Friday, May 30
How well? How about nailing 6 of the 8 series well? How you like that, smartypants? Now, some might argue that a brain-dead monkey could have picked the first round of this year's NBA playoffs, and I suppose there would be some legitimacy to that argument, if one gave credence to the notion that monkeys fully grasp the fundamentals of basketball statistical analysis. As we all know, monkeys are still woefully unstudied in the finer aspects of PER, TS%, and the like.
Ah, you ask, but how about the following rounds, did your super-duper predictor fare so well?
Yes and no. I used Henry Abbott's point-scoring system to keep track and, well, it's doing better than Henry's mom and the equal to Jeff Ma, who apparently is really smart. So we've got that going for us.
Thus far, through 2 1/2 rounds of the playoffs, the FSF has accumulated 45 points (I've thrown out the points Abbott rewards for guessing game totals correctly), and with a Boston win over the Pistons in their series and a Laker win over the Celtics in the Finals, that would vault us to 55.
Granted, three guys already are checking in with 60, so bragging rights are already off the table, but shouldn't we get some credit for doing as well as some MIT brainiac?
Yes, I thought so, too.
Thursday, May 29
Who do I want to lose more - the Spurs or the Lakers?
With tonight's crucial Game 5 looming, there's a chance Pop's Gang of Less-Than-Merry Men will be headed for the sunset in a few hours, and they will take with them a cadre of people Sonics fans, well, any NBA fans despise.
Tony Parker. (Ick).
Manu Ginobili. (Yeech).
Brent Barry. (Well, if you've read the site, you'd understand).
Robert "Big Foul" Horry.
The whole "personality-free" culture.
As you can see, there are a myriad of reasons to root for the Lakers tonight. Except, well, it's the Lakers, right? How in the world can you make yourself root for Kobe Bryant? Even in a perfect situation, if Bryant played for, say, the Bucks, he'd be difficult to cheer for. You know, what with the rape trial, the kicking Shaq out the door nonsense, demands for trades, etc., etc.
But add in the whole celebrity bandwagon crapola with games in LA come playoff time and the way the league practically Gilloolies Laker opponents when the Finals draw closer, it's even tougher still to cheer for Kobe.
On the other hand, the Lakers have Turiaf, and he's a fun guy to cheer for. Phil Jackson ... he might be annoying, but you have to respect the success, his occasional self-deprecating ways, and the fact he actually enjoys the limelight, unlike Pop who just does not seem interested one bit in promoting the league.
But outweighing that is the fact that if the Lakers make the finals there's a distinct possibility of a Celtic-Laker championship, and seeing David Stern be rewarded with a ratings bonanza after the way he's given Seattle such a shafting would not be very karmaic, now would it?
So there you have it: My dilemma. Do I root for the Spurs and hope the Pistons prevail, setting up a horrifically boring Finals series that draws a 2.3 rating? Or do I root for Kobe and the Big Ticket, and simultaneously line Clay Bennett and David Stern's pockets?
Tough call, tough call.
But look at this from another perspective: Sund's greatest crime in the eyes of Sonic fans was selecting Robert Swift, Johan Petro, and Mo Sene with successive first-round draft choices.
Well, inasmuch as the Hawks are without draft choices this year (that's right, they're absent from the first and second rounds), isn't this a perfect situation for Sund?
To convolute an oft-repeated cliche, if Rick Sund makes a bad draft choice and there is no draft, does that draft choice make a sound?
"Fines will be imposed for clear cases of flopping"
Of all the problems with the NBA on the court - the complaining to the officials, the special treatment for superstars, the dubious officiating whenever the Lakers are playing, the 'swing the ball around the perimeter for a 3-pointer' offense - to this viewer, flopping is the worst.
Flopping is not basketball. Nobody flops in pick-up basketball, because it is the antithesis of competition. Competing means pushing back, not falling down. Competing means focusing your efforts on defeating your man, not playing to an official.
And yet the NBA has allowed this spectacle to rob the game of its excitement. 15 years ago, a man drove into the lane, threw down a dunk and the crowd cheered. Now, a man drives into the lane, Manu Ginobili slides over, allows himself to be grazed on the elbow, and falls down as if he had been shot from someone on a grassy knoll.
It's a disgusting practice, and it has had the same affect on the game as the European introduction of smallpox to Native Americans. Sure, flopping existing before the Euros came over, but it reached new heights under the teachings of Professor Vlade Divac and his bizarrely bearded disciples.
Kudos to the NBA for making an effort to put an end to this. If they do nothing else right this off-season, I'll applaud them for this.
Wednesday, May 28
In other news, the team also wishes to suspend the printing presses of the Seattle Times, Seattle PI, and Tacoma News Tribune, as well as the broadcasting capabilities of all AM and FM stations (except, as the statement makes clear, "those who broadcast that easy listening stuff, because nobody with a pulse listens to that stuff anyways.") As Clay Bennett makes clear in the statement:
I have grown tired with the inquisitive nature of the Seattle media, and its ability to point out my shortcomings, and therefore wish to silence any possible future embarrassments which may be discovered by the press. While I understand some may take this as an impingement upon the First Amendment, I believe it is completely in line with my belief that the local media should always be under the thumb of the wealthiest person(s) in its respective municipality.
Tuesday, May 27
CHAD FORD, espn.com
#4: "[Jerryd] Bayless is an excellent athlete who can really shoot. Of all the combo guards in the draft, he also has shown the most ability, so far, to run the point. Luke Ridnour and Earl Watson have not taken excelled at the position in Seattle. So, of the first four picks in the draft, this one looks like the closest to a lock."
#24: Serge Ibaka
#24: Alexis Ajinca
#24: Kosta Koufos
Also, DraftExpress notes that the Sonics are appearing to "lock in" on Bayless (making me wonder - who was first with the "lock," Chad Ford or DraftExpress?). Apparently, Sam Presti thinks Bayless would be a good fit alongside either Earl Watson or Luke Ridnour "until he's ready to man the position full-time."
Which makes me think: Who cares? Ridnour is expected to be traded very soon, and Watson is probably on the trading block as well. Five years from now, will it have been a good decision to have selected Jerryd Bayless to play alongside Watson or Ridnour when neither of them are on the roster?
Of course not. By that point, the two existing PGs on this roster will have as much relevance to Seattle's fortunes as Danny Vranes or Gus Williams - none. I'm not saying that Presti is thinking this way - in fact, I doubt he is - but it always frustrates me when "experts" make decisions for a team's future based upon players who will be gone from the roster in the near future.
It's not that I think Bayless is a bad choice, although I wonder about his ability to function as a combo guard in the NBA with his lack of point guard experience, it's that making a choice based on soon-to-be-irrelevant players is rather foolish. Add to the fact that the Sonics would be expecting a guy who has never played full-time at point guard to be their point guard of the future and, well, is that really a smart move?
Clay Bennett, to PR Consultant Brent Gooden, via email
That quote comes courtesy of Greg Johns' article in the PI today. You'll also read about Bennett's empathy towards the players' desire to remain in Seattle ("Boo hoo") as well as Aubrey McClendon yet again showing why he was so sincere about keeping the team in Seattle ("The truth is we did buy it with the hope of moving to Oklahoma City.")
It just never ends, does it?
Bennett was referring specifically to getting caught making a financial commitment towards building a new arena in Renton, the same arena which would cost $500 million, and which he would contribute only the amount of money he could raise via naming rights. In other words, nothing.
Nothing, as in Bennett's chances of playing a game in Oklahoma City before the end of the decade.
Monday, May 26
CDR makes all the right comments, but Givony does a good job at eliciting quotes that are not out of the Cliche 101 Handbook. Definitely worth a read.
In Sonic news, you'll have to read the entire article for the full story, but take at least one quote, taken from Greg Johns' piece at the PI regarding Aubrey McClendon's recently revealed testimony.
McClendon is speaking in regards to his conversation with the NBA's Joel Litvin, who questioned why Aubrey would make such a foolhardy comment as "we didn't buy the team to keep it in Seattle."
"I said, 'You know, Joel, I don't know. It's like me saying the sky is green, you know, sometimes you say things that you don't know why you say it.' "
Somewhere, somebody needs to be making a tie-dyed t-shirt of Aubrey McClendon standing beneath a green sky. You just can't make this stuff up.
Friday, May 23
In that vein, Eric Williams of the TNT links to a story from the Daily Oklahoman wherein McClendon explains that when he said to a Oklahoma reporter that "We didn't buy the team to keep it in Seattle; we hoped to come here," what he meant to say was that "we hoped to come here" if an arena deal couldn't be worked out.
As I said before, I'm beyond getting angry at these fools and their comments. At this point, the whole Clay Bennett-David Stern-Aubrey McClendon love triangle has reached farcical levels previously reached only by Donald Rumsfield.
The names of those three players roll off the tongues of Sonic fans like a movie executive recalling failed blockbusters:
Robert Swift. Johan Petro. Mo Sene.
None of the three lived up to the expectations thrust upon them, and the bitter aftertaste of those picks cost Rick Sund his job and left fans here ready to fire a shotgun at the next “promising big man” who walked through the door.
With six picks in this year’s draft, I’ve heard quite a few people comment that they absolutely DO NOT want the Sonics to take a project at center this year, despite the team’s utter lack of talent at the 5 spot. I can understand the sentiment.
I can understand it, but it’s wrong. Yes, Sund’s Follies marched this organization in the wrong direction, and possibly cost fans a shot at seeing a repeat playoff performance (especially when you look at the people Seattle could have drafted with those picks).
But swearing off drafting raw big men because of three failed experiments is a bit like swearing off driving because your first car was a Ford Festiva. Sure, it wasn’t the best car, but why forgo the future possibility of driving a Ferrari because of a couple negative experiences?
The fact is that the NBA is rife with players who came into the league as projects. Just as a quick example, take a look at where these power forwards and centers went in the draft:
Mehmet Okur, 37th
Samuel Dalembert, 26th
Andrei Kirilenko, 24th
Zydrunas Ilgauskas, 20th
Sean Williams, 17th
Do you think Jazz fans were throwing their temple undergarments in the air when they drafted Kirilenko eight years ago? I think not.
But that’s how it works in this league. Sure, it’s easy to find a Tim Duncan or Shaquille O’Neal when you have first crack at the draft, but if you don’t, you have to take a risk and hope that when the cards are turned over you’re looking at Samuel Dalembert rather than Rich King.
And considering that the Sonics aren’t going to be printing playoff tickets for the next couple of seasons, exactly what do we have to lose here?.
-Durant greatly enhanced his game by laying off the 3-pointers after the first couple months of the season.
-While there was not a consistent rise in production over the course of the season, it can be argued correctly that he was definitely a better player at the end of the season than at the beginning. In that respect, PJ Carlesimo and his staff deserve recognition. Could he have played better? Yes. Was it a waste of time to completely stick him at SG the entire season with only minimal time at SF? Also yes.
Thursday, May 22
Looking at that boxscore, the first item that reaches out and grabs me by the collar is the Sonics' bench for that game:
Why does that grab my attention, you ask? Because all four of those reserves would start for this year's team, and it wouldn't even be a question.
To help remember the game, enjoy this bit of nostalgia, as Ricky Pierce attempts to completely fold his body in half while preparing for his free throws.
Snarky superiority of modern technology aside, it does make you long for those days when slapping anything up there with a Sonics logo was good enough to work. Bonus points for the "Ticket Packages from $60."
So, here are some tips for Mr. Bennett on how to save a few bucks in the next 24 months, because, as you know, we're all about helping a fella out when he's on hard times:
1. Scrap radio broadcasts in favor of text messaging.
2. Have television broadcasts “Re-Create” road games in a Seattle studio using sound props.
3. Eliminate advertising budget. Oops, forgot, already did that last year.
4. Replace per diem for players with sack lunches.
5. Trade players with longer-term contracts for short-term ones, regardless of talent. Wait, did that last year, too.
6. Eliminate green and gold jerseys and just go with gray for both home and away to cut down on laundry costs. Check with Chico Bail Bonds for sponsorship possibilities on new jerseys.
7. Trade this year’s first-rounders for first-rounders next year. Continue process until team has moved to OKC.
8. Replace Gatorade on bench with tap water with yellow food coloring.
9. See if Presti will fit into the Squatch outfit.
10. Look into applying for federal school lunch program funds to replace concessions.
11. Ask your wife for some more money.
Wednesday, May 21
And, I’ll admit, on first blush, I was convinced Seattle should take Jerryd Bayless or OJ Mayo with the pick because getting a new point guard was essential to the team’s success.
You see, after 20 years of rooting for this team I’ve grown accustomed to hoping that their off-season moves will catapult them to a new level in the upcoming season. That’s the way it works as a fan – you expect your team to make moves to produce more wins in the year(s) to come.
But that’s not the case with this team because here’s the cold and honest truth: Barring some unforeseen changes in the cosmos, the Seattle Sonics are not going to be contending for a playoff spot next year, and most likely not the year after, either.
That kind of takes the urgency away from getting a point guard this year, doesn’t it? In fact, rather than “In It to Win It,” perhaps next year’s slogan could be “In It to Get Some More Picks.”
So, rather than looking to fill immediate needs, the Sonics should instead take a hard look at the roster and ask this question: “Who among this Baker’s Dozen of players will be with us when we make a playoff run?”
Personally, I can see two or three – Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Nick Collison.
That’s it. One small forward, one small/power forward, and one power forward/center. In my estimation, everything else is as free and open as a land rush into the Louisiana Territory circa 1806. Meaning, therefore, center, power forward, shooting guard, and point guard are all possibilities in this draft.
Sure, getting Derrick Rose to ride shotgun along Durant fills a gaping hole in the team’s roster, but what difference would it have made in the team’s outlook for the 2008-09 season? From 20 wins to 25? From 25 to 30? Does it really matter?
Of course not. So, rather than just focusing on Jerryd Bayless and OJ Mayo, widen your scope to include Kevin Love (actually, forget him, unless you think the next Dave Cowens is what the Sonics need), Brook Lopez, Eric Gordon, Anthony Randolph, or even the possibility of trading down to get either yet another first rounder.
In most cases, in most years, teams look to throw a drafted player into a specific need, like repairing one chink in a broken dam. In Seattle’s case, though, that dam has more holes than the Bush Administration’s Foreign Policy, and not of the holes is more important than any other.
Tuesday, May 20
Let the speculation begin.
The Sonics, one year removed from having two of the top five picks in the draft, will have the 4th pick in this year's draft, as announced at the lottery selection this evening in New Jersey.
Seattle had a 38.7% chance of getting one of the top two picks, but instead fell to number four, the lowest possible slot they could have occupied. Among the likely possibilities for the team are:
Anyone not named Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley
Man, that just blows. It's not enough that Seattle fans had to suffer through a season of complete ineptitude, but now we lose a shot at getting one of the two preeminent players in the draft.
Personally, I always thought it was ridiculous. If you’re going to re-seed the playoffs, why even bother having conferences? Why not just have a 30-team league with no conferences or divisions?
As a small bit of evidence of why it is foolish to throw out the existing system, here is a one small bit of statistical evidence. One – and, mind you, just one – way of measuring a team’s effectiveness is to look at the number of points they score per 100 possessions, and the number of points they allow per 100 possessions. This allows for a team’s pace in a way that pure PPG cannot. Herewith, the top seven teams in the differential between points scored and allowed per 100 possessions:
1. Boston, 11.3
2. Detroit, 8.5
3. Lakers, 7.5
4. Utah, 7.3
5. New Orleans, 5.8
6. Orlando, 5.8
7. San Antonio, 5.4
So, in essence, the three best teams are right where they are supposed to be. Honestly, the only team I can see that has a legitimate gripe about re-seeding the playoffs is the Jazz, who were forced to overtake the Lakers, rather than the Magic or another Eastern Conference team. (And, honestly, I’m not about to go back and re-seed the playoffs to see who the Jazz “should” have faced in the 2nd round; if you’ve got that sort of time on your hands, by all means, let me know).
What does it all mean, then? To my way of thinking, it means this: The current system, while not perfect, seems to deliver what it is supposed to – the four best teams in the league are playing for the right to play in the Finals in two weeks.
What more do you want than that?
(image from A View From the Cheap Seats)
So, tonight's the night. The Sonics find out whether they will be able to land Derrick Rose (please, please, please), or someone else.
The pessimist in me sees the Sonics falling to #4 and taking OJ Majo, only to find out that he's wanted for some crime in West Virginia and will have to play with an ankle bracelet for his first two seasons. Or, they take Danilo Gallinari so that they can have three small forwards, all drafted in the top five of the draft.
But let's be sensible. Assume the Sonics get the #4 pick (the most likely option based on probability) and Derrick Rose is off the table. Who do you take with that pick? Mayo is certainly a possibility, as is Brook Lopez from Stanford or Jerryd Bayless from Arizona.
Personally, I'd hold my nose and take Lopez, assuming Beasley, Rose, and Bayless are 1-2-3. He's got good size and strength and has a good touch from the line. It worries me that a guy 7' and 260 shot less than 50% from the field in college, and extrapolating that figure to the NBA worries me even more. Still, he, along with Mayo, would probably be the most likely options for the Sonics at #4. And, if OJ Mayo is your toughest competition, you're probably going to win that battle.
However, there is another option - if the Sonics don't get one of the top two picks, they could parlay their pick (say it's #4) in combination with the #24 pick and/or multiple second-round picks to move up to the top two. To me, it's a no-brainer - Derrick Rose fits a need for this team more than any other player in the draft. The #24 pick is going to be a risk anyways, as are the second-rounders, and giving up multiple risks for a singular certainty is always a smart move in my book.
Friday, May 16
Wilkins (assuming he will take his option)
That’s a total of 13, not including who the Sonics stumble across in the second round (and with four picks, there will be plenty of people to stumble across). Now, let’s eliminate a couple of players, just purely on speculation.
Luke Ridnour: I feel that it is very likely that Ridnour will be dealt this summer. It’s clear he doesn’t fit into the team’s long-range plans and he still has value in the league, although his contract is not exactly commensurate with that talent.
Earl Watson: Watson seems to be on the good side of the Sonic management, and his production this year was definitely improved over previous seasons. EW posted career-best marks in field goals made, FG%, FT%, and 2nd-best numbers in 3-point percentage, true shooting %, turnover %, assists/36, and points/36. Looking closer at the numbers, though, and it becomes readily apparent that Earl sacrificed defensive effectiveness for offensive productivity. He put up the 2nd-best offensive rating of his career this season, but balanced that with his worst-ever defensive rating. Still, only nine players (Nash, Paul, D Williams, Kidd, Calderon, Ford, and Jamaal Tinsley) posted better assists/36 minutes in the entire league last year, and that came on a team with absolutely no outside shooting. If I’m the Sonics I’m hoping Derrick Rose falls into my lap so Watson can come off the bench.
Chris Wilcox: Many suspect Wilcox will be traded this summer, but I think the wise move would be to wait until next February. While Big Weezy has been more inconsistent than not, he knows a big paycheck could be waiting for him he puts forth the effort over the next twelve months. Combine his soon-to-be-expiring contract with his ability to post numbers like 18 points/8 boards/2 flashy dunks, Wilcox could fetch something much nicer in return next winter than he will this summer.
Johan Petro: Another likely to be dealt, if only for his continuing ability to be 7’ tall. He showed some signs of life after the Kurt Thomas trade, but I can’t imagine Sam Presti envisages the Sonics utilizing JoPet too much in the next few years.
Mo Sene: Sadly, it’s possible the entire ’08-’09 season will be a write-off for Sene due to injury.
So, for argument’s sake, let’s say the Sonics are able to deal away Petro and Ridnour, perhaps in combination with one or two second-round picks, returning them an awful contract, or a surplus big man on another roster (or both!). That leaves us with 13 players minus 3 (including Sene here) plus 1 (the returning player), for a total of 11 roster members. If you add in two players from the second round, that makes 13 roster members.
Let’s say the Sonics take Rose at #2 and an off guard at #24, now your depth chart looks something like this:
PG: Rose, Watson
SG: Pick #24, Wilkins
SF: Durant, Green, Griffin
PF: Wilcox, Marshall
C: Collison, Mystery Contract
You have some flexibility with the 2/3/4 positions, but there is clearly a void at center (sound familiar, Sonic fans?). So much of a void that it might make sense for the Sonics to explore a big man with their multiple second-rounders, if not their 2nd pick in the first round.
In articles to come, we’ll start looking at possible veteran free agents the Sonics might pursue this off-season, but this at least gives us a road map for the year to come. Feel free to chime in with where/how I went wrong in the comments.
Thursday, May 15
David Breashears’ film (he also helmed the IMAX production) is a gripping tale of how a number of men and women lost their lives due to a number of reasons. The agony in watching guide Rob Hall speak to his wife for the last time, trapped 28,000 feet up on the mountain, knowing that it is the last time he’ll speak to her – well, it’s moving stuff.
Perhaps the best-known story of those days on Everest in the Spring of 1996 is that of Beck Weathers, a climber who was left for dead not once, but twice, but who managed to persevere and make it back down the mountain.
At one point in the documentary, Weathers explains how he made it through the night out in the open on one of the most inhospitable places on earth, with howling winds pounding his body, snow falling all around, and no tent to provide shelter.
The pain must have been excruciating, but eventually, Weathers tells us, it went away. In his inimitable Texas drawl, the pathologist describes how all the parts of his body which could feel pain – his hands, his feet, his nose – became dead tissue, incapable of sending messages to his brain that they were in agony.
At that point, Weathers somehow managed to stand up and stagger back to the tents, and, eventually, to rescue.
If you’re wondering what this has to do with a Sonics’ blog, and, by this point, surely you must, here it is. After two years of enduring Clay Bennett’s empty promises and David Stern’s condescension, two long, frustrating, agonizing years, the pain is gone.
There have been more than a few gallons of ink spilled (or is it bytes wasted?) decrying the rather sloppy tactics of Oklahoma City in trying to procure the Sonics, and, honestly, four months ago, it would have bothered me as well, and it would have been easy to dash off a diatribe about how awful the city was for its shenanigans.
But I can’t conjure up the pain any more, I just can’t. Smarter men than me will write books about this saga, with wise insights into how events unfolded, but, at this point, I can’t do it.
Writers such as Barry Trammel of the Daily Oklahoman can continue to issue their opinions about why Oklahoma City deserves the Sonics and Seattle doesn’t, and it doesn’t register with me. The same paper can put Kevin Durant in a “Barons” jersey and it doesn’t phase me.
Obviously, I’m more than a casual fan of the Sonics, but I have finally reached a level of fatigue in this situation – and what I’m going through can’t even begin to compare with the frustration and fatigue of such people as Brian Robinson or Steve Pyeatt.
In an odd way, though, the numbing feeling is liberating, in the same way that Weathers’ numbness to the pain liberated him. Instead of wasting energy caring what Oklahoma City, Clay Bennett, or David Stern are saying, I can just care about the Sonics, which is a delightful turn of events.
This June, or possibly early July, Federal District Court Judge Marsha Pechman will hand down her verdict in the case of City of Seattle v. Professional Basketball Club LLC, and, in so doing, will bring an end to a crucial chapter in this unending story. Like the rest of the Sonics Nation, I’m hoping for the best: that Pechman will rule for the city, and precipitate negotiations eventually resulting in the team being turned over to Steve Ballmer’s group.
If not? Well, let’s just say I’m already feeling no pain.
Wednesday, May 14
And it was while researching “The Friendly City” that I discovered that Brad Sellers, who plied his trade in Seattle for only half of the 1989-90 season as part of a 4-team, 6-year NBA career, is the Community Liaison Director for the Economic Development Department.
My opening paragraphs come across as snide, but that’s where the sarcasm ends. Normally, our “Where Are They Now?” pieces focus on the travails of former Sonics (see: Threatt, Sedale and Barros, Dana). Sellers, however, has taken it upon himself to give something back to the town in which he was raised, and not the give something back which entails showing up at photo opportunities at neighborhood parks, quickly followed by hopping in an SUV and heading back home before the scissors have finished cutting the ribbon.
Brad Sellers is not golfing every day as he anticipated in retirement, but is, instead, mired in the day-to-day tedium of municipal affairs of a small town 20 minutes from downtown Cleveland. Whether it’s helping to build a $5 million apartment building for seniors or receiving a $1 million grant for neighborhood transportation planning projects, Sellers has put his energy into making his hometown a better place to live, so that other kids might enjoy the life he’s enjoyed.
It is thankless, tedious, and, quite frankly, boring to preside and attend meeting after meeting, with progress measured not in wins and losses but in words and amendments. It is the life of a city official, and it is a life to which few of us aspire.
Sellers could be forgiven for forgetting anyone ever mentioned the idea to him of serving as a Director with his hometown’s Economic Development Department. After all, who chooses that title as a follow-up on their resume to Professional Basketball Player? Still, as he says during this speech, “It is our job to set the table and set the standards for people to follow.”
100 years from now, no one will remember what Brad Sellers did as a basketball player, any more than they will remember what Dale Ellis or Xavier McDaniel or Shawn Kemp did – that’s the transience of fame. But if Brad Sellers can help revitalize a city in northern Ohio, and, in so doing, improve the future of thousands of children, what he did as a basketball player will pale in comparison to what he did as a human being.
Not any shot, not any moment in particular, but just the way he always seemed to contribute a three whenever the Sonics needed one, especially back in the spring of 1993 when it seemed as though the Sonics were the best team in basketball.
The problem with rooting for players is that their personal lives are often a shambles, and their off-court actions erode your fervor for them.
Fortunately, for every Shawn Kemp, there's a Sam Perkins. And, for further evidence of why Sam Perkins is quite possibly the coolest former Seattle Supersonic, watch this video.
Tuesday, May 13
Durant received 57 out of a possible 58 points, the second-most behind Al Horford of Atlanta (Druant had one second-team vote, while Horford's votes were all for the first team). Green received 43 points, including 15 votes for first place and 13 for second. Also of note, Carl Landry and Glen Davis each received votes, with Landry making the second team. You'll recall that both players were drafted with Sonic 2nd-round picks, with Davis being included in the Ray Allen trade, and Landry being dealt for a 2nd-rounder this season. It will be interesting to see if Sam Presti is able to get the same value from the pick next year as he did this year. If memory serves, the Sonics also received cash in the transaction, which is always good when team ownership is embattled in spending money on lawyers.
In an ironic twist, this year's team joins the 1967-68 team as the only ones in history to place two players on the league's all-rookie first-team. 41 years ago, it was Bob Rule and Al Tucker on the first team as the Sonics began their inaugural campaign in the NBA. To an outsider who only visited Seattle once every 40 years, it sure wouldn't seem like this franchise has made to much progress in four decades.
Monday, May 12
This time, OKC aims its letterhead at Howard Schultz and his attorneys, claiming that should Schultz emerge victorious in his lawsuit against Clay Bennett, he will be forced to play in Oklahoma, not Seattle.
Let us set aside the merits of this letter (Brian Robinson at SonicsCentral outlines those better than I could) for the moment, and focus on a broader view of the situation, a view that looks at this scenario as something other than an Oklahoma vs Seattle battle.
In a dysfunctional relationship, one entity is always required, the enabler. Allow me to give you the Merriam-Webster definition, just to clarify:
one that enables another to achieve an end; especially : one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior (as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behavior.
Clearly, in this saga, Oklahoma City and Seattle have become David Stern’s, and the NBA business model’s, enablers. Long, long ago, I wrote on this website that the only way Stern could continue to pursue a faulty business model was through a Ponzi scheme of pitting one city against another – exactly the situation he has aided in creating here.
Playing off the feelings of inadequacy in Oklahoma City (and that is not intended in an insult at all; it is clear from their language that they want the NBA so they might be elevated to a “major league city”), Stern has managed to create a sense of urgency in both cities, to the point where a total approaching half a billion dollars is being proposed to reconstruct existing arenas.
When I wrote about this last year, my argument was that the whole debate was upside-down, and that rather than having the cities chase the NBA, it should be the NBA chasing the cities. Let’s face it, the NBA needs markets more than the markets need the NBA.
After all, do you think people in Las Vegas or St. Louis woke up this morning and cursed themselves for not having an NBA team? Do you believe residents of Memphis are patting themselves on the back with glee that they don’t live in a hellhole like San Diego, a city barren of NBA basketball?
Of course not. In the end, this foolish back and forth between Seattle and Oklahoma City is just that – foolish. In the NBA in this century, it is always just a matter of time before another owner decides to test the waters of another municipality, and if a city really wants the NBA, they merely have to wait for another Vancouver or Charlotte to come along before they can have a bauble of their own.
So, Oklahoma City, let us call a truce, focus on more important things, and remember, most of all, that the battle is not between our two cities, but between the NBA and bankruptcy.
Friday, May 9
No? Yeah, me neither.
So let's forget it for today and talk about the Sonics' second first-round pick, the one Steve Kerr bundled up and packaged so nicely for us last summer. Assuming the Sonics get the #2 overall (yes, I know what you get when you assume) and take Derrick Rose to solve their point guard problems, and assuming Kevin Durant makes the shift to small forward this season, it seems pretty likely to me that the Sonics will either go for a big man or a shooting guard with this pick.
Three names jump out immediately to me:
All are taller 2 guards with above-average outside shooting skills, which makes them natural fits for the Sonics at this point in time. Being a former teammate of Rose, CDR would have an added benefit of comfortability with the point guard, but that's certainly not enough reason to give him the nod.
With four picks for the second round, the Sonics obviously are capable of making some moves to move up and select their guy if necessary. With that in mind, complete this sentence:
With the 24th (?) overall selection in the 2008 NBA draft, the Seattle Supersonics select ...
Thursday, May 8
Weaver has been with Utah since 2003, and I thought it might be interesting to compare who the Jazz have selected, and then match those picks up with the ones the Sonics made in that same time frame, with career points scored:
Sonics, #12, Robert Swift (330)
Jazz, #14, Kris Humphries (1,090)
Jazz, #16, Kirk Snyder (1,333)
Jazz, #21, Pavel Podkolzine (0)
Sonics, #35, Andre Emmitt (7)
Jazz, #3, Deron Williams (3,706)
Sonics, #25, Johan Petro (1,287)
Jazz, #34, CJ Miles (477)
Sonics, #48, Mickael Gelabale (489)
Jazz, #51, Robert Whaley (51)
Sonics, #55, Lawrence Roberts (334)
2006 - Ouch
Sonics, #10, Mo Sene (83)
Jazz, #14 Ronnie Brewer (1,174)
Sonics, #40, Denham Brown (0)
Jazz, # 46, Dee Brown (94)
Jazz, #47, Paul Millsap (1,220)
Sonics, #53, Yotam Halperin (0)
Sonics, #2, Kevin Durant (1,624)
Sonics, #5, Jeff Green (840)
Jazz, #25, Morris Almond (13)
Jazz, # 55, Herbert Hill (0)
Basically, in the two years of 2005 and 2006, while the Sonics were picking up Petro, Gelabale and Sene, the Jazz picked up Deron Williams, CJ Miles, Ronnie Brewer, and Paul Millsap. You want to know the difference between the Sonics sitting home waiting to see where they’ll be playing next year and the Jazz throwing down with the Lakers on national tv? It’s 2005 and 2006, and especially 2006.
All of which is to say, thank God Troy Weaver is on our side now, rather than helping the Jazz get any stronger. Nice work by Sam Presti to add someone like Weaver in an assistant GM position, and let’s hope he brings some of that draft-day magic to the Sonics this year.
It was Lewis' biggest scoring output of his playoff career, and he's now averaging 21 points and 7.5 rebounds in the playoffs. Not bad, Shard, not bad at all.
Wednesday, May 7
Judge Marsha Pechman made her ruling Tuesday, denying the Sonics' motion to have the financial aspect of the upcoming trial decided simultanesouly with the outcome of the trial itself.
Instead, as the city requested, the determination of how much money the Sonics would owe the city -IF they even won the trial, which is a hefty, Jerome James-sized IF - will be determined at a separate trial.
Meaning? Meaning that their are a couple of options on the table now:
1. Sonics win trial, wait a few months to settle the financials, wait for the inevitable appeal from the city. Team plays 2008-09 season in Seattle.
2. Seattle wins trial. Team plays 2008-09 season and 2009-10 seasons in Seattle.
And so, it appears the only avenue available to Clay Bennett and David Stern for playing the upcoming season in Oklahoma City would be if they can dangle enough money in front of the city council to get them to agree on a buyout of the remaining two years of the lease.
I'm not sure what's less likely than slim and none, but a buyout is right there.
In other words, national media, quit saying the Sonics are as good as gone. I understand, you can't comprehend that a city would stand up to a professional sports team, quite frankly, I'm surprised myself. It just doesn't happen all that often. That said, I'll spell it out as easily as I can:
The Sonics will not be playing in Oklahoma City next season.
And somewhere in a dust-filled parking lot, Clay Bennett just punched his car.
Tuesday, May 6
Take the relationship between the city of Seattle and the state of Washington, for example. Clearly, the city has seemingly given up on finding the missing $75 million to replace the money it was counting upon the state to provide. With that in mind, the missing money must come from somewhere, and that somewhere must be the state, no?
Well, if that is the case, would it not behoove the mayor to play nice with the legislature? And, if he’s going to play nice, why is he making comments like these? Or these?
In essence, Nickels bemoaned the interference he feels the city receives from the rest of the state, laying at least part of the blame at the feet of the government in Olympia. The good mayor even went so far as to suggest that Seattle secede from the state, although his handlers made it clear he was only speaking in jest. (Although, when someone makes the statement, “I am serious when I say we ought to talk about independence,” does it leave much room for interpretation?)
Naturally, Nickels’ comments, like many of the comments uttered by many parties in the recent past, are not to be taken completely at face value. And, the mayor cannot be blamed for feeling dissatisfied with the way the city has been jerked around (in their view) by the state, especially in regard to the KeyArena situation.
It also could be argued that Nickels was merely trying to prod the other levels of government to work a bit harder at finding solutions, rather than merely pointing fingers at others. And, honestly, if that was his motivation, I can understand it. Regardless of your feelings on funding for sports arenas – pro, anti, or somewhere in between – you have to agree that the state’s fence-straddling on this subject is tiresome.
Still, at a time when the two levels of government need to work together to keep the option of a Seattle-based solution to the Sonics’ dilemma, is saber-rattling the best technique to employ? Much as David Stern is the devil we must deal with in the NBA, Frank Chopp is a fixture in Olympia, and regardless of our personal opinions of his methods, he holds the keys to the state money chest. Chopp’s, well, foot-dragging nature is not going to change anytime soon, and while I do not know the man personally, I suspect that verbal threats aimed at his direction will not be productive.
In the big picture, Nickels’ comments may not mean anything, but legislators have long memories of perceived slights, and at a time when the city and the state need to display cooperation, the mayor’s words may come back to bite Sonic fans in the shorts.
Monday, May 5
A quick rundown of how former Sonics are doing in the playoffs this season
Wally Szczerbiak: 10.8 ppg, 10/29 on 3’s, 25.5 mpg
Delonte West: 10.2 ppg, 9/18 on 3’s, 5 apg, 30.2 mpg
Rashard Lewis: 18.8 ppg, 8.2 rbg, 4 apg, 41.5 mpg
Ray Allen: 16.1 ppg, 18/45 3’s, 3.1 apg, 3.4 rbg
Reggie Evans: 6.8 ppg, 7.8 rbg
Antonio Daniels: 7.3 ppg, 3.0 apg, 25.7 mpg
Vladimir Radmanovic: 8.6 ppg, 35% FG, 4.2 rpg
Kurt Thomas: 6 rpg, 22.3 mpg
Brent Barry: 12.7 mpg, 4/8 3’s
As you can see, four ex-Sonics are averaging better than 10 points a game, including two (West and Szczerbiak) who were traded for a great big pile of nothing. That West/Wally for Marshall/Griffin/Newble deal is going to go down as one of the biggest shams in team history, mark my words. Not that West or Wally will ever amount to much in this league, but the sheer audacity of giving up players who are starting for a playoff team for just absolutely nothing is disgraceful.
Also of note, of those listed, only Daniels and Evans are home watching the games on television now. The remainder are all still alive, and unless San Antonio, LA, Boston, Cleveland, and Orlando are all elimated, you will be watching ex-Sonic(s) either start or play key roles off the bench in the NBA Finals this season.
However, as the father of the nerdy 27-year-old virgin says to him at his 28th birthday party, “You’ve got to score sometime, right?”
In the Sonics’ case, they scored on 2-point jump shots. Call it the Alex English Approach.
Long ago, 3-pointers were not commonplace. Even after the league added the line 20-some years ago, it just didn’t happen. Just as an illustration, Kobe Bryant, the NBA’s leading scorer this season, attempted 415 3’s this year. In 1983-84, that would have led the league.
And, by league, I mean league. San Antonio led the league with 308 attempts as a team. Kobe Bryant is a gunner, to be sure, but, still, he attempted 100 more 3’s than any team did in '83'-84.
Anyhow, how does that relate to the Sonics? Well, Seattle led the league in points scored off 2-point jump shots, and, in this year of melancholy, I suppose that’s a bright spot (these numbers all swiped from 82games.com). After all, they could have ranked last in 3-point attempts and 2-point attempts, right?
Interestingly, the 2-point leaders were not all cellar dwellers. Among the top ten were Dallas, Detroit, New Orleans, Toronto, and Utah. Of course, the top ten also included the Clippers, Bulls, and T-Wolves, so it’s not exactly a who’s who of great NBA teams.
But here’s the rub: the playoff teams, unlike the losers, were good at taking 2-point shots, which is why they took so many of them. Here’s an illustration:
It speaks volumes to the inefficiencies of an organization that 1) produces a team which is unsuccessful at something and 2) continues to do it frequently. It’s fine that the Sonics are not good 2-point jump shooters, but why continue to do it? The Golden State Warriors hit 36% of their 2-point jump shots, a woeful figure to be sure, but that accounted for only 33% of their total attempts on the season, the second-lowest in the league.
That’s what smart organizations do: spot inadequacies and make moves to minimize the impact those inadequacies would have.
In a way, though, the decisions facing the Sonics’ coaching staff this season paralleled the decisions facing the creators of the Bush Presidency DVD. It’s all fine and dandy to tell them what NOT to focus on, but what should they include?
Because, after all, what the hell do you emphasize when the entire thing is a miasma of crapitude?
Friday, May 2
Likewise, sports statistics are often misleading. The Nuggets and Warriors forced the most turnovers in the league this season, but that doesn’t mean that they necessarily have the best defenses, it just means that they play at a higher pace than most squads, with more possessions.
Sometimes, many times, statistics are insightful, though. Take the Sonics and 3-point shooting, or lack thereof.
No, self-satisfied lovers of Al Franken, it’s not George Bush’s approval rating. Rather, it’s the Sonics’ ranking within the NBA on 3-pointers attempted. The chart begins with Ray Allen’s arrival in Seattle in 2003, and concludes with the season just completed.
Taking their cue from the team’s greatest star, Allen, the Sonics quickly emerged as the top-gunning team in the league, and by 2004-05 (year 2) they took more three-pointers than any other team. That trend continued in the next two seasons, but tailed off until this season, when the Sonics finally made the transformation complete, ranking dead last in the league in attempts.
In other words, within five seasons the Sonics have gone from the most likely to attempt a three to the absolute least likely; from World B Free to Olden Polynice in half a decade.
It’s a remarkable turnaround, a change in philosophy shown in other figures as well. 82games.com shows that only 13% of Seattle’s field goal attempts were from long-range, the lowest percentage in the league (Orlando, home of Rashard Lewis, ranked first).
But consider this: of the 13 teams who attempted more than the league average in threes this season, 10 qualified for the playoffs (77%). Of the 17 who attempted fewer than the league average, only six made it beyond the end of the regular season (35%). And that’s not an isolated trend, either. Last year, 80% of above-average gunners made the playoffs, while only 27% of the non-gunners did. The previous season, the numbers were 76% of gunners and 23% of non-gunners.
Clearly, this is not an isolated trend. Combined with Kevin Durant’s reluctance to launch threes as the season went along, and the departure of the team’s best shooter, Wally Szczerbiak via trade, it is painfully clear that the Sonics need to acquire outside shooting this summer. While the first pick they make will likely be for Derrick Rose (assuming the ping pong balls cooperate), Sam Presti will no doubt be looking hard at shooting guards this June.
Assuming, of course, he’s trying to make a better team. Which, in these days of uncertainty, is a big assumption to make.
Thursday, May 1
Carlesimo enters the 2008-09 season having posted a winning percentage below .300 in three of his past four seasons, and since leaving the rosy confines of Portland a decade ago has compiled (emphasis on "pile") a record of 66-175.
In other words, if the Sonics go 82-0 next season, Carlesimo would still have a below .500 record in the NBA coaching teams outside of the state of Oregon.
However, were the Sonics to win all 82 games, then continue with a 27-game win streak to start the 2009-10 season, PJ would then be right smack at .500 for his post-Blazer career.
Of course, it's not really fair to PJ to blame him for this past season's roster. It's not as if he benched rookies in favor of veteran retreads like Donyell Marshall or Francisco Elson in an attempt to study the mystical powers of those veterans. And it's not as if he didn't have, oh, I don't know, the starting point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers collecting DNP-CDs for half the season.
To give a quick synopsis, the team is asking for Pechman to render a decision on 1) the trial and, should the Sonics emerge victorious, 2) the amount of money the city should be compensated should the team leave prior to the end of their lease.
Keep in mind that this motion to delay only comes into affect if Pechman agrees with the team, which is no surety. Should Pechman decided that the team's request is not merited, then this delay becomes moot. In a way, if Pechman agrees with the team's request, then agrees with the city's request to delay the trial, Clay Bennett is going to be awful ticked at his lawyers for even bringing this issue up, as their idea to speed up the process by including the money with the trial will have had the unintended affect of ruining any chance they had of playing in Oklahoma City this fall.
In other trial-related news, the company which compiled a market study of Seattle v Oklahoma City for the NBA has objected to Seattle's subpoena for said study, citing client confidentiality and a lack of adequate response time. The NBA also objected, in that the study would reveal that moving a team from Seattle to Oklahoma City would, in the words of the study, "be as dumb as putting a team on the moon."
I kid, of course.
And, finally, some people look to swallows returning to Capistrano, or seeing a robin in the front yard as an indication of spring arriving. Me? I look for the "Will George Karl Get Canned?" headline to let me know it's time to break out the shorts and clean up the barbecue.