reaping the fruits of years of ignoring the “problems” with the KeyArena lease, or if you believe Bennett is fully within his rights to pick up and move the Sonics, you must also believe that Clay Bennett – and David Stern right alongside him - is sweating bullets these days.
How can I be so sure? Because people who are convinced they are going to win court cases do not start slinging wild accusations in federal court, that’s why.
Bennett’s lawyers filed motions in Federal District Court on Wednesday, a number of which are sealed at the present time, but the motions in essence question the integrity of the City of Seattle, whether the city truly is revealing the true cost of the remodeling of KeyArena, and whether there is collusion between the proposed ownership group and the city. (You can find the a PDF links here).
Looking at the documents, you can only come to one conclusion – this entire situation is going to give the National Basketball Association a black eye unlike anything it has ever seen. Already, months before the court date, acrimonious charges are being bandied about, by both sides. From the city:
“When the current owners bought the Sonics, the NBA required ... that the new owners make ‘good faith best efforts’ for a year to keep the Sonics in the Seattle area. ... In the midst of the ‘good faith best efforts’ period, the owners deceived the NBA about their actions and true intentions, which from the outset were to move the Sonics to Oklahoma City. As an apparent result of this deception, the NBA began taking the new owners’ side by endorsing their claims about the Lease and KeyArena.”and
“The NBA refuses to produce responsive documents [the city was referring to financial records pertaining to profit and loss] ... The NBA cannot involve itself in the events underlying the litigation and simultaneously refuse to provide necessary discovery.”And on and on. Further, reading Mayor Greg Nickels’ deposition, and the adversarial tone taken by Bennett’s attorney, you can only imagine how the events will proceed in court, when Slade Gorton and his crew get the opportunity to cross-examine Clay Bennett and David Stern.
Nope, Brian Robinson was right all along – the NBA doesn’t want anything to do with a court case, and the city – as well as the rest of us, now – knows it.
Sonics Win! Off-Season Awaits
According to Eric Williams in the TNT, Durant's grandmother, Barbara Williams, was in attendance last night, and, "Every time she comes to the game, I feel like I’ve got to do something special because she rarely gets to see me play."
That something special translated into a 42-point, 13-rebound performance in a rare Sonic road win, this time over the Golden State Warriors in a game with absolutely no significance whatsoever, unless you consider the last game in Sonic history to be significant, that is.
Even more amazing was his 18-of-25 (!) performance from the field and six dimes, easily his best all-around performance of the season.
Jeff Green shined in a secondary role, and added 27 points and 10 rebounds, in what turned out to be what must be one of the best rookie performances in NBA history.
So, now we wait for Friday, when the Board of Governors meets to decide what to do with the Sonics' future. Honestly, I'm not all that concerned with their decision, in that it pales in significance to the decision handed down this June in a Seattle courtroom, let alone the decision rendered in Ho Shu's (kudos to Paul for the nickname) case against Clay Bennett.
And, if you're desperate for a laugh, visit the Daily Oklahoman, where Clay Bennett's minions try to explain how the City of Seattle is in collusion with Steve Ballmer and the Group of Four in an attempt to drive down the price of the team and facilitate a sale.
Yeah, that's right, Clay, we're all out to get you. It doesn't have anything to do with the craptacular way you've gone about your business for the past year and a half.
Wednesday, April 16
A Long and Winding Road
Tonight may be the last game ever played by the Seattle SuperSonics, and nobody - absolutely nobody – is talking about the game.
The X-Man. Haywood. Lenny. Gus. DJ. Scheff. Vinny Askew. Clem Johnson. Dana Barros. Sam. Rashard.
All gone – possibly - after tonight.
Of course, that is far from a certainty. In fact, it’s about as likely as David Stern donating his next paycheck to Hamas, but it is certainly possible.
One game left, one more time to hear, “And here’s the starting lineup for Seattle tonight ...” One final time to read a boxscore in the morning paper, one last time to check the standings.
Well, that aspect of following the Sonics left town a few months, if not years ago, but you get my drift.
Being a fan is more than celebrating the championships, it is following the day to day progress of young players, the possibilities of trades, the draft, the injuries.
Being a fan is remembering how Gus Williams tied his shoes, or the way Xavier McDaniel took a fadeaway jumper, or grimacing at Detlef Schrempf’s mullet, or marvelling at Gary Payton’s ability to run backwards, tilt his head to the side, and talk smack.
All of that goes into it. We remember the beautiful times of the early 90s when Shawn Kemp reigned supreme and anything was possible, or the ugly times of the past few years. It all goes into being a Sonic fan.
And, tonight, it might all just end.
Sonics. Warriors. Tip-off at 7:30.
Let’s hope it won’t be the last.
Cantwell, Murray On Board
- 70% of respondents in an espn.com poll thought the Sonics should stay in Seattle
- The overwhelming majority of NBA fanblogs across the country think the Sonics should stay in Seattle
- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is willing to contribute his considerable wealth to keep the Sonics in Seattle
- The Mayor and City Council want the Sonics to stay in Seattle
- US Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell want the Sonics to stay in Seattle
So, Mr. Stern, still feeling pretty good about your decision to relocate the Sonics?
All facetiousness aside, at what point does Stern admit he has made a mistake? When photos of Clay Bennett giving a deposit to a moving company emerge? When incriminating emails between Stern and Bennett come to light? Ever?
Folks, Murray and Cantwell have been as inconspicuous as Rashard Lewis on defense in the past few months and the fact those two have throw their weight behind this situation only further illustrates how pathetic the Stern & Bennett camp is beginning to look.
ESPN buries Sonics story--Are they bowing to NBA?
This is pure speculation of course, but do you think the NBA has been putting pressure on ESPN (who has broadcast rights to the NBA) to bury any pro-Seattle Sonics stories? Judging by the lack of front-page stories about Bennett's e-mails and the Schultz lawsuit, it sure seems to be the case.
Sonics in the News
At the moment, you can:
1. Vote for Seattle instead of OKC for the Sonics' home next year at espn.com (Sonics leading 70% to 30% thus far)
2. Read about how Jazz fans want to Save the Sonics at basketballjohn.com (yes, you read that right, the franchise of Stockton and Malone is on our side!)
3. With Malice showing support from Japan.
4. Third Quarter Collapse is backing the Sonics, and he has the photo to prove it.
5. South Florida, who jumped on the bandwagon sooner than just about anyone, is still there for the Sonics.
6. The Next Round with a list of why the Sonics are leaving, including a backhanded dig at OKC.
7. Canada lends a maple syrupy hand to help as well.
8. Christopher Cason at Bull Riding feels the pain of Sonic fans.
9. Henry Abbott at True Hoop, as always, throws support to Seattle.
10. Cav fans - and those are some fans who know pain - are putting together a petition to Save the Sonics.
There are dozens of more sites out there trumpeting the cause, the most important being, of course, SonicsCentral, which has spearheaded this effort from the beginning. Thanks to everyone who is keeping this story at the front of everyone's mind.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: David Stern and Clay Bennett want this story to disappear. You can keep that from happening!
Friday, Friday, FRIDAY
Considering that only 16 of the 30 owners are required for approval, it would be extremely unlikely that a majority of 30 extremely wealthy people would find it in their hearts to side with fans over other extremely wealthy people.
In other news, Mayor Nickels and Gov. Gregoire sent out competing press releases to the NBA yesterday, Nickels refusing to sign the governor's missive because it failed to pledge any money towards the KeyArena renovation.
Stay tuned, as always, because you never know when the city is going to release more Clay Bennett emails.
Tuesday, April 15
The Bell is Ringing
Perhaps you are asking yourself, why is this site referencing a devotion written by a 16th century metaphysical poet? Have Sonic fans completely abandoned all hope of retaining their team and turned to meditation? Can we now expect essays on the proper use of crystals?
I’ll tell you why: Because what is happening to the Sonics in Seattle is happening – on another level – to all NBA teams in all NBA cities.
In New Orleans, where a city bludgeoned by unspeakable tragedy is paying $7.5 million a season in taxpayer money to keep the Hornets from fleeing. You read that right. The Hornets, a team owned by a man, George Shinn, whose net worth of $100 million neglects to include his $275 million basketball team, receives nearly $8 million every year from the people of New Orleans.
While David Stern was painting elementary schools during all-star weekend festivities to show how much he cared about New Orleans, one of his bosses, Shinn, was milking those same children’s families for enough money to easily build a hundred new houses in the hurricane-ravaged city. In addition, the Hornets train in a “practice facility” in the midst of an $8.5 million renovation – none of which came from Shinn’s pockets. Further, that facility has been called a “temporary solution” by the Hornets, and they are clamoring for a better (read, more expensive) practice facility, so that they may better entice free agents to relocate to the Crescent City.
It is happening in San Antonio, where the model of success for the NBA, the Spurs, turns around and asks the city for more concessions and more money, less than five years after receiving a brand-new building, the same building they received because the brand-new building they received in 1993, the Alamodome, was obsolete within a decade.
It is happening in Brooklyn, where the subsidy figure for the Nets’ Atlantic Yards project has now reached the $2 billion mark, and shows no sign of stopping.
All of this has been occurring while America is in on the verge of entering (if it has not already entered) a tremendous recession, one which will negatively impact: 1) the financial wherewithal of the 30 owners of NBA teams and 2) the fans who spend their disposable income on those teams.
And yet, we continue to fork more money over, gladly building new arenas in places such as Orlando, a city which received a new team and a new arena fewer than 20 years ago, a “new arena” which apparently is now obsolete, like so many other edifices the NBA has left in its wake, even though the money to pay for the new arena is apparently already in question.
My point in all this rambling, you ask? This: That NBA fandom has an opportunity to finally punch back after being knocked around by the moneyed elite who have been bullying us for the past 25 years. Unlike all previous encounters between the league and its fans, it is the fans with the upper hand in this situation. The Sonics’ owners and David Stern have seen a local story grow into a national one, and they are faced with the chilling prospect of entering into a court battle this June, one which will undoubtedly reveal skeletons in closets Stern & Co. do not wish you to see. Further, the owners of the Sonics are unquestionably concerned about losing the case and facing an additional two money-losing seasons in Seattle.
Those are the facts at hand, and those are the facts NBA fans need to keep telling themselves as the weeks unfold. Do not listen to the experts on television, who have studied this issue about as much as they’ve studied British naval history, tell you that the Sonics are as good as gone – they are not. When you see a story about the Sonics on espn.com or si.com or wherever you get your news, click on it. The mere fact of clicking on a story tells the keepers of the information that their audience is interested and just keeping this story at the fingertips of the national sports scene is essential at this point.
A solid opportunity to reach the commissioner will present itself Wednesday morning when Stern appears on the Mike & Mike show. While he will do his best to avoid making any comments, flooding the hosts’ email with questions about this situation is a solid idea. You can reach their email via this link. Take five minutes of your day and send a question for Stern to them.
In the end, David Stern and Clay Bennett share one goal: Making this story disappear. You, as readers, as bloggers, as whomever, have an opportunity to thwart that goal. Talk about it on your local radio call-in shows, write about it on your websites, read about it on the web, just keep it on the front burner.
As the marvelous Tim Keown pointed out in a recent ESPN column, “Someone has to have the worst arena in the NBA.” If the Sonics are successful in getting a new or refurbished arena in the next few years, it is inevitable that another city and another team will go through this dance.
Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Will Starbucks save the Sonics?
SEATTLE -- Former Sonics owner Howard Schultz plans to sue to get the team back.
The lawyer for Howard Schutlz, Richard Yarmuth, says he plans to sue Clay Bennett's Professional Basketball Club in the next two weeks to prevent him from moving the NBA franchise to Oklahoma City.
Yarmuth says Bennett failed to make a good-faith effort to fulfill a promise made at the time of the 2006 sale to keep the basketball team in Seattle.
Bennett had one year to try to put together a deal for a new arena. Those plans failed to get support from the city and the state.
Recently disclosed e-mail between Bennett and other owners showed they were talking about moving the team to Oklahoma City all along.
NBA owners meet Friday to vote on the proposal to move the team
From the Seattle P.I.
Monday, April 14
Kings for a Day
While the Dalai Lama peddled his magic elsewhere in the city, while the Mariners saw this year's supposed savior, Erik Bedard, miss yet another start, while the entire northwest was walking around mumbling to each other about how beautiful Saturday was, the Sonics put on a show that trumped it all.
Gary Payton, Fred Brown, Avery Johnson ... there was plenty of past glory floating around KeyArena, and for one night, at least, it was a good night to be a Sonic fan. Buoyed by the enthusiasm from the fans, the players got into the act and somehow managed to knock off one of the top teams in the Western Conference, the Dallas Mavericks, and give 16,000+ Sonic fans reason to cheer in a season that has been beyond ugly.
With a balanced scoring attack which saw five players in double-figures behind him, Earl Watson led the Sonics with 21 points, 10 assists, and eight rebounds, and Nick Collison contributed yet another double-double in a 99-95 victory.
But the game was about far more than the final score. Was it the final home game in Seattle basketball history? At the moment, I'm conflicted about the future. A part of me believes that the evil forces at work in the NBA will have their way and we may have seen the end of pro basketball at KeyArena last night.
But a larger part of me is optimistic, and believes that Clay Bennett has done enough damage to his reputation to ensure that the league will force him either to sell and/or accept another team in exchange.
Only time will tell, of course. Looking at the situation now, though, where do you stand? Was this the last game for the Seattle Sonics?
Friday, April 11
Kevin Calabro: World's Greatest Human
If the Sonics move to Oklahoma City next season, then longtime play-by-play announcer Kevin Calabro will be calling his final game tonight.I'm old enough to remember Bob Blackburn, and how everyone thought no one would ever be able to replace the original voice of the Sonics. Then, along came KC. It was probably like being a Pat Boone fan in the 50's, and then you discovered Little Richard. Calabro was funny, intelligent and hip--not things you'd normally associate with sportscasters in the mid 1980's. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of basketball, but never let it get in the way of entertaining his listeners. When Kemp and Payton arrived in the 90's, KC was the perfect voice for the high-flying Supersonics.
"I agonized over this for a few days, whether or not to say anything, but the fans have been so great to me and my family over 21 years and just to suddenly not show up for the final game on Sunday and disappear from the scene didn't seem quite right," Calabro said during a telephone interview from San Antonio. "That's not the way I wanted to go out."
Read the rest in the Seattle Times.
I know for a fact, Calabro had opportunities to make more money elsewhere, but his loyalty to his family, the community and the Sonics kept him here when most people would have left. It's too bad Howard Schultz didn't share these traits.
Game Night: Spurs
Shockingly, the Sonics have not played badly against the Spurs, splitting the season series thus far. But with San Antonio eager to move up the playoff ladder, I'm not expecting much from tonight's affair.
In addition to the usual fanfare before the game, tonight's contest will re-unite PJ Carlesimo and Sam Presti with their S.A. roots, as both will receive championship rings before the game. You'll forgive PJ if he casts more than a few wistful glances at the Spurs' bench during the course of the game.
However, considering how poorly the Spurs have shot the ball in their recent outings, the Sonics have a small chance, if not to win, then at least to cover the spread. San Antonio is favored by 16 points, and when you see that they've averaged a mere 71 points a game over their past three games, well, it figures to be a low-scoring contest, right?
Yes, except that prior to those three games, the Spurs posted 116 points against the Warriors and 109 against the Rockets. With only Robert Horry and Brent Barry sidelined with injuries, as opposed to the Sonics' ongoing reenactment of M*A*S*H, the Spurs should roll quite easily over the weak Sonics. Final score: Spurs 92-Sonics 75.
After Thursday’s shocking revelation (well, not so shocking really) that Clay Bennett and his partners were sending titillating e-mails to one another regarding relocating the team to Oklahoma City while denying it to everyone – including Bennett’s evil overlord, Commissioner David Stern.
Gov. Gregoire stuck her finger in the air yesterday, saw the wind was blowing in a new direction, and, being a wise politician, firmly planted herself on the anti-Bennett side. While KING-5 failed to show it on their evening news, the Governor also decried the Holocaust, rainy days, and mosquitoes.
The NBA is in full no comment mode, hiding behind the usual screen of “no comments on ongoing litigation” nonsense you usually hear from people who are forced to talk about items of which they do not wish. You’ll note, of course, that David Stern had no trouble discussing the Seattle situation – at length – plenty of times in the past, including the suit between the city and the Sonics, when it suited his interests. As they say, though, silence can be deafening, and Stern’s quietness in this instance speaks volumes about how bitter he must be.
Being shown to be a sucker in the national press can do that to a guy, you know.
But back to the main point, what happens next? A multitude of options await, but here is one hypothetical scenario:
1. Prior to the Board of Governors meeting on April 17 and 18, Bennett and Stern meet to discuss the situation. A humbled Bennett is forced to kneel before his master.
2. The BOG postpones any decision on the relocation until after the court case is decided or a concurrent settlement is reached.
3. Prior to the case, Bennett reaches out to the city again with a new offer, considerably north of the $26.5 million he previously offered. The city tells him to go e-mail himself.
4. As the court case nears, Gov. Gregoire comes up with a letter pledging support for the missing $75 million in funding for the KeyArena renovation. No special session is called, but the letter is provided to the city, which in turn talks to the Group of Four who have offered to purchase the team.
5. Stern sits Bennett down, tells him he must sell, with the promise of the Memphis Grizzlies or New Orleans Hornets in the future for Oklahoma City.
6. Bennett and the Group of Four enter into negotiations to sell the team. After prolonged debate, Bennett sells the team and hightails it back to Oklahoma City, no longer the savior he once made himself out to be. His wife reduces his allowance and Clay is forced to deliver newspapers on weekends to make up the difference.
And, somewhere, Howard Schultz breathes a great, big sigh of relief.
Thursday, April 10
Curiouser and Curiouser
Two weeks ago, the Sonics demoted Mo Sene to Idaho, with PJ Carlesimo telling us pinheaded Sonic fans that the reasoning was to get a better read on the alleged “skills” of Francisco Elson and Donyell Marshall.
At the time, I went off and wrote a (in retrospect) overly critical piece about how ridiculous it was to deny time to someone who has a possible future with the franchise so that you can evaluate 30+-year-old players who have already clearly established what their skills are, when clearly those skills are speaking Dutch (Elson) and braiding hair (Marshall).
What happened in the meantime? Well, Mo Sene got hurt playing in Idaho, with an injury that will possibly cost him the opportunity to play in the summer league a couple of months for now.
Oh, and Donyell Marshall, the guy Carlesimo said he “needed to evaluate” in the final weeks of the season? Here are his minute totals per game for the past five games:
0, 10, 7, 0, 0
Marshall is suffering from “right knee soreness,” causing him to miss the past couple of games, but is that really a surprise? And what about the games before that, including the double-overtime game when he played all of seven minutes?
But wait, it gets worse. Apparently, when Francisco Elson was dealt from San Antonio to Seattle in the Kurt Thomas trade, he was told that he would not get much playing time, in that the Sonics were looking to develop their own youngsters (this info thieved from Eric Williams at the TNT). And after getting the start over Johan Petro last night (in the Sonics 103-80 loss to Houston; there’s your game re-cap, folks), this is what Elson told Williams, in regard to receiving the starting nod:
“There’s four games left. I don’t understand it. I mean I didn’t expect [to get regular playing time], but why would you want to do it now? It ain’t like we’re going anywhere.”
I’ve been watching the NBA for 25 years now, and that must be the first time I’ve ever read a player complaining about getting a starting spot. How dumb is this coaching staff, when even their own players think they don’t know what they’re doing?
Honestly, I don’t think Carlesimo is trying to tank the season, and I don’t the think the players are giving any less effort than they were earlier in the year. But this whole idea of giving time to people like Elson and Marshall at the expense of Petro and Sene is just baffling.
At this point, I give up. If anyone can shed light on why the Sonics would go down this road, I’m all ears, because I’m just about done trying to figure out PJ Carlesimo and Sam Presti.
"I am a man possessed!"
When first we practice to deceive
—Sir Walter Scott
The Seattle Times is on top of the story, with Jim Brunner explaining how Clay Bennett, Aubrey McClendon, and Tom Ward were excitedly discussing moving the Seattle Sonics to Oklahoma City last April, six months before the October 30 deadline they had given Seattle for coming up with a new arena.
There is plenty to read in the emails (here and here), but I believe everyone would agree the most telling is a missive from Bennett dated April 17, 2007. Bennett was responding to another email from Tom Ward (you remember Ward, the guy who thought the best way to use $1 million was to spend it fighting gay marriage), wherein Ward asked if there was any way possible to relocate the team prior to the 2007 season. Sayeth Bennett:
"I am a man possessed! Will do everything we can. Thanks for hanging with me boys, the game is getting started."
Remember that phrase "do everything we can," because it gets repeated in an email to David Stern, with a slightly different connotation. Bennett's email to Stern came in August, fresh on the heels of the McClendon gaff about the new ownership group always intending to move the team to Oklahoma City. Sayeth Bennett to Stern:
"The deal for me has NEVER changed; we will do all we can in the one year time frame ... to affect the development of a successor venue to KeyArena."
In addition to lying to Seattle, Bennett lied to Stern, telling him that the ownership group had NEVER discussed moving the team to Oklahoma City, when in fact they did just that in the emails from April of that year, four months prior to Bennett telling Stern they never discussed it.
It makes you wonder, if Stern fined McClendon $250,00 for the quote in the Oklahoma City Record, what sort of fine will he impose upon Bennett for his misleading remarks?
But back to the "all we can" remarks. Remember those coaches that told you in high school that giving 100% isn't enough, that you must give 110%? I always wondered how it was physically possible to give more than all you could, it just seemed idiotic to me.
But I stand corrected, because while Clay Bennett was giving "all he could" to keeping the Sonics in Seattle, he was also doing everything he could to move the team to Oklahoma City.
For two years now, we've been searching for a proper nickname for Clay. There's been Clay-Clay, Gay-Clay, Okie, and so on. None have fit properly, but that changed today. From henceforth, only one nickname will fit for Clay Bennett:
Clay "110%" Bennett.
Wednesday, April 9
Free Drinks at the Ocean Club
It’s only fitting, then, that we recall the great Sonics-Rockets series which that Mavs series preceeded. After taking the first two games of the series, the Sonics split the next two to make the series 3-2 Seattle, setting up the classic Game 6 finale on a Thursday night in Seattle.
“[Game 6] has to be our best game,” Tom Chambers said after the Sonics lost Game 5 in Houston. ''Because we'd have no chance if we have to come back here for a game seven.”
The subplot for Chambers’ comments was obvious to someone following the series back then, but not to people reading the boxscores now. In addition to the fact the Sonics would be on the road for a game seven, they would also be carrying the baggage provided by Dale Ellis and Kevin Williams, who had mixed it up with off-duty Houston police officers at a local nightclub on a Sunday night following Seattle’s game one win in Texas.
After spending the night in jail, Ellis and Williams returned to the court for game two. Williams was the main cause of the problem (according to bar patrons, he refused to leave his area) but it was Ellis who endured the taunts, including one sign with “Free Drinks at the Ocean Club” written on it. The greatest shooter in Seattle history managed to keep it together enough to continue his torrid outside shooting that had begun in the Dallas series a week earlier (and, yes, I see you raising your hand over there, Ray Allen, but, no, Dale was better) .
With the series on the line, then, game six promised to be a classic, and it was. [Side note: Paul will fondly recall, as I do, that we were let out of band practice early that night so that we could take in the game on television. Back then, teachers had their priorities right.] The magnificent trio of Chambers, Ellis, and Xavier McDaniel put 97 points on the board, but it would take double overtime for the Sonics to overcome Hakeem Olajuwon’s 49 points (!), 25 rebounds (!!), and six blocked shots.
There will be little if any of that excitement tonight, though, and what little excitement to be found will be coming solely from the Rockets, who are in the midst of a dogfight for playoff seeding. Gametime for the matchup is 5:30 Seattle time.
Last Friday, the Sonics dropped a miserable game 79-66 to the Rockets, one of their worst offensive showings in an offensive season. Houston is desperate to gain an edge in the playoff matchups to come, as well as to get their ship a little bit more aligned properly. The line started with the Rockets as 17-point favorites, but that has dropped to 15.
Considering how well the Sonics have played in the past two games, I’d be inclined to take Seattle and the points. But when you factor in this being the second in a back-to-back, well, I think the smart wager is to take the Rockets and give up 15. Final score: Houston 99-Seattle 81.
Durant In the Clutch
That showing is backed up by a recent stat revelation from 82games.com, which, as always, has provided basketball junkies with a treasure trove of statistical goodness. One recent article listed the “clutch” stats of all NBA players, sorted by various categories (clutch being defined by 82games as “4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points”).
Before we get into the details, let me offer an interesting piece of information gleaned from the tables: Kevin Durant has played more “clutch” minutes this season than, among others, Chris Paul, Manu Ginobili, Chauncey Billups, and Carlos Boozer. For a player on a team enduring a season-long slump, that’s a bit surprising, no? Obviously, players on great teams don’t play close games very often, but the flip side of that same coin is players on lousy teams don’t play nail-biters very often, either. It’s not a hugely important statistic, but reassuring for those of us hoping to see KD develop his skills in the ultimate crucible of NBA development – crunch time.
But back to the numbers. The following is a list of the top 10 players in points per 48 minutes of crunch time:
You read that right, Kevin Durant is among the 10 best in the NBA at getting his in the final minutes of close games – better than Baron Davis, Carmelo Anthony, Carlos Boozer, Dwyane Wade, or Amare Stoudemire.
As you can no doubt figure out, there are other factors at play here. For one, most great NBA players have someone else who can take the burden off their shoulders, as evidenced by Golden State’s duo of Jackson and Davis (not to mention Monta Ellis, etc, etc). Durant, however, has no supporting cast, and the Sonics’ dearth of 3-point shooters means Durant is often confronted by double teams, regardless of where he sets up on the floor.
A closer look at the numbers reveals some other tidbits as well. For example, Durant’s scores come with an assist 59% of the time, a rather high number, especially when compared to Bryant and James (23%), Redd (30%), or Nowitzki (46%), indicating KD is less capable of finding his own shot than those players. Bear in mind, though, that Durant is still barely out of high school and doesn’t have the strength of those players, nor the respect from the officials that enables him to drive the lane with the confidence of a man who knows he’ll be getting a foul call when contact is made.
This is further evidenced by his relatively low number of shot attempts. Durant’s average of 23 attempts per 48 minutes isn’t even in the top 20, illustrating the Sonics need to: 1) get him some help and 2) get him a point guard who doesn’t think he’s the best option on offense. (On the shot attempt note, here’s an easy bar bet to win – Which five players take the most shots in clutch situations? The first four are easy, LBJ, Kobe, Dirk and D-Wade. The fifth? Jamaal Tinsley. Proving, if nothing else, than while Mr. Tinsley has plenty of other problems, self-esteem is not among them.)
Also interesting to note is Durant’s below-average number of 3-point attempts per 48 minutes, relative to the other players in the top 10, as well as his astounding success rate from long-range (66%!). True, it’s a small sample size, but welcome nonetheless (in fact, Durant’s remarkable accuracy rate from deep is the best in the entire league outside of Milwaukee’s Charlie Bell, who has taken much fewer shots).
Best of all is the young man’s success at the free throw line. There is no greater test of clutch ability than success at the charity stripe in the dying moments of close games (see Tigers, Memphis). Of players who have average 10 or more FTA per 48 minutes in these situations, only seven have a better accuracy rate than Durant, among them the most renowned clutch players in the game (Ginobili, Rip Hamilton, Billups). Vince Carter also checks in ahead of KD’s FT mark, but we’ll ignore that comparison for the time being.
What does it all mean, then? Naturally, extrapolating one small part of one season’s statistics into a career is a foolhardy mission, and I won’t begin to suggest that Kevin Durant is the second coming of Robert Horry, but I believe it’s fair to say that Durant, while mired on a miserable team in a miserable situation, has proven himself capable of succeeding in clutch situation this season.
Will Seattle fans be able to witness the fruit from this tree in the playoffs, the ultimate clutch situation? Too soon to tell, but let’s hope that last Sunday’s coming out party proves to be a portent for many more clutch three-pointers to come for Kevin Durant in a Seattle jersey – ones that are made in May and June.
60 Not so Nifty
The Sonics hung tough for a good portion of the game, but a late Dallas run in the fourth quarter keyed the loss. Jeff Green returned to earth after his phenomenal performance against the Nuggets, contributing only 11 points on 13 shots.
On the plus side, Seattle didn't fold as they have in so many games in the second half of the season. The Denver win - coupled with the tough loss to the Mavs - gives me hope that Durant, Green, et al still have some pride, a hope that had all but been extinguished with the dismal showings in the games prior to that. It's a optimistic sign for next season, assuming, well, you know how that sentence ends, right?
So, with the loss, there are four games remaining in the season. Three road games, one home game (this Sunday against Dallas) and the 2007-08 season will be complete. Will it also be the end of the Sonics' tenure in Seattle? Mark Cuban hopes not, but even he admits that the relocation vote will be overwhelming in favor of moving. So it comes down to the court case this June in Seattle, and whether Mayor Nickels will be able to resist the 30 pieces of silver offered to him by Clay Bennett after the decision is rendered.
Tuesday, April 8
Game Night: Mavericks
When I think of the Mavericks and Sonics, I think of, naturally, the classic series from 1987 when Seattle whipped Dallas in four games, including three in a row to close out the series. Everyone remembers three Sonics averaging 20+ points per game (and if you don't know their names, why are you reading this site?), but do you remember the fourth-best scorer in the lineup?
Tonight's game will be interesting, but the oddsmakers are not as impressed with the Sonics' stellar effort against the Nuggets as the rest of us are. The Mavs are an 18 point favorite tonight, and I'm inclined to agree. Even being a Sonic fan, you only have to look at the two games these teams have played to see how badly Seattle has done against Dallas. The first game was a 90-70 shellacking, and the only reason the Sonics came close in the second was because the lopsided first half score and some nice shooting from Wally Szczerbiak.
The Sonics have gone 2-22 in their past 24 road games, and have lost nine consecutive away from home. Obviously, the trend will continue tonight, my guess for the final score: Dallas 119-Seattle 90.
Matt Griffin, speaking for the group, indicated, however, that should the April 10th self-imposed deadline pass, the group will not necessarily give up on helping the team out in the next year, should the city win its lawsuit against the NBA and a funding plan for the missing $75 million come to fruition.
Eric Williams at the TNT chimes in with a note that the city will hold a press conference this morning to discuss the health status of the KeyArena revamp.
Ironically, in another story penned by Johns, we find out that Dave Bean and Fred Brown aren't having any trouble finding money for their project, they're just having trouble finding a spot in which to build it.
It's now official - the Ballmer group deal has fallen through. See Times story here and TNT story here. Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels reiterated that the pending lawsuit against the team will not be rescinded, despite the city's problem in coming up with $75 million for the KeyArena revamp. Jim Brunner at the Times made this insightful comment at the end of his story:
"Nickels was asked several times at the morning news conference whether the city will reconsider letting the Sonics out of the KeyArena lease in exchange for a larger cash payment or the promise of a potential future NBA franchise.
"Nickels repeatedly answered 'We have a court date in June' and refused to elaborate."
Color me pessimistic, but when politicians refuse to answer yes and no questions with a yes or no answer, that usually means that they are positioning themselves to make an unpopular decision. Does this mean that Nickels is getting ready to accept a cash payment from Clay Bennett in exchange for letting the Sonics out of their KeyArena lease? For now, only the mayor knows the answer.
Monday, April 7
Ewing in the Hall
Of course not. But Ewing has become the second former Sonic player to be inducted in the Hall. In addition, two (or three, depending on how one looks at it) former Sonic coaches are also in the Hall of Fame.
It's bizarre, in a way, that a franchise with 40 years of history has such little representation in the Hall. Dennis Johnson was denied this year, but he may get in someday. Gary Payton is a lock, but Shawn and Det and all the other great guys from the 90s, or X or Chambers or Ellis from the 80s, or Gus and Haywood and Downtown and the 70s contributors - none of them will get in.
Sadly, if Clay Bennett manages to yank the team out from Seattle, 100 years from now there won't be much to remember of these 40 years of Sonic basketball, will there?
If you know the other three Sonics HOFers, prove your smarts in the comments section.
Saturday, April 5
Forget the Sonics, Let's Drink!
(Film by Travis Vogt and Kevin Clarke, "acting" by yours truly)
Friday, April 4
Sadly, the Rockets are desperate for a win, and they must be looking at Seattle the way Drew Carey looks at a platter of wings. Tracy McGrady went off for 32 against the Blazers on Thursday, and there's no reason to doubt he'll do the same against the the defenseless Sonics tonight.
Kevin Durant - who aspires to be T-Mac-like - will also be expected to produce 25+ points tonight, but who else will contribute for the green and gold bunch? With the crucial Robert Swift, Mickael Gelabale, and Damien Wilkins all sidelined, how will the Sonics recover the magic that lead them to their stellar start to the season?
Ah, I kid. The Rockets are 9-point favorites, and that's money in the bank if you ask me. Final score? Rockets 105-Sonics 90.
Sene Back to Idaho
Before I get too hot and bothered, this was the plan from the outset, that Sene would be summoned to Seattle to play for a few weeks, but that he would head back to Idaho in time for the D-League playoffs.
But, still, the whole situation is ridiculous. Here you have the Sonics, mired in futility, with nothing to lose or play for, and yet Sene can't get any time on the court. In the 13 games he spent in Seattle, Sene got a grand total of 60 minutes of playing time.
As if that wasn't enough, PJ Carlesimo told Eric Williams of the TNT that the team needed to spend the next few weeks "evaluating big men Francisco Elson and Donyell Marshall."
Now, I've written for this blog for four years now. In that time, I have yet to curse once in any article. To my way of thinking, using swear words in your writing is just illustrating that you have no talent, that you are resorting to cursing because you cannot find the proper adjective to do the work for you.
But evaluating Donyell Marshall? Are you fucking kidding me?
Donyell Marshall has been in the NBA since the first half of the Clinton Administration. He has played almost 25,000 minutes in this league. What in holy hell do you need to evaluate, PJ? Are you that much of an idiot that you can't figure out what Marshall can do after 25,000 minutes, not including the time you saw him as a college coach at Seton Hall?
You know, I'd say the Sonics are working my last nerve, but that nerve packed up and left three months ago. What is happening in this city is a disgrace and the league out to be ashamed of itself. If PJ Carlesimo and Sam Presti were members of Congress, they'd be in front of a Senate Subcommittee right now. If they were on Wall Street, the SEC would be calling them. If they were doing anything other than destroying a sports franchise they'd be fired.
The worst aspect of the whole deal is lack of regard for the fans. I know Carlesimo is not dumb and I know that Presti is not, either. As someone who has spent as much time around basketball as PJ has, he knows full well what Donyell Marshall can and cannot do, what his strengths are, the best way to utilize him, and what he's likely to do next year. And yet, he parrots this inanity about "evaluating" Marshall as a reason for not using Sene.
Look, Sene is not the answer to the Sonics' problems, not by a longshot. But he is a uniquely talented big man, and last time I checked, the Sonics are not exactly overrun with quality centers. To completely ignore the possibility of running him out there this season because you want to evaluate Donyell Marshall and Francisco Elson is patently ridiculous.
I hope you enjoy the money, PJ, because, honestly, this will probably be your last shot as an NBA head coach.