Friday, June 27
And Then There Was 1
Yesterday, the Sonics began the day with four (!) picks in the second round of the NBA draft. Of those four picks, the Sonics did the following:
#32 - traded to Detroit for #29 pick
#46 - traded to Detroit for #29 pick
#50 - DeVon Hardin, not traded
#56 - traded to Cleveland for cash
All of which means, in the past two seasons Presti has had six second-round picks available to him, and, of those six, he has traded away five, receiving in exchange a future second-rounder, an end of the first-rounder, cash, and Jeff Green's left arm (an approximation of what the pick's value in the Ray Allen trade).
And so, to close the book on last year's draft-day dealings and put an end to my extended ramblings, the Seattle Sonics essentially traded Carl Landry for half of DJ White. Not exactly a sweet flip.
Hold the Mayo
You know, maybe a large expiring contract, or perhaps a defensive-minded point guard who can shoot the three.
Yeah, you always hold onto guys like those until a great deal comes along and sweeps you off your feet.
Thursday, June 26
Rounding Out the Draft
#20, Devon Hardin, Cal, Center
#26, Sasha Kaun, Kansas, Center
Please, try to reign in your enthusiasm.
Before I sign off for the night, a few thoughts:
-I can live with the Westbrook pick. He's not going to help the Sonics as a 30-minute-a-night guy immediately and he's not a true point guard in the sense of Paul or Williams or Kidd, but he has loads of talent, great speed, and, worst case, he's a top guy off the bench.
-The Ibaka pick mystifies me. My only hope is that Presti worked out a deal with the guy ahead of time, and the whole "don't pick me" routine was an act to scare other teams away. Honestly, I don't buy that as the truth, but it's the only thing keeping me from thinking this was a total farce.
-DJ White isn't a star by a long shot, but he has some low-post ability, works hard, and is still better than almost anyone else on the roster down low.
-The 2nd rounders? No clue.
-On the whole, I give the draft a very early grade of a B-. Normally, in school, a B- is okay, especially in a class where the notes and homework are killing you. But this is a B- in a class like PE; there's no way with 6 picks the Sonics should be coming out of here with such a craptacular haul. Seriously, are you more or less excited about the Sonics' future after today? At what point do we start thinking, "Hey, is Sam Presti ever going to deliver on his genius label? How much of a line of credit do we extend to this guy?"
Sonics Add DJ White
Seattle dealt their #32 and #46 picks in the second round of this year's draft in order to pick up White with Detroit's first round pick (got that?). White is a good back to the basket player, he's a senior, and he instantly becomes one of the two or three best post players on offense on the entire team (yeah, we're that bad, folks). Seattle still has two remaining second-rounders available.
With the #24 pick
More to come, but I'm utterly confused by this pick. It's not that Ibaka is untalented or unworthy of being selected this high, it's that he specifically told teams to not take him until the 2nd round. Either Sam Presti is a genius that knows of a way to pry Ibaka from Europe, or the Sonics just threw away the #24 pick in the draft.
DeAndre Jordan is still hanging around (please no, please, please, please), as is Kosta Koufos.
Three names stand out for me: CDR, Courtney Lee, and Nicolas Batum. I know Batum's a SF and Seattle needs a SF like they need Clay Bennett, but the guy has massive potential.
Russell Westbrook at #4
He's a big-time transition player, and now he's a Sonic.
Reasons to be excited:
- Westbrook is tenacious, fast, and a good defender. He can guard any PG, and most SGs. He can get in the lane and score and can run the offense relatively well.
Reasons not to be excited:
- He shot 17 of 31 at the line this year. He made 31 3's in his NCAA career, or as many as some guys make in a couple of weeks. He doesn't have a good outside shot.
Hey, wait, don't the Sonics already have a UCLA point guard who can't shoot?
Start Your Guesswork
Or are we? Maybe we'll have to wait about 1 hour until the Clippers/Sonics pick at #7.
I'm guessing the Sonics move down, pick Brook Lopez, and all of us start throwing things at our tv screens.
Arguments Are Over
There will be plenty of fireworks around the country on July 4th, but expect some other explosions on the 2nd as well.
Well, have you seen the DraftExpress board today? Take a guess at where they have Bayless going.
8th? 9th? 10th? Nope, nope, nope.
Yes, that's right, 11th. Which means, that if the Sonics are truly interested in Bayless, then they'd be pretty dumb to pick him at the #4 spot, considering that none of the next six teams wants him.
Which means, of course, that the smoke emanating from the Great Draft Day Rumor Mill may be caused by just a little bit of fire, and that the Sonics are, indeed, interested in trading down.
The Clippers and Sonics have agreed to swap picks as long as the Wolves take O.J. Mayo at No. 3. If Mayo isn't drafted at 3, the deal is off according to two sources close to the information.
According to Ric Bucher (also of ESPN), the pick will be in 2009. and will be subject to restrictions.
UPDATE: Percy Allen at the Times quotes sources at the Sonics saying this deal is, in fact, a fabrication. So, in the words of Gilda Radner, "Never mind."
Stern Will Say Seattle
I'd been wondering about this the past few days, but I'm glad it is so. Doesn't mean alot, but it means something to people here.
Ceis Not Testifying
Pechman decided Ceis, who ostensibly would rebut the argument that the city was involved in a "hand-in-glove" relationship with the efforts to force the PBC to sell the team, does not need to testify as he has already been deposed, and in that deposition he affirmed that he had not seen the "Poisoned Well" PowerPoint presentation.
In earlier testimony, the PBC called Seattle City Councilman Nick Licata, introduced two pieces of evidence, and, finally, rested their case. The city will wrap up its case today and then closing arguments will take place this afternoon.
While many will point to Pechman's denial of Ceis' testimony as a big loss for the city, I would argue that, as Pechman pointed out, Ceis already was deposed and spoke on this subject. While it would have been nice for Ceis to further illustrate this point, remember, this is not a jury trial. So long as the judge is aware of the situation, it is unnecessary for the city to go through histrionics to prove its point.
It's not a win for the city, true, but not a huge loss, either.
Normally, I'd hesitate to trade down — the statistics bear out that once you get beyond the first five or so players, you're playing Russian Roulette — but since Sam Presti seems less than thrilled with his options at #4, it makes sense to make this move. The Sonics will walk away with someone they'll be happy with at #7, plus they'll get another lottery pick next year when the Clippers fall to 20-62 after Elton Brand breaks his back while attempting to carry [Insert Random Injured Clipper Here] back to the bench.
Random Draft Day Thoughts, Part I
- If Minnesota passes on OJ Mayo at #3 it will be a huge boon to the Sonics. After Rose and Beasley, Mayo has the most cache of anyone in the draft. Even if Presti wants no part of the SC guard, he’s the most tradeable commodity. The Sonics would easily be able to get a lottery pick in this year’s draft plus one in next year’s by dealing away Mayo. The upside is they’d still be able to get Lopez, Bayless, Westbrook, or whomever in the bargain ....
- My dream pick for the Sonics with their second pick of the first round would be Florida’s Marreese Speights, a 6’10” power forward who is plenty talented, but also plenty raw. A few weeks ago, Speights would have likely slipped to #24, but now it appears he’ll be selected long before the Sonics pick at #24. Assuming, of course, that Presti doesn’t deal away his #24 pick plus a second-rounder (or two) to move up in the draft.
- It’s early, but I’m guessing the Sonics walk away with no more than three actual warm bodies this year via the draft. Either that, or whatever number greater than three they draft, the overage will all be Euros/non-Americans who will not set foot in North America for the foreseeable future.
- Brian Robinson at sonicscentral.com can see Luke Ridnour being dealt today; I'd add Chris Wilcox to that mix, although I think Weezy's trade value will be higher next February.
Seattle Beats NBA in Court
But, can't we still take that as an omen?
We'll get to the rumors and suppositions as the day progresses, but, for now, here's my favorite column in the 3-odd years writing about the Sonics:
NFL vs NBA Draft .
Wednesday, June 25
One For the Little Guy
There are other factors involved – will the city appeal a verdict and thereby postpone the movement, will Howard Schultz’ pending lawsuit delay relocation, will Clay Bennett staple Aubrey McClendon’s mouth shut, and so forth – but this Thursday is obviously a large step in the future of the team.
Sadly, it is entirely possible Pechman will rule for the team. Observers indicate the city failed to effectively persuade an impartial observer the Sonics provide intangible benefits to the region. Further, the now-infamous “Poisoned Well” PowerPoint file – created with the best of intentions to help keep the team – may wind up being yet another impediment to that goal.
All of this is for the judge to decide. And while my influence over her decision is equivalent to my influence over PJ Carlesimo’s roster decisions, allow me to make one argument:
Allowing Clay Bennett to walk away with the Sonics would be a disgrace.
Set aside the legal arguments for a moment, and approach this situation from a viewpoint a mile up into the clouds. Bennett bought this team with two partners with the intention of moving it to Oklahoma City. Only a naive person would believe otherwise.
At all forks in the road, Bennett and his group have consistently opted to take the path which hastened the team’s departure from Seattle.
Present a half-baked proposal to the legislature? Check.
Gut the team’s roster to save money? Check.
Repeatedly make comments indicating your intentions to move? Check.
Work in coordination with Oklahoma City to move while simultaneously telling Seattlites you’re a “man possessed” to keep the team here? Check.
Apply to the NBA to move a full year ago? Check.
In all instances, in all aspects, Bennett has lied, deceived, extorted and manipulated, all with the knowledge and willing participation of David Stern and the NBA. If the ongoing trial was an argument over whether Bennett’s group is pack of despicable liars with the moral authority of a Capitol Hill lobbyist, Pechman would have ruled for the city five minutes after opening arguments concluded.
Yes, Bennett has a legal argument the city worked hand-in-glove with local businessmen to forestall his departure. Yes, Bennett may be correct that the team would be sufficiently satisfying the remaining two years of its lease with a cash settlement.
But this case is a mirror upon one of the greatest ills of American society circa 2008 – the patronizing way in which the general public is treated by those in power. When faced with a housing crisis, the Washington power-brokers quickly acted to aid those making the bad loans, while ignoring those who were truly suffering. Opinion polls routinely show an American public completely and utterly sick of Washington, and a hopeless feeling spreads across the land like a case of West Nile Virus run rampant.
I understand Judge Pechman’s ruling will do little to remedy those problems. But still, would it not be nice, for once, to see the manipulative David Stern be forced to swallow a dose of medicine? Would it not be satisfying to watch Clay “The Extortionist” Bennett crawl back to Oklahoma City and admit defeat?
The evidence in this case is far from overwhelming for either side. For once, just once, let us hope the general public gets a chance to feel what it’s like to be a winner.
Tuesday, June 24
After all, the man who knows the best whether a player is contributing is the head coach. Well, except when that coach is PJ Carlesimo, but I digress.
So, herewith, the leader in games played at each position by Sonic-drafted players (with year drafted and total games played):
PG: Gary Payton (1990), 1335
SG: Dennis Johnson (1976), 1100
SF: Scottie Pippen (1987), 1178
PF: Shawn Kemp (1989), 1051
C: Jack Sikma (1977), 1107
And, yes, that small forward slot is still painful to look at. As a side note, that’s one hell of a team, and not in an all-star starter at every position kind of way. I mean in the sense that that group of five men would probably win a championship every season. You’ve got tenacious defense at four of the five slots, good shooters at all five spots, three great ball-handlers ... I mean, it’s almost a perfect team, right?
Best of all, how’d you like to be the point guard bringing the ball up against DJ and the Glove. How many violations for not getting the ball past the half-court line in time would those two create in a game – 5, 10, 30? Just a beautiful lineup.
Of course, you can’t have the good without the bad, so here’s a list of the worst starting lineup (and I use that term loosely) of Sonic draftees (I’m restricting this to first-round selections only):
PG: Frank Oleynick (1975), 102
SG: Bud Stallworth (1972), 313
SF: Sherell Ford (1995), 28
PF: Mo Sene (2006), 41
C: Rich King (1991), 72
Perhaps I’m being unfair to Mo Sene, inasmuch as he hasn’t been given much of a shot in the NBA thus far, and the guy is still in his early 20s. Still, if you’re headed to Las Vegas to place a bet on a player’s future, I’m guessing you’re not sinking $250 into the Mo Sene bet, now are you?
Monday, June 23
Is Jerryd Bayless as much of a lock at 4 as everyone thinks? A number of NBA teams we’ve spoken with don’t think that’s the case. Almost everyone at this point in fact has Brook Lopez slated be picked by Seattle, with Bayless dropping slightly to the Knicks at #6. If Lopez doesn’t go 3rd, 4th of 5th, he will be taken by a team that did not work him out, as he only agreed to be seen by those three teams.
Just throwing this out there, but I'm guessing that the sound at the draft party (is there a draft party this year?) will sound awful familiar to people attending Mariner games at Safeco Field this season.
And, no, they won't be saying "Broooooooooooook."
Friday, June 20
In a perfect world, all of our energy would be focused upon the six draft picks the team holds in next week’s draft, in addition to the future of the existing roster. Trading Chris Wilcox or Luke Ridnour, looking at mid-level free agents, and so forth ... that’s what fans do in the off-season, and, in some ways, it makes the off-season almost more enjoyable than the regular season.
Obviously, that has not been the case this spring and summer. With the trial hanging over our heads, it’s difficult to muster the energy to study possible draft picks. In a way, it’s akin to being a child at Christmastime, but a child with parents on the verge of divorce. He tries to care about the flyers that arrive in the Sunday newspapers, wants to figure out which Star Wars action figures he hopes to get, talks the talk with his friends at school, but all along an immense cloud of sadness follows him as he walks to and from school.
Mind you, I’m not trying to ask for sympathy here. After all, this is a sports team we’re talking about, not something that will cause irreparable harm to our collective psyches the way a divorce would to a 12-year-old.
Still, I think it’s the best metaphor to use for the situation here (and, to be fair, I’ve heard this metaphor from some our commenters previously; so, whoever came up with this, consider this your acknowledgement (update: it was mcwalter)). And, just like in a divorce, even if the judge tells the parents to stick it out for two years, it’s not as if those two years are going to be sunshine and lollipops.
No, we just want to get past it, to get on to being just plain, old regular fans again, like all the other fans in the neighborhood.
Thursday, June 19
1. According to draftexpress.com, the Sonics are looking at dealing Chris Wilcox and the #4 pick to Miami for Mark Blount and the #2 pick. Conceivably, the Sonics would be getting Michael Beasley. Blount's deal runs through next season (about $9 mil), with an early termination option for the next season. I'm not sure if Blount's option is guaranteed if the Sonics waive him next year, but let's assume it is. In which case, Blount's deal would be pretty unwieldy to trade until the year after next. If Sam Presti feels that Beasley is as good as statistics would lead you to believe, this is a great trade for the Sonics, even with Blount's contract considered. Look at it this way: if they draft Beasley to go with Kevin Durant, the Sonics - in the span of two years - would have acquired the two most statistically promising players from the NCAA in the past decade.
2. The Lakers are interested in the Sonics' high-second round pick (#34). If only the Sonics had extra 2nd-round picks to deal ...
Flopping, By The Numbers
Morales’ contention was that Europeans did not introduce flopping to the NBA, as has been so often alleged (including by yours truly), but that it has been present in the league as long as there has been an NBA. He even alluded to quotes from Red Auerbach as proof of the longevity of flopping.
Soon after, 82games.com put up their annual “Taking the Charge” column, which lists the league leaders in fouls drawn and committed, and, further, breaks those fouls down into specific categories. Among those categories is “offensive fouls drawn,” which is, obviously, the number of flops a certain player has taken during the course of a season.
While the list is informative, it is raw data, meaning that it does not take into consideration the number of minutes played. I thought it might be interesting to test Mr. Morales’ contention by seeing just how many foreign-born players there were at the top of the chart.
(Note: I only used the top 75 players ranked in offensive fouls drawn; beyond that, and you’re getting such minimal numbers that the information is not all that helpful, at least for this exercise’s purpose).
Top 10, Total Offensive Fouls Drawn:
1. Derek Fisher, 54
2. Andrew Bogut, 53
3. Mikki Moore, 51
4. Kyle Lowry, 47
5. Joel Przybilla, 47
6. Allen Iverson, 46
7. Jermaine O’Neal, 45
8. Mike Dunleavy, 42
9. Monta Ellis, 42
10. Luis Scola, 42
So, out of 10 players, three were foreign-born. To further expand the list, out of the top 20, six were from outside North America, 14 from the U.S.
But, as I said earlier, that doesn’t account for minutes played, so it’s a flawed ranking, right? A more accurate system would determine how many offensive fouls per 36 minutes played. Thankfully, we can access that information quite easily. With that in mind, here’s another list.
Top 10, Offensive Fouls Drawn/36 min.
1. Jarron Collins, 1.7
2. Jermaine O’Neal, 1.3
3. Leon Powe, 1.3
4. Joel Przybilla, 0.9
5. Anderson Varejao, 0.9
6. Derek Fisher, 0.9
7. Kyle Lowry, 0.8
8. Mikki Moore, 0.8
9. Luis Scola, 0.7
10. Fab Oberto, 0.7
Not too much difference, right? Now we’ve got four out of 10 foreigners, not a major change. Out of the top 20, though, we’ve added two more to the previous six, meaning that eight of the top 20 are from outside the U.S.
I’ll write that again, with emphasis: Out of the 20 players who drew the most offensive fouls in the NBA this season, eight were born outside the U.S. That’s 40%.
I don’t know the exact percentage of NBA players born outside the U.S. It could be 10%, it could be 20%. But I’m pretty darn sure it isn’t 40%. (If you know the number, please feel free to drop us a line in the comments).
So, what can we learn from all of this? One, this is pretty limited information, and it’s only based on one season. If I feel the urge, perhaps I’ll run the numbers for the last couple of seasons and see if there is any pattern.
Two, if you look at the players as a whole, it’s pretty clear that foreign-born players average more offensive fouls drawn than American-born players. In fact, the numbers are probably much higher than I found, simply because I failed to count players who drew very few offensive fouls. Including them would further skew the numbers in that direction.
Three, the previous discussions on white referees giving calls to white players (and black refs for black players) may come into play here, as most foreign-born players are white, and, therefore, they may receive beneficial calls from (predominantly white) officials. That’s a nut too hard for me to crack with my limited research skills (and budget; seriously, Paul, can’t you get me an assistant?).
Fourth, and, of the most interest to me, this seems to refute the argument of Carlos Morales that foreign players are no more likely to be floppers than American players. As I said before, more studying of these figures would give us some more information.
But the simple fact that nearly half of the top 20 floppers in the league were foreign-born seems to give at least some credence to the argument that Vlade Divac’ disciples are continuing his legacy.
Wednesday, June 18
Mock Draft, Vol. I
Considering that Sam Presti will be picking six (6!) players in the draft, that’s not something we should take lightly. Granted, the odds of the Sonics actually drafting six players is pretty slim, and it is much more probable that at least one of those picks will wind up being traded.
But, for the sake of discussion, let’s assume the Sonics go ahead and take six players. Who will they be? Here’s the first edition of our SONIC MOCK DRAFT. Feel free to chime in (or "mock," if you will) with your opinions in the comments.
#4 – Jerryd Bayless, Arizona. It seems more and more likely that 1-2-3 will be Rose-Beasley-Mayo, and if rumors are to be believed, the Sonics have not expressed any interest in moving into the upper trio of picks. In fact, there are some reports Seattle has even inquired about trading down. Assuming they stay put, Bayless is the consensus selection of draft experts.
#24 – Chris Douglas-Roberts, Memphis. Both draftexpress.com and nbadraft.net have the Sonics taking Serge Ibaka, but I’m hoping they go for CDR. He can shoot the deep ball, he’s big enough to play the 2 or the 3, and he comes from a winning program. What’s not to like.
#32 – Mario Chalmers, Kansas. Everyone knows Chalmers because of his great title game, and while he’s on the small size and not a pure point guard, I think he’d be a great off-the-bench guy for an NBA club. Assuming the Sonics deal away either Ridnour or Watson this summer (oh, please, make it so), Chalmers would be more than adequate in a reserve role, in much the same way as Dana Barros was back in the day. Whether Chalmers drops this far is another question, though.
#46 – Ante Tomic, Croatia. An athletic 7’2” center, Tomic is strong in the post with a variety of moves, but weak on defense. Hopefully, he can learn the defense, but it’s a stretch. However, considering the Sonics’ have a total of zero players with any post offense at the moment, perhaps there’s a role for him. If not, stash him in Europe and hope he matures.
#50 – Jamont Gordon, Miss. St. I’ll agree with the illustrious Jonathan Givony on this one and lean towards Gordon, a 6’3” SG/PG who’s not much with the offense. However, he shines on defense and on the boards, two attributes that a Presti-led organization will always value. As a reserve, he’d be a nice fit.
#56 – Mantas Kalnietis, Lithuania. Kalnietis is a 6’5” PG with speed to burn, but the rest of his game has yet to catch up. The prototypical late second-rounder to stash overseas.
Well, what I meant to say was ...
Players can choose where they want to play, and we are in uncertainty and that is a very difficult element in developing a team. Players want to know where they are going to play. They want to know where they're families are going to be. ... The team is their second home and their life.
Clay Bennett, 2007, via email to Brent Gooden, in response to Gooden’s comments that he had heard certain players were upset about the possibility of relocating to Oklahoma City:
-Tiger Woods wins the US Open on a broken leg on the 91st hole
-The Celtics knock off the Lakers and make Kobe cry
-My ancestral home of Italy knocks off France, gets a must-lose from Romania, and moves on
-4,000 people shout "Save Our Sonics!" at the top of their lungs in downtown Seattle
-One of my best friends gets to meet our childhood hero, Xavier McDaniel
That's a lot for one man to digest in 48 hours, wouldn't you say?
In all seriousness, my sincere congratulations to Ray Allen. I don't think Sonic fans ever completed wrapped their arms around and accepted Allen as one of their own, and I can't quite put my finger on why. Perhaps it was because of the miserable teams on which he played; a fan favorite almost always comes part and parcel with a playoff-caliber team.
Or perhaps it was Allen's personality. Perfectionists are always difficult to love, and Allen's smooth exterior never provided a handhold for Sonic fans to grab onto. Always admired, seldom beloved, that was Ray Allen's tenure in Seattle from my perspective.
Regardless, he is/was one of the greatest players in Sonic history, and one of the classiest men as well. To see that combination be rewarded for his efforts — and to see his one-time enemy suffer on national television simultaneously — well, that was a pleasure to watch.
And, for those keeping track at home:
NUMBER OF SHAQ-LESS TITLES
Ray Allen: 1
Kobe Bryant: 0
Tuesday, June 17
Lawrence Flemming, a grandparent, said, "I think the world of Chris, and a man with that type of money, I mean riding around the way things are today, I'd have had one too."
Now that's the saddest statement of all.
In Our Dreams
JJ: So let me get this straight – according to an email from your friend Mr. Kneeland, you overpaid for your franchise, do I have that correct?
CB: Well, ma’am, it’s a bit more ...
JJ: Sir, you want to say something to me? Then say it. Did you overpay for your franchise or not?
CB: Yes, ma’am, that is correct. It was a rushed situation and that fella David kept pressuring me, and, well, I guess I just acted foolishly. But that shouldn’t ...
JJ: I didn’t ask for your cockamamie excuses why you acted like a fool. Remember, beauty fades, but dumb last forever. I just wanted to know if you, in fact, overpaid for your team. You answered yes. Now let’s move on. As I understand it, you’re telling me that the reason you couldn’t contribute any money to a new stadium is due to the fact you overpaid for the team. Is that correct?
CB: Yes, that would be correct.
JJ: So let me get this straight, because you acted like a teenage boy with too much allowance money, the taxpayers of Seattle are now responsible for paying hundreds of millions of dollars for a new arena?
CB: Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that, ma’am. You see, we’ve got plenty of other cities out there that want us to move in, and ...
JJ: Just what exactly does that have to do with the price of tea in China, sir? Are you telling me that you think you can extort Seattle taxpayers by using some other municipality? Is that what you are telling me?
CB: Well, you see, I really was a man possessed to get something done in Seattle, and ...
JJ: You mess around with me, young man, and I’ll wipe the floor with you. We already covered that “man possessed” bit before the last commercial, and I don’t think you want to take a drive down that road again, now do you?
CB: No, ma’am, I do not.
JJ: So, back to what I asking you before you tried to re-direct the conversation. The fact you wanted to pick this team up and move it to your backyard does not have anything to do with this case, do you understand that? What I am trying to ascertain here is if you are required to fulfill the obligations of the lease you signed with the city of Seattle. Now, according to testimony we heard earlier, you said that Oklahoma City would derive $180 million in benefits from the Sonics relocating there. Is that correct?
CB: Um, yes, yes, that is correct, I did say that.
JJ: And you told someone else that the city of Renton would receive an “economic turnaround” from having a new arena. Is that correct?
CB: Yes, ma’am, that is correct.
JJ: But you don’t feel that Seattle would receive any benefit from your presence? Is that what you want me to believe?
CB: Well, you see, Seattle is such a real big city, and I just don’t think they would miss the Sonics all that much.
JJ: Sir, don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining. That’s a nonsense argument and you know it. I’m going to ask you again, and I’ll remind you that you’re under oath, are you telling me that Oklahoma City and Renton would derive hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits from the Sonics, but that Seattle would get zippo? And because of that it’s all right for you to pick up and move the Sonics in the midst of a lease that you signed?
CB: Um, well ... let me check my papers, here ...
JJ: Hey, I’m the boss, applesauce! You keep your eyes up here! You know what, I’m tired of this. I can’t believe you’re wasting my time and the time of all of the people gathered here with this ridiculous case. I’m not even going to bother reviewing the rest so let’s just put an end to this nonsense once and for all. I’m finding for the city, and that’s the end of it.
CB: Um, your honor, do I get my $100 for showing up? Your producer, I think her name’s Jenny?, she told me I’d get $100 for being on the show. You see, my wife told me if I lost this case that I might as well get a hotel room ‘cuz of all the money this is costing us, and well, I could really use that $100 ...
Probably, oh, 1/4 of the crowd (?) waits for the guests of honor to arrive (photo: Ravenal "Chunk's Brother" Calonzo)
by Rafael "Chunkstyle" Calonzo
Staff Cartoonist/Unabashed Homer
I can't pretend to know how many people were in the courthouse plaza yesterday afternoon. After all, I was a short dude standing at probably the lowest elevation on the entire block, surrounded on all sides by a sea of green and gold.
If I had to guess, I'd say the crowd easily broke 4 digits; when I relocated the family from one side of the plaza to the other a little before 4:30, we had to squeeze through a solid mass of people that spanned the width and depth of the plaza. The OKC media estimates of "a few hundred" must have been observed at two in the afternoon.
However many people were there, they were making enough noise to rival a sold-out Key Arena crowd with the Supes holding "the lead and the leather." Chants of "Save Our Sonics! (clap-clap, clap-clap-clap-clap)" and "Super! Sonics!" were near-deafening. And when Gary and X stepped to the mike, the volume became nigh ear-splitting.
What our beloved ex-Sonics actually said was suitably thrilling and sentimental, but really, they didn't have to say anything to cast a spell on the crowd. Just the fact that they were there, perched gingerly on a newspaper box (well, GP was, X stayed on the ground), was enough to make the mob go bananas. It's also worth noting that Spencer Hawes was the only current pro who braved the League's wrath by appearing at the event. Gotta love it when the local boys stay true to their hometown.
I'm actually pretty amazed at how many people attended, and the passion that was on display. I've been asked by folks, "What's the point of going to this rally?," as if to say, "They're gone, you're not going to change anything by going." All my blind optimism aside, I disagree. Of course a rally does nothing (and really, should do nothing) to sway a judge's decision. But that wasn't the intent of the event. The rally is a symbol of unity, a gesture of affection. It's something you can point to and say, "People do still care, so stop with the 'no one cares about the Sonics' nonsense."
No matter the outcome of this whole ordeal, I firmly believe the fans have already changed the League's intended course for the franchise. Without the fans, the team would have left last year, no incriminating emails would have been revealed, there wouldn't even be the whisper of a possible replacement team, and there would be jeers from the rest of the country that we rolled over and let someone steal our history.
Finally, much respect is due to Brian Robinson, Steven Pyeatt and the feisty band of volunteers who made the rally happen. If they can put an event like this together for a court case, I can't wait to see what they do for a "Sonics Stay" party.
Monday, June 16
Judging by various reports, the crowd was upwards of 1,000 people [UPDATE: KOMO4 estimated the crowd at about 500, KJR quoted police officials as saying it was between 2,500 and 3,000 people; it appears that the city needs to hire an Official Crowd Estimator] and - when you add in Xavier McDaniel and Gary Payton's combined presence - made for some gripping video on the local news.
Hopefully, the rally will reach a national audience and let the rest of the country know that this situation is not a foregone conclusion by a long shot, and that Clay Bennett and David Stern are still in for one heckuva fight.
And while there is no Nestor in this year's events (Nestor was the Greek figure who urged reconciliation between Argamenon and Achilles during the Trojan War, and served as the title of episode 2 of Ulysses, but you knew that, right?), there is Mayor Greg Nickels, who serves as, geez, forget the metaphors ...
Anyhow, Sonic supporters might be a little less than thrilled with Nickels' testimony today. While his work with the city's attorneys went swimmingly (except for an sustained objection that went against the city), he had a few pratfalls while dealing with the PBC's attorneys. To wit:
- Testified that he supported the Ballmer Group of Four purchasing the Sonics, "but did not work toward it." (quoting the KING-5 blog here). At which time, the defense presented a video showing previous Nickels' testimony wherein he says he was working toward it.
- Admitted he had only attended two Sonic games in the past 7 or 8 years. Which puts him behind me, and I don't even live in the U.S.!
- Admitted that KeyArena is not a good long-term building for the team.
Naturally, this bit of testimony isn't the end of the case, and it doesn't mean the city is going to lose. And, knowing that Clay Bennett is poised to take the stand and defend his indefensible position on the emails between he and McClendon and Ward certainly makes me feel a bit better. Still, it would have been nice to see the Mayor come off a little better on the stand.
Keep tuned to KING5 for ongoing updates.
And, Go Rocco!
Somebody please set up a hoop in the Courthouse driveway so we can make the above scene happen.
There are five players in the starting lineup for a basketball team. So, here are five good reasons to attend today's rally (visit SonicCentral.com as always for updated information, but the gist of it is 4 pm, 700 Stewart Street, Downtown, Federal Courthouse Building).
1. Good weather? Check.
2. Xavier McDaniel, Gary Payton, Zaid Abdul Aziz, Will Conroy, Spencer Hawes (and possibly others) in attendance? Check.
3. Clay Bennett at the courthouse? Check.
4. Being able to talk to other people who can commiserate about the Sene/Petro/Swift draft picks? Check.
5. Demonstrating to the NBA that Seattle cares about the NBA? Check.
Basically, it boils down to this: Even if you don't care if the Sonics leave, even if you think the NBA is bilking individual cities to further its broken economic model, even if you believe David Stern and Clay Bennett are rat-fink liars, how often do you get a chance to stand in the sunshine and cheer for the X-Man and The Glove? Skip lunch, call in sick, take an "afternoon meeting", whatever, just be there!
words: P. Nussbaum / image: R. Calonzo
Friday, June 13
After all, in addition to the nostalgia factor, you've LA involved, not to mention Boston, which is a heckuva better proposition than, oh, San Antonio and Cleveland, right?
So I was a little surprised to see the ratings for the series so far. Now, these are just for the first three games (game four ratings aren't available yet to non-insiders such as myself), but take a look:
Game 1: 8.7
Game 2: 8.5
Game 3: 9.2
Now, bear in mind that these are overnight ratings, which are almost always higher than the official ratings which will come out later.
The chart shows how the ratings have gone since David Stern took over the league in 1984. And, while this year's numbers are obviously higher than last year's (and when you add in game 4 and game 5, they'll higher still), it's not much of an improvement in the grand scheme of things.
In fact, if you were a pessimist, wouldn't you be disappointed with these ratings? Considering the hoopla surrounding the matchup, wouldn't you expect this year's series to do at least as well as the the 2004 Lakers-Pistons series? Well, thus far, the ratings are below that series, and I'd label that as disappointing. When you factor in that these are overnight ratings, I would say it's even more disappointing.
So, while the media continues to parrot David Stern's company line about improved ratings, it's a faulty argument. Yes, ratings are up over last year, but considering that last year's series was the lowest-rated in modern NBA history, wouldn't you expect that? For a league so full of bad news as the NBA, this is the best week of the entire year, the time when all of its sins are washed away by the goodwill generated by a Laker-Celtic final.
Next week, the Finals will be over, and Stern will be forced to endure an unending series of questions about the Sonics and Tim Donaghy. I hope an 8.5 rating is enough to comfort him.
Love ya, Ray!
Thursday, June 12
Growing up rooting for the Sonics, four players in particular had more impact on my fandom than any others. In the early 1980s, it was Gus Williams, because he was the best player on the roster, because he tied his shoelaces in a funny manner that I liked to replicate, and because his nickname was “The Wizard.” In the 1990s, it was Nate McMillan and Gary Payton, for coolness (Nate) and ferociousness (GP).
But in between was the X-Man, Xavier McDaniel. His turnaround jumper on the baseline, his starring role in “Singles,” his all-star game appearance, and, most of all, that famous poster “The X-Man Cometh,” where he donned a trench coat and glared out of the glossy paper with the fury of a man who would not be denied.
That poster had a place of honor on my wall in my dorm at the University of Oregon. There were others alongside it (Chris Sabo, Eric Davis, and others; I was a Reds fan those days), but it was the X-Man who drew the most attention. The sea of Blazer fans that inhabited my dorm always saw fit to mess with the Sonics, especially Gary Payton, and, boy, there’s nothing a U of O student hated more in the 1990s than an OSU grad (Payton) playing for the Sonics, especially when that OSU grad was full of more smack than Eliot Spitzer’s girlfriends on payday.
But Xavier McDaniel? No, nobody criticized the X-Man, at least not to my face. Seattle has long been known as a latte town, the kind of place where outsiders come in and get away with whatever they want. As a kid at the Kingdome watching the Mariners, my family was the only one that stood up and booed the Mariners (and there was plenty to boo about, believe me), and that’s only because my parents were from the east coast, where children are taught to boo before they learn to write.
The X-Man was different, though, he was a hard-ass in a town of huggers. A man in a city of mice. I ask you: Was it any wonder that the most famous memory of McDaniel in Seattle isn’t a winning jump shot, but of him choking the life out of the Lakers’ Wes Matthews?
Suffice it so say that the day I saw that photo of X in the Seattle Times I ran to my mom’s desk, grabbed the scissors, cut out the picture, and used up half a roll of scotch tape to put it on my pee-chee. It was a small tribute to my favorite player, but for a 14-year-old, it was as big a tribute as I could manage.
So, to see that McDaniel will be traveling all the way from his South Carolina home to Seattle just to make an appearance at the rally on Monday, well, it just validates everything I believed about him two decades ago. Tough then, and still tough today.
You can have your Steve Largents, your Edgar Martinezes, and your Jack Sikmas – I’ll take the X-Man, thank you, and won’t look back.
Wednesday, June 11
Picking for the Future
R. Allen, 5
T. ALLEN, 25
That’s a total of 21 players, and only four of them were picked in the top ten of the draft. Also of note, six of the Lakers’ 10 players are home-grown, while only five of the Celtics’ 12 players came via a Boston draft (and, it should be noted, Andrew Bynum is nowhere on that list; the 10th overall selection was picked by LA in 2005).
What does all of that matter, though? Well, one point in particular may be derived: The majority of a team’s roster comes by way of either the bottom of the first or the second rounds. True, you’re not going anywhere without a superstar, but a superstar alone does not a champion make. Give some bonus points to Mitch Kupchak for finding people like Vujacic and Walton long after other teams bypassed them.
With the Sonics holding four second-round picks this season, in addition to dual first-rounders, it is crucial for the future of this franchise that Sam Presti find at least one player who can contribute to the team’s on-court success, other than what he finds with the #4 overall selection. It’s unfortunate that the Sonics need so much help at so many positions at this time, but that is the messy bed in which Presti is awakening. Personally, I can’t fathom why the Sonics would want someone like Roy Hibbert with the second of their two first-rounders, and the idea that Jeff Green’s talents would improve by having his old friend around is laughable.
At that point in the draft, you come up with one of two players: the Wayne Simiens of the world and the Luke Waltons. For Presti’s sake, for Seattle let’s hope he finds more like the latter (Courtney Lee, please!) than the former.
Well Done (Well, Sort Of)
These days, it is difficult to separate those two entities. ESPN and ABC have paid a boatload of money for the rights to broadcast the NBA, and if the NBA should begin to show signs of deterioration, well, that would be bad for business at Disney. So, when Tim Donaghy's attorney dumped a great, big pile of steaming testimony upon the media's lap on Wednesday, I was skeptical that it would get much attention from the broadcast that night.
Which is especially frustrating, considering that Jeff Van Gundy was front and center in involvement in one of Donaghy's alleged conspiracies (I'm not denigrating here, just trying to be fair).
The way I look at it, commentators should act as our friends, as if we were sitting next to them in our living room. And, last night, if you were sitting next to Jeff Van Gundy, wouldn't the first words out of your mouth be, "Hey, what do you think about what Donaghy said today?" I know the NBA Finals are important, but, come on, how could you not ask that question?
And, thankfully, ABC/ESPN did just that, isolating JVG with lead man Mike Breen during a halftime segment. Sadly, Van Gundy tried to distance himself from Donaghy's allegations (dragging in that old, tired line about Donaghy "denigrating the league," as if the league was some religious entity), and he also tried to backpedal a bit from his comments during the Houston/S.A. series [edit: should have read Houston/Dallas] involving the league's apparent attempt to target Yao Ming.
Still, give credit to the broadcast team for not ignoring the situation. Should Mike Breen have asked more pointed questions? Of course, but that sort of interrogation will never happen between two partners in a broadcast, it's just not realistic to expect that of Breen, or any other commentator involved in such a situation. I'm just happy they didn't ignore what could be - combined with the ongoing Battle in Seattle - one of the most important stories of David Stern's tenure.
Tuesday, June 10
Sometimes, I Told You So Isn't Enough
Ira Newble must be nodding his head somewhere right about now.
Monday, June 9
The crusading Brian Robinson of Save Our Sonics and SonicsCentral.com asked me if I could do a quick flyer for the rally next Monday. Of course I said yes. GARY FREAKIN' PAYTON AND THE FREAKIN' X-MAN are going to be there, for Pete's* sake!
Get the .pdf flyer here. I could be persuaded to make a color version if people asked real nice. Or if I get bored.
UPDATE: People asked real nice, so click here for the color version.
UPDATE: It was brought to my attention that it may be helpful to label which bald black dude is which since a) not everyone knows what GP and X-man look like, or b) they do know what they look like, but may not consider my caricature skills quite Puyallup Fair-quality. So there are now arrows indicating which guy I was intending to draw.
Behind the Scenes Bonus Footage: I came thisclose to making X-man say "Steve, do come now." My buddy talked sense into me though.
*And Paul's, for that matter.
Alexie in, Levy left out in Seattle Sonics trial
U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman ruled today that award-winning novelist and Supersonic fanatic Sherman Alexie will be allowed to testify on behalf of Sonics fans at the upcoming Seattle vs. Sonics trial.
Read the rest of what the Judge had to say in today's Seattle Times.
Friday, June 6
No News Until Monday
That debate about whether Sherman Alexie and Mitch Levy will be allowed to testify? Decided today.
The argument of whether the city was in bed with Steve Ballmer and orchestrated the entire situation to force Bennett to sell? Decided today.
Should the survey which showed Seattle cares little about the NBA be included? Decided today.
Are Nick Licata's comments about the lack of cultural value of the Sonics important? Decided today.
And so on. As you can see, it's an important day for the future of the franchise in this city, especially in one regard: How the judge rules will be the first solid indication of how she feels about the case. If later today it is revealed that Levy and Alexie will be forbidden to testify, it will be an indication she may be leaning towards the Sonics' side of things, and, contrarily, if a whack of the Sonics' evidence is denied entry, then it could be supposed the judge is leaning towards Seattle's side of things.
Should make for an interesting day.
Thursday, June 5
Breaking It Down
Remember, this isn’t who I think is the better player, it’s who I would root for in a one-on-one matchup.
Rajon Rondo v Derek Fisher
I don’t know why, but I’ve never liked Fisher. Maybe it’s an anti-lefty bias, or perhaps just leftovers from the Laker 3-peat, but I just don’t care for the guy. Rondo, on the other hand, is fun to watch and always capable of doing something exciting.
Ray Allen v Kobe Bryant
Um, gee, that’s a tough one. Bottom line: I refuse to cheer for someone who 1) gave himself a nickname, and 2) made that nickname “Mamba.” Go, Ray, go.
Paul Pierce v Vladimir Radmanovic
Another easy one. How can you root against a guy so obviously willing to make himself look foolish? Do you think Pierce would be willing to sport this outfit? Of course not. Edge, Radman.
Kevin Garnett v Lamar Odom
I’ll admit, I love Kevin Garnett. I love his intensity, I love the way he sort of resembles a creature from another planet, I love his -5% body fat. Can you think of two more diametrically opposed personalities in the entire league than Garnett and Odom? I’m rooting for KG, thank you very much.
Kendrick Perkins v Pau Gasol
I like Spain, and Spaniards in general, but I’ve never warmed up to Pau. Maybe it’s because he always looks as if someone stole his moped, but I just can’t get excited about rooting for him. Perkins, alternatively, is fun to cheer for, simply because he’s almost like a real, old-fashioned NBA center. I like that he is 0-for-6 in his career in 3-point attempts. I like that he has more in common with Earl Cureton than Earl Monroe. Centers are supposed to push people around and get rebounds, right?
Celtics v Lakers
Well, Boston’s got PJ Brown, who I’ve always enjoyed, as well should-have-been-a-Sonic Glen Davis, who’s sort of a Danny Fortson for the Facebook generation. The Lakers have Sasha Vujacic (ick), Luke Walton (double-ick), and Jordan Farmar (who the what now?). If it wasn’t for Ronny Turiaf I could honestly say that I have no positive opinions about anyone on the Laker bench. (Although, I have to admit that I had a feeling back in February that Vujacic would become famous in June for making a 3-pointer at one point in the Finals; you just get that Steve Kerr-ish feeling from him). Definite edge to Boston here.
Doc Rivers v Phil Jackson
I know the Zen Master is annoying, but I like that he admits he’s annoying, or at least admits that the whole press-coach relationship is a bit of a game. I’m siding with Mr. Jeanne Buss.
Boston vs Los Angeles
On the one hand, you’ve got Boston, which seems to have marked its territory around every major sporting event. On the other, you’ve got late-arriving Laker fans. Can I just call it a push?
So, the calculator says Boston wins, by a score of five to two. Which means, yours truly will be rooting for Boston for the next week or so.
That, and for a certain someone special to have to make a plane trip to Seattle. That would be extra sweet.
Wednesday, June 4
Normally, we'd have some snarky comment to make, but articles involving concealed weapons and jail time kind of put the kibosh on that sort of thing.
“The 2006-07 season marked the Sonics 40th anniversary in Seattle.”
“The Sonics won the NBA championship in 1979 ...”
“The Sonics are part of the Sonics & Storm Foundation which supports community programs that teach, encourage and motivate children.”
“The earth revolves around the sun.”
“The Foundation recently awarded $10,000 in scholarships .. [as part of] the newly named Dennis Johnson Memorial Scholarship.”
“The Sonics actively supports [sic] the NBA’s Hip to Be Fit Program.”
Okay, I made up one of those, and, to be fair, the Sonics are not objecting to the veracity of those statements, they are objecting to their relevance to the trial. Still, you have to admit the humor in a team objecting to the phrase “The Sonics won the NBA championship in 1979,” if only on a Rumsfeldian level.
Speaking of enjoyable pieces of information, the order also reveals the city will be calling Andrew Zimbalist as a witness. Zimbalist, an economist, is best known for his intricate explorations of sports from an economic perspective, and is often cited by anti-stadium activists for his arguments against the economic benefits of building new stadiums. The fact a city is using Zimbalist in a court case – a gentleman who has argued so effectively that cities are foolish to think that stadiums will cure their economic woes – is more than a little ironic.
Other witnesses slated to testify include Clayton Bennett, James Donaldson, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, Aubrey McClendon, and the NBA’s Joel Litvin. There is no information in the order as to whether David Stern will be required to testify.
Among the pages of evidence to be presented is an email from McClendon to KM8881@ aol.com, with the subject heading “The Oklahoma City Sonic Boom (or maybe Sonic Boomers!) Baby” and another email from “Steve Balimer” [sic] to Clay Bennett (from February 2007).
As in all legal proceedings, the order is heavy on details and light on enjoyable reading, but it still serves as yet another essential piece of the future of the Seattle SuperSonics.
Check this out and tell me if it doesn’t make you a bit nauseous:
“There’s a lot of talk about acquiring Michael Redd from the Milwaukee Bucks, and it might be realistic. ... A lineup that includes Delonte West and Redd at guard is pretty appealing.
“Redd will make $15.8 million, $17 million and $18.3 million (player option) the next three seasons. The Cavs have Szczerbiak’s $13 million and Damon Jones’ $4.5 million in expiring contracts to work with.”
In case you failed to read between the lines, Sam Presti could have acquired the following by packaging Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West (or Luke Ridnour or Earl Watson) this summer:
1. Donyell Marshall, Ira Newble, and Adrian Griffin,
2. Michael Redd.
How does that taste, Sonic fans? I’ll tell you what it tastes like to me, it tastes like garbage. The Sonics have already let Newble walk away, and Griffin’s deal expired, leaving Marshall’s $5 million expiring deal to show for what will be the starting backcourt for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Care to take a guess as to what the Sonics will do with a $5 million expiring contract at the trading deadline next February? Considering that Kurt Thomas’ contract was worth almost twice Marshall’s, and considering that Thomas had twice the value of Marshall as a basketball player, I’m guessing that Sam Presti will be lucky to get a fourth round pick for Donyell, and that’s only because there’s only two rounds in the draft to begin with.
Worse yet, the Sonics essentially threw away Delonte West simply because PJ Carlesimo couldn’t figure out how to use him. Let me get this straight, Mike Brown – who is nowhere near the brightest mind in the NBA coaching academy – can figure out how to use West, but PJ can’t? What does that say about the future of the Sonics?
Granted, the due date on PJ’s library card might be next February, but, still, shouldn’t the guy running the team have a modicum of insight into how to utilize his assets? Of course, that’s assuming the people running the team placed a higher emphasis on the win/loss column than on Clay Bennett’s legal bills, which is a foolish assumption to make, I know.
But let’s assume that wasn’t the case, and the Sonics were run by people who were trying to win games. The starting lineup this November could conceivably look something like this:
PG: DJ Augustine
Plus, coming off the bench we’ve got Green, someone like Chris Douglas-Roberts, the remainder of The Watson/West/Ridnour Trio, and The Francisco Elson All-Stars. Plus, if the Sonics trade down from #4 to, say, the #10 pick to get Augustine (according to Chad Ford, they’re already exploring the possibility of dealing down), they might pick up another first-rounder in an upcoming draft, or an expiring contract. Plus, Chris Wilcox will be playing out of his mind next season in order to cash in during the summer, so you know the Sonics could easily pick up something valuable for him at the trade deadline. Plus, even though you’re overpaying Redd, his deal will come off the books by the time your superstar draft picks start getting their extensions.
This isn’t some pie-the-in-sky scenario that involves other teams trading superstars for your retreads, it just involves regular, everyday NBA trades. Now, it could be argued that Milwaukee would be less likely to part with Redd if they had to take back Ridnour/Watson/West's contract in return, but what if the Sonics sweetened the pot with one of their 37 draft picks in the next three seasons? Are you telling me the Bucks would say no to a $13 million expiring contract, a #1 pick, and a servicable point guard in exchange for a guy they already want to get rid of?
What’s most frustrating of all isn’t that Presti didn’t make the move because he’s a moron, it’s that he didn’t make the move because his boss is more interested in saving money than in winning games.
The irony in all of this is that Sonic fans have waited a dozen years since Bob Whitsitt skipped down I-5 to Portland for a savvy GM, and now we’ve finally got one, only his genius is hamstrung by corrupt ownership. At least when Rick Sund and Wally Walker were stocking the roster with 7’ stiffs we knew they were doing it with the mindset of improving the team.
Now? Now we’ve got a boy genius who could be composing symphonies, only his dad won’t let him listen to anything but Conway Twitty.
Essentially, the city's argument is that Levy is uniquely qualified to testify as to how the team neglected to properly promote the franchise, using as an example the failure of the team to allow Kevin Durant to appear on KJR (an all-sports station) more than once the entire season. The city argues that Levy would be a good person to compare Durant's treatment to someone such as Ken Griffey.
Also in the PI, Gary Washburn has an amusing story about Ronnie Craven, a Boston area man who lied to a woman in an online dating service, claiming to be a Sonics' front office employee. Craven was less than contrite when contacted by Washburn:
"I lied to her. Does that mean I can go out there and represent the Sonics? No. Does that mean that I did it to get some (sex)? Absolutely."
Gotta love it.
Tuesday, June 3
As the story goes, a friend stayed at Schrempf’s house while the German forward was on vacation. Upon returning, Det berated the friend for leaving an oil stain on his otherwise pristine driveway.
It spoke volumes to the way Det prepared for everything and to why he was such a successful player so beloved by his coaches. After all, what coach doesn’t want a player who knows his opponent’s plays better than his teammates know their own?
In many ways, Ray Allen and Detlef Schrempf are branches of the same tree (a well manicured one, presumably). Superb three-point and free-throw shooters who glided smoothly on the court in spite of whatever chaos surrounded them, they also must have made terrible roommates because of their devotion to perfection. Call me crazy, but I would hazard a guess that the majority of 25-year-old athletes are less than enthusiastic about engaging in conversation about the last time they scrubbed the bathroom sink, or why there are three forks resting in the sink, when clearly they should have been put away last night after dinner, and would it kill you to replenish the toilet paper roll once in awhile?
Last year, I came across an article about Ray Allen in the Seattle Times, one of those Sunday Lifestyle puff pieces that are heavier on style than substance. The story is predominantly a Q&A about cooking, wherein the reader learns that: 1) Allen only uses Aunt Jemima pancake mix and 2) baked chicken and rice are always on the game-day menu.
But skip over those facts to the end of the story, to where you are educated about Ray’s only “kitchen disaster.” To wit:
A long time ago, Shannon [his fiancée] moved in and was making banana bread — you know, you make it when bananas are going bad. But I told her, "I don't like banana bread; don't make it." But then we went out, and when we came back after the game, she still had the bread in the oven. Luckily, we caught it at the smoke stage.Roll that over in your mind for a few minutes. I don’t know about the rest of you, but when someone asks me about my worst kitchen disaster, I’m thinking of the time I used too much lighter fluid and nearly Yul Brennered myself, not about the time I left the banana bread in the oven for an extra three minutes. Am I the only one who thinks it a bit odd that in all of Ray Allen’s life, the worst thing that ever happened to him in the kitchen is some crispy banana bread?
But if you think about it, it’s not surprising at all. If you read Jackie MacMullen’s piece about Allen in the Boston Globe, you’re aware he’s borderline OCD, so perhaps it is less than revealing to find out his obsession to routine extends to the domestic front. Oddly disconcerting, yes, but not surprising.
Ray Allen. Detlef Schrempf. The Felix Ungers of the NBA.
According to Sports Illustrated, Kevin Durant was the 13th highest-paid athlete (using both on- and off-court income) in the U.S. last year.
In addition, Durant is the youngest man in the entire top 50, as well as the only teenager. Including endorsements, SI lists the young Sonic’s take at $25.9 million this past year, including the $12 million signing bonus he received from Nike (just edging the $0.12 signing bonus I received from Editor Paul on my last contract).
Even more amazing, Durant is younger than all but three of the 14 “Future 50” candidates SI trumpets in another section of the website. Only Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, and Brazilian soccer star Alexandre Pato are younger than Durant. He finished sixth among NBA players.
Among others, Durant received more money than Tom Brady, Jeff Gordon, Manny Ramirez, Tim Duncan, and Rich King.
Sonics fight: It's gonna get ugly
I thought I might be able to go a week without having to read about the Sonics Situation. I was wrong.
The Seattle P.I. asked Seattle lawyer Randy Aliment what he predicted for the upcoming Sonics trial. His answer? There Will Be Blood:
"Here you've got breach of lease, you've got breach of contract, you've got fraud. But bottom line, what you really have is a fight. Somebody is trying to steal the team, somebody wants to keep the team, and that's all the city knows and all Clay Bennett knows.Read the rest in today's Seattle P.I.
"That's why the NBA has to be looking at this thing saying, 'We've got to put a stop to this' or who knows where the fallout will end? Because once that fistfight erupts in court, it's like a bar where eventually it spills out into the street. You'd think somebody would want to stop this before it goes that far."
Monday, June 2
Anatomy of a Feud
During an exhibition game between the Sonics and Lakers, Ray Allen receives an elbow from Kobe Bryant and the two exchange words.
After an exhibition game against the Blazers, Allen questions Kobe Bryant’s leadership skills to reporters, especially in light of the recently departed Shaquille O’Neal. “He feels like he needs to show this league and the people in this country that he is better without Shaq,” Allen says. “He can win championships without Shaq. So offensively, he's going to jump out and say, 'I can average 30 points. I can still carry the load on this team.' If Kobe doesn't see he needs two and a half good players to be a legitimate playoff contender or win a championship, in about a year or two he'll be calling out to Jerry Buss that 'We need some help in here,' or 'Trade me.’ And we'll all be saying, 'I told you so,' when he says that."
Allen concludes by stating, “He has the talent [to lead a team], he can do it. But is his attitude going to allow him to take a back seat and let Lamar Odom shine and let Caron Butler have his nights and bring those big guys along with him?”
Obviously, Allen was proven right, as this past summer Bryant demanded a trade or some immediate help.
OCTOBER 20, 2004
Bryant allegedly phones Allen and tells him “I’m gonna bust your ass.” Bryant is referring to an upcoming exhibition game between the Sonics and Lakers. Allen denies the phone call ever took place. Bryant does as well, and also adds, “Don’t even put me and dude [Allen] in the same place.”
The two would continue to battle on-court while Allen was with the Sonics (including this memorable block by Bryant on an Allen dunk and this other brilliant Bryant game), but obviously the “feud” moved to the back burner when Allen was dealt to the Celtics this past summer.
In total, the two have tangled ten times since their tete a tete in October 2004. In those ten games, Allen’s team is 6-4, but Kobe clearly wins the individual game with 29.4 ppg to Allen’s 22. Ray does get bonus points for playing fewer minutes and for tallying more rebounds, but no matter how you look at it, Bryant has bested Allen in the individual matchup.
It’s tough to say, though, how much of the greatness attributed to Bryant lately is due to his play and how much is due to his surroundings. Bryant has been tremendous this season, but this is still the same man who received catcalls from the balcony of NBA fandom for much of the past few seasons. It makes you wonder, is it Bryant who has changed, or our perception of him?
Likewise, the perception of Allen has changed, and in one season he has gone from a feared offensive weapon to an aging gunslinger. When Allen first came to Seattle, I expected a one-dimensional shooter, basically a younger and slightly more athletic version of Dale Ellis. I was surprised to see, however, a uniquely skilled offensive player who was capable of getting 25-5-5 on just about any night. In addition, he showed us his cold-blooded nature in the 2005 playoffs by putting up lights-out numbers for three rounds.
With double ankle surgery this past spring and the presence of two strong offensive players alongside him, Allen saw his numbers drop dramatically this year, and his playoff woes are well documented. As does Bryant – as does any athlete – Ray Allen has pride, but unlike Kobe, Allen’s pride is muted. In all the time I’ve watched him play, I’ve never seen Allen thump his chest or stare down an opponent in a menacing fashion. Ray Allen would never petulantly refuse to take a shot for an entire half because it simply would never occur to him. Perhaps it’s just not his nature.
Whether or not Allen can find enough magic elixir in his bag of tricks to put up some 25-point games this Finals remains to be seen, but I have a feeling that the now-simmering feud will add some fuel to his engine. The question remains: Are the wounds to his pride deep enough to stimulate the great offensive player still inhabiting that body?
For those of us counting on a Laker loss, it’s the best we can hope for.
(Information was gathered from The Seattle Times, Tacoma News Tribune, and Seattle PI).
Long Time Gone
June 2, 1996.
It may have been twelve years ago today, but it seems like one hundred. Can it really have only been a little more than a decade since a Utah-Seattle matchup meant so much?
Is it really possible that Greg Gumble mused that Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp were about to take the mantle from John Stockton and Karl Malone as the pre-eminent inside-outside tandem of the next decade?
If you haven’t already, go ahead and click that youtube link above. Okay, have you watched the entire thing? Now, roll up your sleeve and check: Are the goosebumps there?
No, how about now?
Of course they are.
That series had everything a Sonic fan could want, everything a basketball fan could want. The key to any classic series – to any classic event – is a hero and a villain. For a Sonic fan of the mid-90s, there was no greater hero than Shawn Kemp and no greater villain than Karl Malone.
While Stockton and Hornacek were certainly despised in Seattle, they weren’t on the same level as Malone, a 250-pound behemoth of a power forward who flopped on defense like a corn stalk in a gentle breeze. Lord, we hated that man. We hated his 18-foot jump shot, which he took while standing in a perfectly straight line, angled slightly backwards, as if his feet were tied to the floor and he was wavering around that axis.
We hated the way he whined the referees for (pick one) not getting calls or getting too many.
But, more than anything else, we hated the way he seemed to take 17 minutes to take a foul shot. The deliberate way he bounced the ball while adjusting his feet, the excruciating muttering while he spun the ball in his hands. While I always wondered what the heck Malone was saying to himself while he readied his shot, I can say with certainty what thousands of Sonic fans across the northwest were saying:
“I hope you miss this shot and tear your achilles while backpedaling down the court, you no-good SOB.”
It was the time he took, though, that came to be his undoing in that 1996 series. That season, Malone shot 72% from the line, but that success vanished in the playoffs. While Malone struggled even before reaching KeyArena (he shot just shy of 60% in the first two rounds), he bottomed out in Seattle, managing only 1 of 6 in Game 1.
That failure was exacerbated by the taunts of 17,072 fans, who began counting down an imaginary 10-second clock every time Malone approached the foul line. Did that countdown impact Malone’s success at the line? It’s difficult to say, but while he rebounded to hit 12 of 16 in Game 2, the big man sputtered in Game 7, hitting only 6 of 12, and, considering the Sonics won by only four (90-86), it’s not out of the realm of possibility to say that the fans had a direct impact on who would play the Bulls for the title that season.
It was one of the biggest moments in Sonic history – not only did the Sonics qualify for the NBA finals for the first time since the 1970s, but they did so by knocking off their arch nemesis, with that nemesis’ greatest weapon being forced into embarrassment.
Quantifying the value of a sports franchise on a city is exceedingly difficult. Financially, the numbers are never really there, and the justification for outlays of millions of dollars for stadia falls apart.
Sometimes, though, you can throw the logical arguments out the window and embrace the emotional ones. Sometimes, you ignore the rational reasoning.
Sometimes, you get the Sonics beating the Jazz in 1996.