Friday, November 13

To Ponder

A short follow-up on the ridiculousness of LeBron James' quasi-demand that the NBA retire Michael Jordan's #23:

What about the four guys who have had #23 retired in their honor by their teams? I'm speaking of Lou Hudson (Atlanta), Calvin Murphy (Houston), Frank Ramsey (Boston), and John Williamson (New Jersey).

Of course, Williamson died of kidney disease due to diabetes 13 years ago, so I guess he won't complain much, and Murphy's had all sorts of off-court problems that help to keep him quiet, Hudson might have scored 18,000 points but LeBron never saw him play, so it didn't really count, right, and, sure, Ramsey made the Hall of Fame, but he was just a sixth man, really, and besides, the Celtics have too many retired jerseys anyways (okay, that last one actually makes some sense).

Can you tell that I'm bugged about this whole thing? Normally, it wouldn't be worth mentioning, but James has such power in the league right now, this idea might take off, regardless of how stupid it is. Retiring Jackie Robinson's jersey made sense, somewhat, because it was a way for baseball to atone for its past sins.

But why do we need to honor Jordan any more than Wilt, or Kareem, or Magic, or Bird, or Mikan, or anybody else in the upper echelons of greatness? Because LeBron watched Jordan as a kid, now the Warriors have to retire his jersey? Should the NFL retire Jim Brown's jersey league-wide because he was the best player ever?

To me, a better way of accomplishing this would be to go the way of the NHL and rename the trophies the league hands out at the end of the year. Call it the Chamberlain Award (MVP), or the Russell Award (defense), or the Jordan Award (offensive player of the year), or whatever. Keep those ideas on a league-wide basis, and leave the jersey retirements to the teams.

It was stupid enough for the Heat to retire Jordan's jersey a few years ago. Don't compound that idiocy on a league-wide scale.

Foyle: No More 31

Saying he wants to honor those who have gone before him, Orlando Magic center Adonal Foyle announced today that he will no longer wear number 31 in memory of Portland Trail Blazers' legend player Sam Bowie.

“When I think of Sam Bowie, I think of a guy like me – someone who was drafted high but never was able to fully demonstrate his gifts to the world,” Foyle told reporters in a Taco Bell parking lot near the team’s practice facility.

“I mean, without Sam Bowie, there would never have been an Alaa Abdelnaby, or a Duane Causwell, or an Adam Keefe,” Foyle said. “I’m starting a petition around the league to get other guys on board with this. Mikki Moore, Darko, Jerome James – hey, those guys all know the importance Bowie had to this league. We're all #31's little kids, you know? Growing up in the Grenadines, I had a huge poster of Sam on my wall – and I’m just living his dream now.”

While picking through the remains of a gordita supreme, Foyle dismissed questions about the meaningfulness of a player who has yet to get off the bench issuing edicts on uniform numbers.

“Hey, Sam didn’t get off the bench in the late 80s, either, but that doesn’t change how he impacted this league,” Foyle claimed. “When you think of guys with wrapped knees sitting on the end of the bench, you think of Sam Bowie, right? When you think of teams regretting wasted picks on useless big men, you think of Sam Bowie. I’d like to think I’m part of that tradition as well.”

NBA officials declined to comment when reached by email, and Orlando officials expressed surprise at both Foyle’s petition and the fact he’s still on the team’s roster.

“Honestly, I thought we had waived him during the summer,” a baffled GM Otis Smith told reporters. “I thought I saw him at the end of the bench last week, but I wasn’t really paying close enough attention. It’s nice to have Adonal around, I guess.”

NBA Attendance: Brief Notes

I'll have some graphs and such on Monday (too few games to generate anything worth looking at thus far), but here's some short notes, Harper's Index style of what's happened so far.

Number of times the Jazz failed to sell out the Delta Center in their last 164 regular season games: 1
Number of times it happened in their first four games this season: 2

Average attendance at the first four Pistons games in last two seasons: 22,076
Average attendance at the first four from this year: 17,541

Change in overall attendance in the first two games of this NBA season compared to the first two games of last season: -22,462

Number of teams who have seen attendance decreases: 19
Number who have increased or remained the same: 11

Tuesday, November 10

Action

I suppose there are a few ways to look at the election of Seattle’s new mayor, Mike McGinn, at least as to how his election affects the reintroduction of the NBA to the city:

McGinn is, on the surface, less of a supporter of the NBA than his opponent, Joe Mallahan. This fact is troubling to those who support a revamped KeyArena, and McGinn’s left-leaning ways – he’s a former leader at the Sierra Club, he’s a “neighborhood activist,” his campaign was almost all volunteers – certainly don’t reinforce the negative opinions some may have of him.

On the other hand, though, I found one interesting aspect of his campaign that may indicate a willingness on McGinn’s part to be open to the NBA: His complete reversal on the Alaskan Way/Tunnel situation.

In the months after the run-off election, McGinn made considerable noise about his absolute opposition to a tunnel, and repeatedly stated he would oppose the tunnel regardless of what the state said.

Then, on October 19th, McGinn made a complete about-face, saying he would not oppose the tunnel if he was elected.

This, to me, signals one of two things:

1. McGinn is a political opportunist who realized the majority of voters supported the tunnel, and if he wanted to be their mayor, he’d better get on board.

2. McGinn tasted his tunnel soup, found it to be a little bland, and added some more salt. In other words, he looked at both sides of the issue and decided that maybe his opinion wasn’t the best one.

To many observers, McGinn’s flip-flop was a disgrace. How dare he change his mind! the opponents charged, with images of Bill Clinton pulsing in their minds.

To me, though, it was a blessing. Honestly, as someone who doesn’t live in the state, let alone Seattle, the future mayor of the city is really none of my business.

But consider it from this vantage: If you support an issue (oh, I don’t know, say an improved KeyArena), would you rather have as a mayor a man who staked out positions and refused to budge, regardless of what the populace said, or would you rather have as a mayor a man who listened to public opinion and did what he thought his voters thought was best.

I suppose, in a perfect world, our elected officials would do what was right and just, even if opinion was against them, the whole Atticus Finch ideal. And, in the instance of racial injustice or human rights abuses, that would be great. But KeyArena does not resemble one of those scenarios in the slightest. Rather, it is a public works project which, while its economic benefits are arguable, is certainly popular among some portion of the population.

Essentially, the election of Mike McGinn comes down to this point:

For the past half-decade, Seattle has been run by someone who was repeatedly accused of inaction when action was desperately needed. Snow removal, the Sonics leaving … Greg Nickels’ legacy will forever be one of what he didn’t do rather than what he did do. The fact his replacement is an activist?

Well, it certainly can’t hurt.

Friday, November 6

Last Man Standing

I have had, for some time now, a rather bizarre fascination with the remnants of long-deceased franchises.

There is no rational explanation for this obsession, although I imagine it began while collecting baseball cards in the early 1980s. As much as I enjoyed discovering the nuances of Jim Essian’s 1.000 batting average or Bert Campaneris’ bizarre 1970 home run total, I was just as happy with the team names and cities which only existed as a quick blip on the back of those cards.

Sure, Toby Harrah’s last name forms a wonderful palindrome, but what the heck was the deal with the WASH at the top of his statistics? Who was the SEA on Marty Pattin’s card? And just what happened to those teams, those Roanoke Colonies of major league baseball?

As a 10-year-old, it was difficult to piece together, but fascinating nonetheless; those brief elements of history intrigued me, much the same way that the still-living actors who served as munchkins in The Wizard of Oz still command a small (pardon the pun) bit of attention from fans of that film, or why so much interest was lavished upon the last surviving members of the Titanic. In some way, they enable us to touch a piece of history.

It’s the same for the last men who played for extinct teams; their continuing existence in pro sports – whether basketball, football, or whatever – enables fans to see tangible evidence of a fable.

As you might have heard, the Sonics left Seattle nearly two years ago, with a roster full of cast-offs, rookies, and failed big men. From among that muck, though, are two young men – Jeff Green and Kevin Durant – who will undoubtedly be playing professional basketball for a very, very long time. The Pippen to Durant’s Jordan, Green may wind up outlasting his more famous teammate, but considering the age difference, the smart money is on Durant to hang on longer.

Durant is now 21 years old, having celebrated his birthday last September. By the end of this season, he will have scored – barring injury – more than 5,000 points as an NBA player. By that same age, the last two famous Seattle Sonic teenagers, Shawn Kemp and Rashard Lewis, had scored about 3,500 points.

Combined.

Obviously, we’re talking about a special player here. Having played only a single season in Seattle at the start of what should be a prosperous career, is it possible that Durant will stand alone as the longest-tenured player of a defunct team? In other words, will his career stretch out the longest after the death of his initial team?

I did a bit of research, and, surprisingly, my guess is no. Here’s the list, in ascending order, of the longest careers after a team went bust. The numbers correspond to the number of years each player was in the league after their respective team either moved or folded.

12 years
LaSalle Thompson – Kansas City Kings
Tiny Archibald – Cincinnati Royals
Calvin Murphy – San Diego Rockets
Paul Silas – St. Louis Hawks
Walt Bellamy – Chicago Zephyrs
Chet Walker – Syracuse Nationals
Elgin Baylor – Minneapolis Lakers

13 years
Adrian Dantley – Buffalo Braves
Elvin Hayes – San Diego Rockets
Don Nelson – Chicago Zephyrs

14 years
Eddie Johnson – Kansas City Kings
Tom Chambers – San Diego Clippers
Ricky Pierce – San Diego Clippers

16 years
Otis Thorpe – Kansas City Kings
Terry Cummings – San Diego Clippers

And, your champion, at 17 years
Moses Malone – Buffalo Braves

You have to admit it’s a fascinating list, featuring no fewer than six players with ties to Seattle (Baylor, EJ, Chambers, Pierce, Cummings, and Silas). Of more importance, though, is the amazing career of Moses Eugene Malone, who played two games for Buffalo in 1976-77 at the age of 21, was dealt to Houston for two first-round picks, then spent the next 17 years moving his ample posterior throughout a wide array of NBA arenas, before finally coming to rest in the Hall of Fame.

Will Durant last 18 years in the league? It’s entirely possible, of course, but consider the length of the careers of these gentlemen, who, like Durant, scored 1,200 or more points in their age 20 seasons:

Magic Johnson – 17
Adrian Dantley – 15
Chris Webber – 15
Spencer Haywood – 14
Cliff Robinson – 13
Isiah Thomas – 13
Shareef Abdur-Rahim – 12
Antoine Walker – 12
John Drew – 11
Johnny Neumann – 7

Zero for ten. To be fair, there are a number of active players who will likely reach at least 17 seasons (Shaquille O’Neal and Kevin Garnett are at the top of that list), but for every Shaq there are a whole host of Tracy McGradys.

So, while it’s hard to say if Durant will match Moses’ longevity, it’s pretty clear to me that he will be the last man standing to have worn a Sonic jersey. And maybe, 15 years from now, some kid will be looking at three-dimensional statistics on his HoloComputer and ask his dad, “Who’s this team Kevin Durant played for at the start of his career? What’s a Sonic?”

And that sound, my friends, is the sound of a hundred Seattle fans punching themselves in the leg.

Wednesday, October 28

Vintage Sonics Halloween Fun!

Print and clip your choice of Vanilla or Lime Flavor!

As we at Supersonicsoul attempt to get our kiddies ready for Halloween ("Where'd I put that Detlef wig?"), here's a vintage Supersonicsoul cartoon from our resident artist extraordinaire Rafael Calonzo, Jr. (aka Chunkstyle) from way back in 2007.

Happy Halloween . . . and good luck with those Danny Fortson costumes!

Thursday, October 22

Dale Ellis: On Tour

Perhaps the least surprising aspect of this story by Mike Griffiths of GoVols.com is the fact that, at age 49, Dale Ellis can still drain 3's.

Ellis visited his old haunts at the University of Tennessee recently, and he told Griffiths that he's interested in returning to the game, possibly as a coach. In addition, Ellis said he's headed off for a tour of Europe with, among others, Dennis Rodman and Penny Hardaway. Not exactly a dream team of coachable players when it comes to late 80s, early 90s stars, but an interesting group nonetheless.

Tuesday, October 20

APB for stolen Shawn Kemp shoes, KFC, more

From the Post Bulletin in Austin, Minnesota:

Food was among the list of items that an Austin man says was missing after he called police to report a burglary at his apartment Thursday night.

... a resident in the 600 block of Fourth Avenue Northwest reported listed as missing from the apartment: a computer tower, a 16-inch computer monitor, Shawn Kemp basketball shoes valued at $180 and Kentucky Fried Chicken, White Castle food, pork ribs, pork chops and food stamps. Police also notified the victim that 1994 ended 15 years ago, and provided him with a complimentary 2009 Austin Police Calendar.

Friday, October 16

Sonicsgate: A Slam Dunk

There are, perhaps, as many ways to judge a work of art as there are a basketball player.

The evaluator of a player, luckily, has cold, hard numbers to help him, while a man standing before a work of art, whether Monet or Miley Cyrus, is forced to look inward and answer the question, “How does this make me feel?”

Ultimately, a great work of art stimulates thought in the mind of the viewer, creates discussion, and – if it is truly great – a wide range of opinions.

And so, while I won’t elevate it to the level of Dog Day Afternoon or Lawrence of Arabia, you have to say Sonicsgate is a worthwhile piece of art.

Okay, there are at least four or five movies in there, and, granted, two hours is waaaay too long for this story, but, that’s all immaterial, really.

What is important is that this film got made, and kudos to the three gentlemen who created it. Those who might argue that the Sonic history half of the movie should have been pared down are not grasping how important that part of the story is to Sonic fans. That is our history up there on screen, and if this film doesn’t tell our story, what will?

Sure, the film is a downer, but so is the subject matter. What did you expect, a lighthearted rom-com?

I was not eagerly anticipating the release of Sonicsgate. Obviously, I’ve digested more than my fill of this story already, and the idea of sitting through two hours of something that would leave me with a horrible mixture of anger, depression, and misery was … well it was less than appealing.

But about halfway through the movie – around the time it focused upon the botched negotiations between Steve Ballmer, the City, the State, the Sonics, and the NBA – I had an epiphany of sorts, and it really surprised me.

The NBA will come back to Seattle.

At first, it was a rush of excitement, one of those rare clear-headed moments that happen about once a year, when all the complications fall away and you’re left with a crystallized insight of the future.

It seems obvious when you think about for more than a moment, really. Assuming (I know, I know) Ballmer’s plan comes to fruition and the economy eventually reaches a point at which the $75 million required from the State becomes viable, Seattle will be left with a fantastic arena and no tenant.

And how long do you think it would take the NBA to react? Six months? Six minutes?

I understand other cities – St. Louis, Kansas City, Las Vegas, etc. – are ready to host the NBA, but none of those cities combine Seattle’s deep basketball history with the league’s guilt over abandoning it, tossed in with the fact that Seattle is a large metropolis with equally large corporations ready to spend money on luxury suites and advertising.

But almost as soon as that rush of excitement arrived, it departed, because I was left with the realization that the only way the dream of the NBA in Seattle can take shape is for us to swipe another city’s team.

And let’s face it, that is the engorged river we’ll have to cross at some point in the next few years. After all of our whining and complaining about the unfairness of Oklahoma City stealing “our team” (and, yeah, your narrator’s as guilty as anyone), we are poised to repeat that same dance on another city’s grave.

Last spring, while driving down to Portland to watch the Blazers, I had an almost identical conversation with a fellow SupersonicSoul author, and I reasoned that if we got an expansion team it would be different since it would mean we wouldn’t have the blood of relocation on our hands.

Raf’s counter-argument, as I look back upon it now, was right. Simply by building another arena and joining the NBA – whether with an expansion team or one heisted from another city – we become co-conspirators in the never-ending game of arena creep taking place across the country.

Sure, we’d be able to argue that we hadn’t stolen someone else’s team, but by creating yet another ridiculously overpriced altar to basketball, we would have given the people in Minneapolis or New Jersey or Oakland, more reason to worry that within months, they were going to hear the inevitable refrain from their team’s owner about “unbalanced revenue streams” and “lack of competitive edge.”

And I honestly don’t know how to counter that argument. As someone who likes to think of himself as a quasi-Libertarian who hates to see wasted spending, despises the way professional sports leagues play cities and fans off one another, and recoils at the thought of how many mouths could have been fed with the dollars spent on demolished stadiums, I’m torn.

There is the part of me that loves sports, and the NBA. Watching the NLCS last night, there was a moment in the 8th inning when Manny Ramirez strode to the plate with the game on the line. Ramirez v. Madson might not be Ali v. Frazier, but it was fantastically exciting to watch, and it reminded me of how it felt when the Sonics were in the championship mix for most of the 1990s.

The thrill you get as a fan in those moments is almost incomparable, and it is those moments we’re craving when we consider dipping our toe back into the NBA’s pool.

Do those moments, though, justify the expense? Will our joy in watching the Sonics compete for the ’19-’20 championship override the guilt in knowing we did to another city what we criticized Oklahoma City for doing to us, in knowing that we, as a people, spent more than a billion dollars on three stadiums – Safeco, Qwest, KeyArena – in the same time as we ran up tremendous deficits, causing all sorts of devastating cutbacks to crucial services?

It’s a tough, tough question to answer. The makers of Sonicsgate may not have intended to ask those questions, but their film certainly contributed to at least one person thinking about them.

Thursday, October 15

Injuries, Pro Sports, and Patriotism

Let’s play Guess the Speaker.

“I'm very angry because once again the national teams take players and we lose out due to injuries.”

Mark Cuban? Nope.

It’s AC Milan CEO Adriano Galliani, talking to the media about his disgust with the fact one of his defenders, Oguchi Onyewu, was injured while playing for the U.S. against Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifier on Wednesday and may be out for six months.

As a result, Galliani will now be paying Onyewu to watch Milan from the sidelines– something that is understandably irksome to him.

But is anyone surprised this happened? It’s not the first time, obviously, that a professional player has been injured while competing on the world stage, but what makes this case unique from others before is that Galliani is demanding the US Soccer Federation provide compensation to AC Milan for depriving them of Onyewu’s services.

It’s an interesting demand, and, if successful, would completely destroy international competitions as we know them. Is there any country that would recruit a professional athlete if they received, along with his obvious talents, the risk of writing a multi-million dollar check if said player should tear an ACL?

Onyewu’s salary is estimated to be about $1.1 million per season (he just signed a 3-year deal with Milan this July), so his salary wouldn’t decapitate the US Soccer Federation, but imagine how devastating it would be, just as an example, if French Basketball was forced to cough up $11 million for an injury Tony Parker. I can’t imagine their budget could even begin to take on those sorts of costs, could they?


The whole idea of professional athletes performing in international competitions is tenuous at best and ridiculous at worst. While the World Cup will likely never change, simply because of the immense history and dollars involved, I would be surprised if we see NBA players and MLB players competing in international competitions for much longer; the vast amounts of money invested in these gentlemen are just too large.

If nothing else, then, Oguchi Onyewu’s injury may provide a hint that this era may finally be coming to an end.

McClendon Has Some More Wine To Sell

We all experienced Aubrey McClendon's version of Billionaire Garage Sale last spring, you'll remember, when he unloaded millions of dollars worth of wine via an auction house in New York.

It went pretty well, and combined with the dough he earned selling his collection of western art to his own company (that was a tough sell, no doubt), you'd think he wouldn't have to worry about selling off any more assets to cover the rent.

You'd be wrong.

Turns out Aubrey had so much fun parting with his wine in April, he's doing it again! In less than a month, Spectrum Wine Auctions will be offering The Aubrey McClendon Collection at the St. Monarch Regis Beach Resort in Dana Point, California.

"Fine wine buyers have a once in a lifetime opportunity to buy rare and normally unavailable vintages," Spectrum's Greg Roberts commented. Well, I suppose if your lifetime was the equivalent of a tse-tse fly's, you'd be right, Greg, but considering McClendon just got done selling $2.2 million worth of his wine less than six months ago, don't you think you ought to take it a little easy on the hyperbole?

Thursday, October 8

Creation of a Champion

Timeline of 1978-79 Seattle Supersonics

A Sonic Fan Where You'd Least Expect It



If this TNT/NBA ad is a taste of things to come, then you can bet your Tom LaGarde rookie cards I'll be watching the broadcasts this season, if only for the chance to hear a passing Paul Silas, Fred Brown, or Slick Watts reference.

(HT to Ball Don't Lie)

Wednesday, October 7

Seen on Craigslist

A good offer, but I'd be curious to know what type of pizza is required. Are we talking cheese, or multiple toppings? Could I get the Sonics' pennant for a bagel and a half-finished bag of shredded mozarella?

Tuesday, October 6

McClendon & The Dunes

You may have noticed TrueHoop's mention of Aubrey McClendon's latest (proposed) real-estate transaction involving the Saugatuck Dunes in Western Michigan.

At first blush, it's a relatively minor story - rich guy buys some land, gets into dispute with locals about his plans to build McMansions, sells off a chunk of the land, goes about his way. But, if one digs just a touch deeper, you can see that it's not as simple as it first appears.

You see, McClendon tried to sell this land previously ... and failed. Back in December, a tentative deal was in place to sell 171 acres of his more than 400 acres to the Saugatuck Township for $25 million, but the locals were unable to procure a grant from the State of Michigan that would have gone a long ways towards the purchase.

Now, 10 months later, McClendon is selling the property for $20 million, or $5 million less than he thought he'd get last year. And, it is important to note, that sale is still contingent on the Saugatuckians (?) getting a state grant and quite a big chunk of private funds, although they seem to think the money will be relatively pain-free (but, given the state of Michigan's economy, even the optimists are hedging their bets).

[Of further interest, McClendon purchased all 412 acres for the sum of $38 million in 2007, which works out to roughly $92,000 per acre. The lands he plans to sell now for $20 million total 171 acres, or roughly $116,000 per acre - a nice return on investment even at the steeply discounted price. That Aubrey - he didn't get rich by luck.]

And, of course, there are the ongoing legal complications involved. McClendon is refusing to pay property taxes on the land because he feels that the locals over-estimated the value of his land, and because he's irked that they re-zoned the land and changed the density from 1 home: 1.5 acre to 1 home:5 acres, essentially shrinking his number of possible homes from 300 to 80.

Essentially, Aubrey McClendon has, yet again, woven his own peculiar brand of antagonistic wizardry, creating a situation wherein the local residents detest him, while at the same time devaluing his own asset to the point where he has to take drastic steps to rectify a miserable situation.

Sound familiar?

The only difference is that the owner of the Sonix is not able to pack up the remaining land in the back of a moving truck and move it to Oklahoma City. If Aubrey McClendon wants to move forward with his plans to develop a passle of ridiculous mansions on those 241 acres, he's got to make nice with the local populace, something he has, to date, been either unwilling or unable to do.

NHL in Seattle? Oh, Come On

Whenever I read articles such as this one by Susan Slusser on Fanhouse, this single thought always comes to mind:

Do we Sonic diehards sound this ridiculous to non-basketball fans?

Slusser makes the argument that since the Sonics have packed up and left Seattle, it's a great time for the NHL to lay down a sheet of ice and get to work. Of course:

1. There is no arena
2. There is no youth hockey
3. There is no arena
4. There is no arena

Of course, there's nothing that a new arena couldn't solve. And, hey, we know how willing Seattle is to build new arenas for pro sports teams, right? Sure, they said no to a franchise that had been in the city longer than any other pro sports team in the city's history, but what makes you think they would say no to hockey? I mean, geez, Seattle has such a long and storied history with hockey, right?

Oh, and, hey, Seattle loves the Sounders, and since they love the Sounders they'll love anything we throw at them! Okay, sure, pro soccer has been in Seattle for three decades, and everybody in the city played soccer from the age of 6 to 11, and there's a large Latino population that helps to augment that soccer fandom.

But, you know what? I saw a guy in a Canadiens cap yesterday, and he said he'd go to the games, and his buddy, Gord, said he's down for whenever the Oilers are in town, so that's like two guys right there!

Please.

You know, I get the distinct impressions that as Slusser was writing the article, the prevailing thought floating through her head had to have been: "How the heck am I going to fill my column today?"

Wednesday, September 30

Mo Sene: Vive le difference

Mo Sene, part of a triumvirate of miserable picks by former Sonic GM Rick Sund, has inked a deal with Toulon of the French basketball league, the team announced by press release on Monday.Which leads me to posit something: In Sene’s mind, has he failed?

It’s an interesting question to roll around in your mind. Viewed from a North American perspective, he most certainly has failed. Drafted as a lottery pick, Sene has never provided anything remotely resembling a productive NBA career, despite his prodigious wingspan and agility.

Whether due to injury, lack of ability, or poor work ethic, Mo Sene has seen his entire NBA career produce, in three seasons, a total of 47 games played and 103 points.

Three season. 103 points, or three more than Wilt Chamberlain scored in one game 50 years ago.

To return to my point, then, I suppose the majority of basketball fans in this country would most assuredly agree that Mo Sene has had a crappy career.

But look at it from his perspective. Sene has earned in excess of $5 million in three seasons and is, quite likely, set for the rest of his life. He has undoubtedly funneled a great deal of money back to his family in Senegal, a country whose per capita income (roughly $1,000 US) is the equivalent of a week’s worth of per diem for the typical NBA player.

During those three years, Sene spent the majority of his time in two cities – Seattle and Oklahoma City – where he bumped into fellow Senegaleses about as often as he started basketball games. I remember reading a story about Sene after his rookie season, wherein it was told that he spent the majority of that year just wandering around Seattle, eating poorly and lacking any semblance of friends.

Now, after playing poorly for three seasons, he is “punished” by being sent to Toulon, where the African population is quite high, where he’ll have no trouble finding food that he is used to, where he can speak a language – French – which is already part of his lexicon, and where the weather is, let’s face it, pretty damned good.

Toulon, for the curious, is about halfway between Cassis and St. Tropez on the French Riviera.

As opposed to Oklahoma City, which is halfway between Edmond and Midwest City.

Somehow, I suppose Mo will find a way to endure.

Friday, September 25

Sonic Fans v Bennett

Back when all of Greater Seattle was ready to light Clay Bennett on fire, a small group of season-ticket holders launched a lawsuit against the Sonics' owner, claiming that he misled them in a ticket-renewal advertising campaign.

And, if you're like me, you paid attention to the suit for awhile, and then let it ebb as slowly from your mind as Clemon Johnson making his way back downcourt after a made basket.

But thanks to the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, we can report that the suit - long-ignored by us - is still ongoing, and may, in fact, serve to be the only piece of justice Sonic fans will ever wring from Clay Bennett's sorry hide.

The story is chock full of interesting tidbits, such as the fact that the judge hearing the case is Quincy Jones' brother, and that Justice Jones decided that a jury would be the best arbiter of the final amount of damages owed to the three ticket-holders.

This week, according to CHSB, other season ticket-holders will be notified of the class action suit, and will be given the opportunity to take part. After reading the notice, it seems clear to me that we're not talking coffee-spilled-on-the-lap damages here. To quote the notice:

"A remedy remaining available to Plaintiffs and Class members is a potential money judgment consisting of the profit that might have been made through a resale of season tickets, if Plaintiffs and Class members had been allowed to exercise their options to purchase season tickets for the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons at 2006-2007 prices."

With the trial date set for January of 2010, and a deadline for prospetive class-action suit members to respond of October 24, it's still a ways to go before this case gets moving, but that's still plenty of time for Bennett & Co. to start coming up with ways (i.e., $$$) to keep this out of the courts.

Thursday, September 24

Let It Reign

If you've got $80 wearing a hole in your pocket, might I suggest this as an option for how you might best spend it?


It's a limited-edition poster of everyone's favorite dunking teenager, Shawn Kemp, from the shows Pearl Jam put on at KeyArena this week, now available on ebay (here's the link). Think more than a few 30-something Seattle men wouldn't mind having that on their walls?

(A hat-tip to my crazy friend, Erik, who is obsessed with all things Pearl Jam).

Wednesday, September 23

Misadventures in Maze Creation

If you hadn't heard already, a kindly family in Oklahoma decided to devote their horticultural efforts to creating a tribute to their favorite basketball team. To wit:


Sadly, the economy being what it is these days, the best intentions of even the most devoted fans of a cellar-dwelling team can be waylaid. There are bills to pay, and Cletis must prioritize (1. Sooner gear; 2. More Sooner gear; 3. Food). And, as a result, the grass starts to grow, the hedges get a little untidy, and well, this happens:

Amazing how nature can turn on you like that.

Tuesday, September 22

Refs

With word from The New York Times that at least two of the replacement officials to be hired by the NBA were fired less than a decade ago, the anti-league ammunition has grown even more powerful.

Then, if you add in the words of Julie Davis, wife of current ref Marc Davis, in an indignant letter to David Stern, that ammunition begins to take on military-like levels.

But, honestly, when I look at this situation from a broader perspective, I do not believe this is an argument that current NBA referees can win.

Essentially, the refs are counting on the ineptitude of their replacements to swing public opinion in their favor, forcing the league to capitulate to their demands and reinstate them to their rightful place on the NBA's courts.

But look closely - who are these men (and women?) who will be replacing them? They are, by and large, officials who are on the precipice of becoming NBA officials themselves. Look at it from this perspective - the last time you watched a high-level NCAA game, did you notice the poor quality of officiating?

I doubt it.

Or try this argument: Are the 61 current NBA referees truly the best 61 refs in the world? Or, more likely, are more than a handful of them past their prime and only in possession of their job(s) because of seniority?

As Bill Simmons has noted numerous times at ESPN.com, it's a bit odd that some of the men calling NBA games today are old enough to collect social security benefits. Sure, the five refs between the ages of 61 and 70 were exceptional at one time, but does that mean they are at the same level today? Or, just possibly, have their skills eroded with age, and their union has enabled them to hang on?

I'm not saying that a man loses his ability to call an NBA game at the age of 65. Rather, my argument is that if the current officials believe that the general public will be up in arms over the poor quality of the replacement refs, well, I believe they are sadly mistaken.

It's not fair, and it's incredibly sad that the NBA will, once again, be able to yield its power like a sledgehammer against a much weaker opponent. Being right, as Seattle was in its argument with the league a year ago, doesn't mean squat when it comes to dealing with the league.

It is painfully true that barring a horrible call in a crucial playoff game, the viewing public will, by and large, completely ignore the situation and forget about the "real" refs. By February, if this situation lasts this long and I seriously doubt it will, any leverage the current officials think they had will have evaporated, leaving them in the perilous position of having to beg David Stern for their jobs back.

Which, sadly, is what he was looking for all along.

(hat-tips to commenter JAS and to TrueHoop)

Monday, September 21

What's In a Name?

There are, I would imagine, more than 1,000 possible names a 6-year-old girl's soccer team could choose. Pixies, Wildcats, Princesses ... the number of ideas is endless, really.

And so, dear reader, it was with much excitement that I attended my daughter's first game on the road to her earning a full athletic scholarship to the University of Oregon. At the dinner table the night before her first game (at which time the team would pick their name), we bandied about some options: the Lucky Ducks (my wife and I went to Oregon, if you weren't aware), the Wildcats (we're thinking of moving to Tucson), the Green Machine (her team has lime green unis), and others.

Personally, I was rooting for the Lucky Ducks, and we even came up with an inspired idea for how the team could run around quacking after they scored a goal.

Regardless, though, I was sure it would turn out well. I mean, come on, how bad could the team name be?

How bad? How about ... the Thunder?

That's right, me, the lead writer for a site devoted to loving the Sonics and hating the Thunder, so much so that I came up with a way to reference the team without even using that dreaded word ... I have to spend every Sunday for the next five months watching my beloved daughter shout, "Go Thunder Go!" whenever she's taking a break on the sidelines.

Personally, I'm thinking the only righteous solution to this situation is to buy her team, complain about the conditions at her field, and then move the team to Kansas City.

It's really the only option.

Friday, September 11

Whitsitt Still Dealin'

Here's an interesting exercise for a late-summer weekend. Bring together two separate gentlemen, each a fan, respectively, of the sports of states of Washington and Oregon. Now, in as short a time as possible, see if you can find something or someone upon which both can come to an agreement.

Don't be surprised if the someone is Bob Whitsitt.

Honestly, I can't think of someone hated equally on both sides of the Columbia River. The architect of the Jail Blazers, Whitsitt would be lucky to survive ten minutes in Pioneer Square before a crazed Blazermaniac in a vintage Jerome Kersey jersey tried to put an elbow in his ear.

Likewise, should Whitsitt try to strike up a conversation with a regular at FX McRory's, his odds of escaping sans injury from an angry Seahawk fan would be rather slim.

So it was with a sly smile that one reads Whitsitt's biography at Whisitt Enterprises, LLC (motto: "We've Accumulated Talent Without Regard to Your Franchise's Future for 15 Years!"). To wit:

In nine years as president and general manager of the Portland Trailblazers, he built teams that averaged 50 wins per season and he played a key role in the successful completion of the Rose Garden Arena. President of the Seattle Seahawks from 1997 through the beginning of 2005, he negotiated the acquisition of the team for Paul Allen and led a successful statewide referendum that secured $300 million in public funding for the Seahawk’s new football stadium and exhibition center.
Did Whitsitt find his copywriter in Dick Cheney's rolodex? I haven't seen such glossing over of facts since Colin Powell visited the UN! I've now run out of liberal outrage! Wait ... compost!

Seriously, you have to admire the chutzpah of Whitsitt. The guy angers the fanbases at two franchises to a level he was lucky to walk away with both legs intact, and now he's selling his skills to other teams. If I'm a Blazer fan, I'd schedule a meeting with Whitsitt just so I could punch him in the nose and throw my Ruben Patterson drinking cup at him.

What's Good for the Goodell is Good for ...

I have still yet to find any information as to whether David Stern has opted for any form of pay cut similar to the one he wishes to impose on his referees, but I did find out that Roger Goodell certainly did.

Back in February, the NFL commissioner undertook at 20 to 25% pay cut from his $11 million salary.

No word, though, on whether Stern has followed or is planning to follow in the footsteps of his fellow commissioner, but I'd love to hear from anyone who could find evidence of such a move.

I'd love it even more if the media could ask him about this at the next NBA press conference.

Thursday, September 10

Stern Paycut?

Left unsaid in the angry rhetoric about David Stern's forced paycut for NBA referees (he wants them to cut salaries by 10%, they're willing to take about 5 or 7%), is this question:

What sort of paycut is David Stern willing to take?

According to what you read on the internet (I know, I know), Stern pulls down an annual salary of approximately $10 million. After spending some time researching the issue, I could not find any information as to whether Stern has opted to take the same paycut he is forcing the officials to take.

Now, that's not to say that he hasn't - absence of proof is not lack of proof, after all. One of our astute readers may be able to point me in the direction of an article which shows that the commissioner has, indeed, taken a pay cut this year.

But, if he hasn't, how hypocritical is that? On the one hand, he's sacrificing his officials upon the altar of the economic recession, yet he seems to not feel the need to do that for himself.

I hope I'm wrong, and that Stern is doing the honorable thing. But, somehow, knowing his character, I doubt it.

Wednesday, September 9

Stern to Refs: Nuts

Difference between the NBA and their refs in an ongoing labor dispute that caused Commissioner Stern to contemplate using scab officials this season: $700,000

Amount of time it would take for the NBA to earn $700,000, based on last year's revenue of $3.2 billion: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Wednesday, September 2

No Reign Forecast for Beijing

I'm puzzled as to how I missed this, but according to Chinese news sources, Shawn Kemp was all set to participate in Chinese Summer League basketball this past month.

Of course, Shawn being Shawn, it all fell apart in a mixture of miscommunications and prior commitments, the end result being Kemp has now tantalized and disappointed fans in North America, Europe, and Asia in the past 12 months, a considerable accomplishment for a guy whose last professional game was so long ago, Danny Manning was in the opposing lineup.

So, what's next for The Reign Man? Why not Australia, where Kemp could visit former teammate Sedale Threatt, or perhaps Africa, where he could provide an ironic twist on seeing teenage phenoms come from Africa to the U.S.? The possibilities, it would seem, are endless.

Much like Shawn Kemp's career.

Wednesday, August 26

Collison: Hometown Hero

We're probably the last ones on the internets to write about this, but a couple of weeks ago, former Seattle Supersonic Nick Collison did something amazing: he spoke the truth.

Unlike most professional athletes, who are trained at an early age to tow the company line, Collison , revealed seemed to imply in a recent interview that he (shudder) actually wishes he were still here in Seattle! After the interview, I'm sure a lot of Oklahomans felt the same way.

Don't worry, Nick. After sticking up for Seattle, you'll always be welcome back in the Emerald City. Heck, you might even consider a write-in campaign for mayor!

Wednesday, August 19

Nickels, Sonics To Meet Similar Fates?

Results are still not complete, but it appears as though Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels will soon be facing a fate similar to the one he created for the Seattle Sonics last summer:

Irrelevancy.

With half the votes counted, The Seattle Times reports that Nickels trails two other candidates, Mike McGinn and Joe Mallahan, in the mayoral primary, meaning the two-time incumbent would be on the outside looking in for the final race this fall.

It's hard to say just how much impact Nickels' shameful handling of the Sonics' debacle played in his candidacy, but consider this - the current tabulation of voting percentages stands at:

McGinn 26.6
Mallahan 25.77
Nickels 25.06

That's an extremely close race, with fewer than 1,000 votes keeping Nickels out of the election this fall. Obviously, with a race this tight and ballots not completely counted, things could change in the days to come, but it certainly begs the question:

Is it possible that when Greg Nickels sealed the fate of the Seattle SuperSonics last July, he simultaneously sealed his own fate as well?

Tuesday, August 11

Thursday, August 6

Rashard Lewis: Busted



I've got to be honest - of all the possible candidates in the NBA to be caught with excess testosterone in their blood, Rashard Lewis might have ranked at the bottom.

Right next to Luke Ridnour or Darius Miles.

I mean, come on, the guy's thinner than the premise of a Rick Reilly column, for crying out loud!

But, there you go, according to ESPN, Lewis will be suspended for 10 games at the start of the 09-10 season after DHEA was detected in his bloodstream.

I'm sure thousands of words will be uttered in the NBA universe about how this is "the tip of the iceberg" in regards to steroids and the league. We'll hear the requisite "it was a matter of time" stuff, the "does this taint the Magic's title run" stories, and the "who's next" speculation.

For now, though, we're left with this question to ponder: How bad a rebounder would Rashard be if he didn't take the drugs?

Huh, I Would've Thought Sir Mix-A-Lot Would've Gotten There First ...

Tacoma rappers Bound By Honor are just about to head on a national tour, and Tacoma Weekly caught up with the fellas just in time to find out that two of Supersonicsoul's favorite people were the subject of one of their songs.

Mic Dailey is the sports fan of the two. One of the songs on the new album has him spitting some venom at Clay Bennett, who purchased the Seattle SuperSonics and moved them to Oklahoma City, and Howard Schultz, the head of Starbucks who sold the team to Bennett.

“We really pulled some wild $#!% on this album,” Big John said. “Me and Mic reached deep on this.”


(as reported by John Larson in Tacoma Weekly)

Tuesday, August 4

Jersey Logos: Thank You, But No

Have you ever had a friend who saw the value of his home skyrocket, so much so that if he sold his place, he could move to Cannes, settle in, and never have to work again for the rest of his life?

I’m sure we all know that guy … got average grades in school, not particularly bright, but bought a house at the right time and the right place, and now he’s got it made.

Now imagine if that friend, let’s call him Joe, came to your house for dinner, and spent the entire evening whining about how he has to put a new roof in on his $7 million shack, the new tennis court he put in has a bump on one of the sidelines, and his spa’s been acting up. You’d want to smack him in the head, right?

Now imagine further that the reason that Joe’s house appreciated so much was because of the new park the city put in down the street from his home, with a swimming pool, pitch and putt golf course, and dog park.

And, befitting his lack of hubris, Joe decides the best way to raise funds for his refurbishments is to place a huge billboard on top of his house, so that all the folks at the park will see it. Sure, he’s nominally rich, but that’s in book money only, not in cold, hard cash.

I’ve just explained to you how much it burns me up when other folks bring up the idea of placing advertising on NBA jerseys.

I shouldn’t pick on Henry Abbott, and to be completely fair, he’s not the only who believes that a jersey logo is an express train headed directly for our station. Let’s set aside for a moment the validity of his argument that advertising revenues will subsidize lower ticket prices (okay, one quibble: think of how many ways in which the NBA has introduced advertising in our lifetimes: rotating half-court signs, signs around the center of the arena, signs on backboard stands, signs on concourses, ads on team websites … has anyone else noticed a decrease in ticket prices after all these advertising revenues were introduced? I didn’t think so.)

Instead let’s focus on just how much value a team receives every year simply by being in existence. Shown below is a chart detailing the return per year for each team in the league, based upon the price paid for the franchise, the year bought, and the total estimated value of the team based on figures created by Forbes magazine in 2008 (and, yes, I am aware that there are those who dispute Forbes’ figures; they are, however, a reasonably close approximation).

NBA team valuations

As you will notice, the average NBA team returns a value to its owner of $15,589,404 every year. This isn’t direct revenue from ticket sales, or popcorn, or luxury suites, any more than Joe receives a check in the mail because his house is now worth 7 million bucks. It is entirely possible that many of those teams lost money last year, or the year before, just as it is entirely possible that Joe spent too much on jetskis last year and his VISA bill is through the roof.

But put yourself in the position of being the friend of the newly-minted millionaire at that barbecue. When Joe complains to you about his sad lot in life, about how his $17 million house is killing him, about how he needs to put up that ridiculous billboard regardless of how offensive it is to everyone around him, what is your response?

If you’re anything like me, it’s something along the lines of, “Um, Joe, if it’s such a crappy deal, why don’t you just sell the damned thing already?”

Friday, July 31

Latest Anti-McClendon Tool: Books

Saugatuck Dunes v McClendon
You might recall earlier stories I ran about how Aubrey McClendon is battling the Saugatuck Township about his proposed redevelopment of a cherished part of Michigan's lakefront.

After buying the property, McClendon anticipated putting up a whack of McMansions, flipping the properties, and walking away with a bundle. (Astute readers will remember that McClendon fell in love with the area whilst jetskiing on vacation).

Anyhow, due to various reasons, the plan has stalled, with one of the major impediments being the assessed value of the land. In response to the township's assessement, McClendon first appealed, then lost, and has since filed multiple lawsuits, with the sole aim of making the township knuckle under to his desires, those desires being the re-zoning of the property in such a way that he would be able to build the mansions he wants.

In the methodology utilized by so many billionaires before him, McClendon has opted to bleed the township until they cave in. With that in mind, the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance has decided to publish a coffee table book with beautiful photos of the dunes — with all profits going to a legal fund to help battle McClendon (via Publisher's Weekly).

Entitled The Saugatuck Dunes, the book has already sold 500 copies at $35 each, and has drawn the interest of an independent bookseller in Chicago, among others. If you're interested in 1) purchasing a beautifully done book about a unique part of America and 2) striking a blow for regular folks battling an evil billionaire, here's the link at Amazon.

Wednesday, July 29

Blazers/Suns in Vancouver

Turns out that Steve Nash & Co. will be making an additional stop on their "Ye Olde Towne That Our League Hath Left" Tour. Various Canadian outlets report today that the Suns will do battle with Portland in Vancouver on October 22, one week after the much-discussed October 14 matchup at KeyArena.

Does this mean that the KeyArena event is a non-starter? Blazer coach Nate "Mr. Not-So-Sonic" McMillan intimated as much in an earlier interview, and this new scheduling lends credence to the thought that perhaps the NBA overestimated Seattle's ability to forgive and forget.

Tickets go on sale for the Vancouver game on August 8th, but I don't know what the story is for the Seattle game.

UPDATE

Looks like my suspicions were correct. Percy Allen from the Seattle Times reports that the Oct. 14 matchup at KeyArena has been ... canceled.

Allen tried, but was unsuccessful in getting Portland's front office to admit they canceled the game because they knew a sizable amount of bitter, twisted old Sonic fans would show up with NSFW banners with various combinations of "Stern," "Bennett," "Sucks," "F$#@," etc., etc.

Instead, Portland President Larry Miller told Allen, "We were looking into it, checking into and thinking that it was going to work out, but at the same time we were looking at some other options for that game." And, as a result, the Blazers will now play Oct. 14 in Portland, at the Memorial Coliseum.

So let me get this straight, the Blazers, who are desperately wooing Seattle fans, and are aiming to broadcast their games on radio and possibily TV in Seattle this season, decided the best possible way to lure ex-Sonics fans into the Blazer fold was to cancel their only visit to Seattle and replace it with a game in ... Portland?

In what universe does playing a early pre-season game in Portland make more sense than Seattle, from a business perspective?

I'll tell what universe: The universe where the NBA refuses to acknowledge that there is anything but unconditional love of their product. The universe where David Stern refuses to admit that he made a colossal PR blunder in removing the Sonics from Seattle. The universe where Mr. Stern loathes any possible hint of negative reflections on his disgraceful conduct.

That's the universe we're talking about, no matter what Larry Miller says.

Kevin Calabro: Still the Best

Kevin Calabro, one of the few people in this town to actually say "no" to Clay Bennett, is profiled in the Seattle Times today. It goes without mentioning that KC was (and is) an inspiration to Supersonicsoul, so it's nice to see him getting some props. Warning: this article will make Sonics fans both nostalgic and incredibly depressed. But it could also make you a Sounders fan (if you aren't already).


Monday, July 27

Chesapeake Lay Offs Beg Question


Two years from now, how likely is it that Seattle will have an NBA team and our old friend Aubrey McClendon will not? A year ago, a question such as that would have drawn a hearty laugh, but now? Not so much.

You may recall that Chesapeake Energy admitted to approximately 50 layoffs earlier in the year, but some are saying that's only the tip of the iceberg. According to the Journal Record of Oklahoma City, it is suspected that as much as 10 to 20 percent of the company's workforce will be laid off, if they haven't been laid off already, a figure of nearly 600 employees (first reported by KOKH).

Considering that the Sonix are in a money-losing situation, and considering that CHK is run by a man who is peddling wine, posters, and whatever he can dig out of the basement so that he might make the next interest payments on his debts, you can't help but wonder how badly Aubrey McClendon wishes he could get out of his obligations to Clay Bennett and the NBA these days. When you add in the other looming spectre of BP's supposed buyout of the company (and the subsequent rendering of Mr. McClendon as obsolete), that question gets even stronger still.

I understand, Oklahomans, that McClendon performs a myriad of civic duties, that he certainly does not always act in the manner befitting someone on the verge of bankruptcy. So, please, withold your diatribes about how we're a bunch of losers focused on a team which no longer belongs to us. Instead, ask yourself this question: With the economy in peril, with gas prices showing little signs of improvement, and with McClendon financed to the gills (and if you think his $112 million payday in December had anything to do with anything other than enabling him to make his debt payments, quit fooling yourself), how much longer can he continue to operate?

Tuesday, July 21

Locked on Utah

David Locke, ertwhile blogger, Sonic radio man, and a friend of Sonic fans, has been tabbed to succeed the legendary "Hot" Rod Hundley as the voice of the Utah Jazz.

Locke, who came to Seattle from Utah before returning two years ago, was one of the first of the local media to delve into more sophisticated analysis of basketball statistics (and, for all I know, MLB and NFL stats; I wasn't paying as much attention in those areas).

While I didn't agree with everything Locke said - he got awful wound up sometimes - and I never thought he fit comfortably into the play-by-play chair, that could be attributed as much to the man he replaced as it did to his skills. It's never easy to replace a legend, and now Locke has managed to try to fit into yet another pair of oversized shoes. First Calabro, now Hundley ... what's next, Locke, a shot at taking over for Vin Scully in Los Angeles?

In all seriousness, congrats to David for his promotion, and best of luck.

Wednesday, July 15

The Stern & Steve Show

Amount of time David Stern permitted Steve Kelley for an interview at the Las Vegas Summer League: 1 minute, 43 seconds

Amount of time it took Mr. Kelley to write his column: 1 minute, 38 seconds

Amount of time you should waste trying to think of any conclusions other than, "David Stern will say whatever it takes to further advance the agenda of David Stern": 0 minutes, 0 seconds

Nate: Sonic Fans are Blazer Fans

As much of a Nate McMillan fan as I am (and I am a huge one), he's really beginning to test my patience.

For evidence, see this latest quote from 'Mr. Sonic':

"The fans of Seattle have really become Blazer fans. Some of them up there of course still love the Sonics but because we have a lot of guys from Seattle area, we do have a fan base there."

(quote obtained via seattlepi.com).

Set aside the sheer inaccuracy of his statement (the fans of the Seattle have really NOT become Blazer fans, regardless of how much effort the Portland marketing staff makes), is it really necessary for him to say these things? At what point do we stop wondering if this is Nate trying to placate his present employer, and start wondering if he really has a bitter attitude towards all things Sonics after his messy departure four years ago?

McMillan endeared himself to a generation of fans with his on-court tenacity, selfless devotion to the team, and his no-BS style as a coach. He was a key contributor to all of the great Seattle playoff runs of the past 25 years, and if you had asked five years ago if there was any way I would ever consider throwing away my McMillan replica jersey, I would have laughed in your face.

And then spit in it.

Now? Now, I'm not so sure.

I'm not saying we should go crazy and cut the Mr. Sonic sash from his chest, but, at the very least, perhaps we should open the utility drawer and remove the scissors.

Tuesday, July 14

Tuesday, July 7

Sam Perkins: Did You Really Just Say Neat?

Imagine you're Tim Wilkin, a writer for a smallish paper (The Times-Union of Albany, New York), and you've scored an interview with former resident/basketball star Sam Perkins.

Now, if you're Tim Wilkin, you're just a hair nervous, in that Sam Perkins 1) is more famous than just about anyone you have ever interviewed and 2) exudes more cool through his left pinky toenail than you do through your entire body.

So, if you're Tim Wilkin, you're hoping your Q&A with Big Smooth can at least get off to a solid start, because, man, you're more nervous than a Clipper fan with a $250 Blake Griffin jersey.

And then this happens:

Q: Coming back to be inducted into the Capital District Basketball Hall of Fame ... is that a neat thing for you?

A: Is it neat? I haven't heard that word in awhile. It's cool.

Perkins manages to help Wilkin along by not hanging up the phone after one cliched question ("Who was your favorite teammate?" "What are you doing now?") after another (all of which begs the question: Do they have the internet in Albany yet?).

Not surprisingly, there was nothing too revelatory in the article, although it was a bit of a surprise to see Sam Perkins list Dick Motta as his favorite coach, putting him ahead of (among others): Dean Smith and George Karl.

One aspect emerged for sure, though: Sam Perkins is definitely not neat.

Friday, July 3

Happy Fourth of July!


If you're in the neighborhood, please stop by the "All-American Salute to America, USA" tonight in Ballard at Live Girls Theater (2220 NW Market St) at 11pm. I will be hosting an ultra-patriotic late night comedy show featuring some great local performers including the 2009 Stranger Gong Show Winner Airpocalypse. For more info, go to www.ballardcomedy.com

(Awesome/disturbing poster by Supersonicsoul's Rafael "Chunkstyle" Calonzo, Jr.)

Tuesday, June 30

One Year Later

Depending upon the circumstances, one year can be a long period of time.

One year spent waiting through, say, a traffic light or watching a year’s worth of early-90s Cavs highlights? That’s an eternity.

But watching one year of your life go by without your favorite basketball team? That can transpire rather quickly.

As a writer for a web site nominally devoted to a team which no longer exists, I suppose it is incumbent upon me to spill some pixel-filled pearls of wisdom about how it feels one year after Greg Nickels made a deal with the devil and allowed Clay Bennett to leave town for what turns out to be the tidy sum of $45 million.

It was, obviously, a painful day for all of us when the announcement was made. Speaking as someone who hasn’t lived in Seattle since the (first) Bush administration, though, I almost feel guilty about complaining – after all, how can I grouse about somebody leaving Seattle when I did it more than 15 years ago?

Regardless, this situation transcends individual situations, it transcends even city-wide feelings. Instead, I look at what happened to Seattle and the Sonics as a searchlight beaming directly onto the professional sports experience, and that’s precisely why it should trouble everyone, from the season-ticket holder in New Jersey to the casual fan in New Orleans.

In the aftermath of the relocation, I was a bit irked at the way the rest of the sports fans across the country viewed the way events transpired. For the most part, the prevailing sentiments fell into one of two camps:

A) “Hey, if you guys wanted your team so bad, you should have supported them better.”

B) “That really sucks for Seattle, we should do something about … hey, how ‘bout those Cavs, can you believe LeBron?”

Naturally, that bothered me. Where was the outrage? This wasn’t the Hornets leaving Charlotte, or the Grizzlies leaving Vancouver, this was the Sonics leaving Seattle. We mattered more. We had a history, dammit! Why wasn’t everyone as angry as we were?

For quite a few months, I lugged that emotion around with me, so much so that I began to wish that the league would just collapse so that everyone else would feel as crappy as I did. Then, slowly, I began to realize that the way other fans treated the Sonics’ departure was no different than the way I treated the Colts’ departure from Baltimore, or the Browns’ from Cleveland, or any of the myriad of other franchise shifts in the past twenty years.

That is to say, with a small bit of melancholy and a great big helping of indifference.

And you know what? I can’t expect any more than that.

One year later, and I still despise Stern, McClendon, Bennett, and the rest of the co-conspirators for the shoddy way they treated the fanbase here. When word came that the Blazers were mulling the possibility of playing a pre-season game in Seattle this fall, I almost threw up. Really, Portland, you think after one year that we’re ready to forget the past 40 years? That I can start cheering for a franchise that considers this guy a hero? I think not, my patchuli-scented friends.

But the truth is that I am not the target audience for the Blazers’ marketing scheme, any more than I am for the NBA. The target is the casual fan, the one who only dips his toe in the league’s pool when he feels like it, who can take or leave basketball with the ease of trying the new restaurant on the corner.

One year later, and I have finally come to the realization that the league cares as much about devoted fans as Hollywood cares about the hard-core fanatics who love their product. We are a loyal entity, a group who remain devoted no manner how shoddily we are treated.

Imagine if a local business treated you the way the NBA treated Seattle fans. After 40 years of devotion, after setting attendance records, after building two arenas, after caving in to every demand the league/team placed, they threatened to leave because of a lack of support. Can you imagine how you would feel about a local theater that tried to do that? A restaurant?

You can’t, of course, because the NBA – and pro sports in general – are a different animal, and they know it. Stern knows we are addicted to his product, and he knows no matter how poorly his teams behave towards their hosts, no matter how greedy his owners act or how egregious their demands, that there are always those who will forgive them, simply because they love the game.

One year later, and most of the anger has ebbed. And while I’ve grown to understand why the majority of population takes a not-my-problem attitude towards what happens in other cities, let me offer a few words of advice:

You’re next.

Wednesday, June 24

CHK: It's All About Priorities

Estimated yearly savings for Chesapeake Energy after laying off 50 Oklahoma City employees, assuming base salary of $50,000, taking into account benefits, office space, et al: $6,750,000

Estimated cost of maps, paintings, etc. purchased by Chesapeake Energy from founder Aubrey McClendon in December 2008: $12,100,000

By my math, it would appear that two years of employment for 50 people < pile of maps.

Graphing the Draft, Ebay Items

eBay items available, NBA #1 picks, 1980-2008

Graphing the Draft

#1 vs Field, Total Points Scored

And a 1 and a 2 ...

#1 vs #2 pick in NBA draft, games played

Ford Center Tax Coming Up Short

Apparently the recession has had an impact on something other than Aubrey McClendon's bank account, as the falling number of dollars spent by consumers has also caused a decline in sales tax revenue in Oklahoma City, meaning the city now is falling short of cash for the $100 million Ford Center renovations. (via AP)

Shocking, I know.

If the trend continues for the tax - which was approved by OKC voters in March 2008 - by the time it is completed in March 2010, it will be about $15 million short, meaning the city will have to, as the AP put it: "start trimming projects or seek new modes of funding."

Translation: Don't expect any new picnic tables at Hefner Lake Park.

Of course, we all know the Sonix will do everything they can to make this work, as the team's ownership is firmly committed to Oklahoma City. Right? What's that, the team has an opt-out clause in their lease? C'mon, that can't be true, can it?

The team can opt out of the arena lease, the food and beverage agreement and the practice facility lease at the end of six years and at one or more other undetermined point in time during the initial 15-year lease if the average of team ticket revenue for the preceding two years fall below 85% of a benchmark of average ticket revenues in the first two full seasons following completion of arena renovations.

Oh, yeah, that clause.

Tuesday, June 23

Where you been, Vin?

As if Pete's story about Tom Chambers' "cock" problems weren't weird enough, Jessica from Greenstreet writes about yet another failed Vin Baker comeback:

It has been five years since the Vin Baker saga ended in Boston. Now the 37-year-old is trying to restart his basketball career in South America.

According to several reports, Baker has signed with the Marinos de AnzoƔtegui of the LPB (Liga Profesional de Baloncesto) in Venezuela. However it is unclear how much the 6-11 forward will play. The Marinos are already competing in their postseason and Baker is not listed on the roster on their official website.

Hmmm, this sounds familiar, eh?

This isn’t the first time Baker has attempted a comeback. His NBA career ended six games into the 2006-2007 season when he was released by the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was arrested seven months later for drunk driving in June of 2007. Baker tried to resurrect his career in late 2008 with Liaoning Hunters in China. He was cut after just two days for poor conditioning.

China?! What would could poor Vin to cross the globe just to continue a failed baskeball career? Vanity? A love of the game?

Marca.com reported Baker has “serious economic problems.” His former home in Durham, Connecticut was foreclosed last year.

Oh, yeah. That.

(Read the whole article at Green Street. Thanks to Jessica for the tip!)

Friday, June 19

Two Sonics Reading Options

Sonics reading options for a Friday.

Option #1:
Steve Aschburner's latest piece in Sports Illustrated, which explores the sad state of affairs of the NBA in Seattle, especially when placed in relation to the joy surrounding the Sonics' championship run in 1979. It's a well written piece, but, understandably, overwhelmingly sad for a fan of Sonics' basketball.

Option #2:
Frank Deford's Sports Illustrated piece from 1967, which details the joy surrounding "the lone big-league franchise in the entire northwest quadrant of the nation, an area stretching north from San Francisco and west from Minneapolis-St. Paul."

Deford's story is full of gems; from Al Bianchi's too-tight pants, Tonics for Sonics, how the Cleveland Indians tried to come to Seattle, Henry Akin's chewing tobacco, and how Walt Hazzard "was the first Negro" to live in a Bellevue neighborhood.

Yes, 1967 was a long time ago.

Anyhow, if you're going to read one of those stories, I'd suggest Deford's, if only because it won't make you want to slit your wrists when you complete it.

Thursday, June 18

The 00s: Know Your Point Guards

How well do you know the point guards of the 00s? Test your useless knowledge of arcane facts with the following quiz, this time focusing upon generals of the NBA.


  1. Which player racked up the most regular season steals?
  2. Jason Kidd
    Allen Iverson
    Kobe Bryant
    Kevin Garnett

  3. Which player registered the most regular season assists?
  4. Gary Payton
    Andre Miller
    Jason Kidd
    Steve Nash

  5. Who had the most post-season assists?
  6. Steve Nash
    Chauncey Billups
    Tony Parker
    Jason Kidd
    4. How about post-season steals?
    Ben Wallace
    Kobe Bryant
    Jason Kidd
    Derek Fisher