Friday, February 27
Sacramento Arena Coming, Well, Sort Of
1. A developer
2. A request for proposal
3. A possible tax "increment"
None of which are available at the moment. "This is not a shovel-in-the-ground project," said John Moag, an NBA consultant.
Now that's an understatement. To quote Moag once again, "This is not a project that's going to begin this year."
The reasoning for that last tidbit is the economy. Which leads this observer to wonder, if this project won't get underway until the economy turns around, and the economy is not expected to turn around for at least another year or two, just how much longer are the Maloofs willing to stick around at Arco?
Also of note, the fact that board members of Cal Expo were kept in the dark about the proposal until the very last minute, which is not altogether unsurprising considering that the NBA had its hand fully around the preparations.
Assemblyman Dave Jones (a board member himself) told KCRA in Sacramento, "I think that in most public bodies I've been a part of, actually all public bodies I've been a part of, board members have an opportunity to see a proposal before the board meeting. So it's a little strange."
Kings fans, we know how you feel. This whole plan sounds suspiciously like the detail-free plan Clay Bennett foisted upon the Washington legislature, then, after watching it fail, pointed to as his excuse for leaving.
For the sake of the good fans of Sacramento, let's hope that's not the case this time.
New Lawsuit for Aubrey McClendon
Call me crazy, but wouldn't it be interesting to find out how much of that $200 "It's Not a Bailout!" million David Stern has acquired for his teams is going to our friends in Oklahoma City? Of course, we all know how popular the team is there, if by popular, that is, you mean "drawing the same television numbers as MacGyver re-runs."
David Stern: Keeping the Faith
“ This is the opposite of a bailout. This was a show of strength in the credit worthiness of the NBA’s teams. It’s a great sign of confidence in us and that’s wonderful that the market is opening up, so we’ll take it.”
David Stern, as Mayor of New Orleans:
“This is not a disaster. The presence of the Army Corps of Engineers is merely a show of confidence they have in our failing levee system.”
David Stern, as Captain of the Titanic:
“This is not a sinking ship. The water coming on-board this vessel is merely a demonstration of the ocean’s faith in our ability to withstand icebergs.”
David Stern, as Naval Captain at Pearl Harbor:
“This is not a bloodbath. The fact the Japanese are bombing us is only an indication of their belief in our capability of building new ships to replace the ones which are sinking.”
David Stern, as Noah’s neighbor:
“This is not a flood. The fact water is now rising above my head is merely a sign of God’s faith in my ability to breath underwater.”
Thursday, February 26
Kemp is better than the Mailman
For a few years back in the late 1990s, your intrepid narrator managed to finagle a press pass for the Vancouver Grizzlies, enabling me to take in about 100 or so games at GM Place in Vancouver.
As you can imagine, these were not the Boston-Los Angeles clashes that made the NBA famous, unless by Boston-Los Angeles, you’re referring to something along the lines of Dino Radja versus Pig Miller and not Bird versus Magic.
Anyhow, it gave me a good schooling on how irrelevant certain regular season games can be, so much so that I developed a 3-point rule for determining if the players and fans are into the game at hand. If you can answer yes to all three questions, then you are watching a game that nobody cares about:
1. Can you hear the players’ sneakers squeaking?
2. Can you hear the head coach calling out plays?
3. Do the players behave in a friendly manner with one another, e.g., chatting at the free throw line, helping up opponents, laughing at turnovers?
Believe me, there were plenty of nights when I answered yes to all three of those questions at GM Place back in the day.
I tell you that to tell you this – judging players solely on statistics without taking into account the importance of the game can be misleading. Anyone who has watched more than a dozen NBA games can tell you the players bring a completely different level of intensity for playoff games than they do for Tuesday games in February against the Grizzlies.
So, with that in mind, I set about determining what were the ten most important games Shawn Kemp played against Karl Malone in their careers. Obviously, series-deciding games would have to be included, and there are four of those. Add in the Western Conference Finals of 1996 and, voila, you’ve got ten games to consider.
Yes, it’s a small sample size, and, yes, it may not be the best way to judge these two, but it is a valid point to consider: When the games mattered the most, when both players were playing their hardest, when both teams and coaches expended the most amount of energy, who fared better, Karl Malone or Shawn Kemp?
At first glance, the edge seems to go to Malone, especially if you’re relying on traditional numbers such as points, rebounds, and assists.
Player REB AST PTS Malone 114 43 262 Kemp 92 11 178
Case closed, right? Well, not so fast, Mailman fanatics. In his great book Basketball on Paper, Dean Oliver argued that there are other elements beyond the basic stats which are more indicative of player or team success. Oliver labeled them the Four Factors, and they are:
1. Shooting percentage (10)
2. Turnovers per possession (5-6)
3. Offensive rebounding percentage (4-5)
4. Getting to the foul line (2-3)
The numbers in brackets after each factor is the value Oliver places upon them. With that in mind, let’s see how Kemp and Malone stack up.
Player FG% TO/Poss OREB% FTM/FGA Malone 47% 0.13 9% 0.27 Kemp 67% 0.25 9% 0.49
One of the four is a push, one goes to Malone (turnovers), and two go overwhelmingly to Kemp. So, right off the bat, according to one of the brightest statistical minds in the basketball universe, Kemp has an edge, and not a small one either when you consider Oliver’s belief in the importance of shooting percentage.
But it doesn’t stop there. Almost any Sonic fan more than 25 years old can tell you the enjoyment we felt in watching Malone fail at the free throw line, and the joy we had in counting down from ten while he struggled at the stripe in KeyArena. But was that just our memories, or did Malone fail as much as we remembered?
FREE THROW PERCENTAGE
Kemp 77%, Malone 62%
Thanks to Oliver, NBA number-crunchers have become obsessed with possessions, and rightfully so. While in the old days a player such as Alex English could be lauded for scoring 30 points, now we’re a little more cautious – sure, he scored 30, but how many possessions did it take? Sure, the Nuggets and Suns give up a lot of points on defense, but does that mean they’re lazy without the ball, or that they just have more possessions than most teams?
The same goes for the Kemp/Malone argument. For example:
Kemp 132, Malone 102.7
That’s a huge difference, no? Look at it this way: points are like miles driven, and possessions are the number of gallons of gas you put into the car to drive those miles. Judging players only by points scored is like judging a car’s fuel economy by the numbers of miles it traveled – it’s incomplete. Sure, Malone outscored Kemp 262-178, but it took him almost twice as many possessions to do it (255-135). It’s like the difference between a Prius and a Hummer, for crying out loud.
The ultimate illustration of the contrasting styles of the two players came in game seven of the 1996 Western Conference Finals, a game the Sonics won 90-86 in Seattle. A cursory look at the boxscore the next morning would have left the reader to think that the two men played to a draw, with Kemp getting a slight edge.
Malone – 22 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds
Kemp – 26 points, 14 rebounds, 1 assist
But looking more closely, you can see that Kemp had huge advantages. Malone’s 22 points came on 31 possessions, while Kemp scored 26 points on only 18 possessions. Malone hit only 6 of 12 free throws, while Kemp hit 10 of 11. Kemp had a true shooting percentage of 77%, while Malone’s was a dismal 40%.
Yes, it was one game, and considering how well Malone played over the course of 42 matchups between the two, we shouldn’t throw all of his accomplishments in the wastebin because he came up short one time in 1996.
But, really, it’s not just one game. In the ten most important games the two men played against one another, when the stakes were as high as they could get, when both teams tried to squeeze every last ounce of talent from their players, Shawn Kemp was the better basketball player, and not by a small margin either.
One could argue that Malone’s achievements from a career standpoint would outweigh Kemp’s accomplishments in the post-season, and that’s a fair consideration. But I look at it from this vantagepoint: What is a team paying a player to do?
He is paid to do two things. First, get his team into the playoffs. Second, once the first objective is reached, he is paid to get his team a championship.
Shawn Kemp certainly took more than a few nights off during the regular season, especially when compared to Karl Malone, so you have to give the edge to the Mailman for that aspect.
But when it comes to getting his team to a championship? When the crowd is deafening and coaches have to scream their instructions even when the players are standing right next to them?
In that case, my friends, I’ll take the Reignman.
Wednesday, February 25
The Case for the Mailman
Seattle sports fans can argue about plenty of things. Is Dave Krieg better than Matt Hasselbeck? Would Felix Hernandez outduel Randy Johnson? Greatest Seattle sports hero: Gary Payton, Steve Largent or Ken Griffey? Does Rick Neuheisel have a soul, or rather, were you to slice open his midsection, would you find only a slimy concoction of bile, self-importance, and teeth?
We can all agree on one question, though: Karl Malone is the supreme villain in our history. Sure, you’ve got a Clemens over there, a Jabbar perhaps, the entire Oakland Raiders roster, and so on, but the Mailman is hands-down the most hated man to ever take the court against a team from Seattle. Any counterargument is nonsense.
The only great thing about Karl Malone was that he made himself so easy to hate. The flopping, the elbows, the idiotic hand-behind-the-head dunking … heck, just being a member of the Jazz was enough to make us hate him, but then he had to go and be jerkoff on top of that? Phew! We hated Karl Malone like we hated Californians who bought our real estate – because there was no conceivable reason not to.
All of which goes a long way to explaining how hard it is for me to state this: When it comes to the argument of Karl Malone or Shawn Kemp in head to head competition, it’s pretty darn hard to make a case for the Reignman. To wit:
- The two played 42 games while Kemp was a starter for the Sonics. Kemp scored 20 points or more ten times. The Mailman did it 40 times.
- Malone averaged more points, assists, rebounds, committed fewer turnovers and personal fouls, shot better from the field, and got to the line 50% more often.
- In Malone’s five best scoring efforts, he tallied 38, 35, 32, 32, 32, a total of 169 points. Kemp’s five best efforts? 29, 29, 26, 26, 26, for 136 points.
- The Mailman racked up 10+ free throws made nine times. Kemp did it thrice.
- Malone fathered one child out of wedlock, as far as we know. Kemp had at least three or four. Or five. Fine, there may have been six, but, geez, did you see the dress on that girl?
You could go on and on. Malone’s dominance was indicative of how he wound up as the second-highest scorer in league history despite a lack of 3-point shot or a dominant, Olajuwon-like post-up game. His was a battle of attrition. Malone wasn’t going to score 50 every other month, but he was going to get his 27 points, dammit, even if it took 28 shots to do it..
Still, setting aside Malone’s black-hole approach to offense, he was dominant. How dominant? Try this on for size, if you will. The Sonics battled the Jazz 25 times with Malone and Kemp as starters in the regular season. Of those 25 games, take a guess at how many times Kemp outscored the Mailman. Go on, guess.
That’s right, Kemp outscored Malone as often as George Karl modeled for Playgirl. 25 times the Mailman battled the Reignman in regular season play as equals, and 25 times Karl topped Kemp in the points column. I know, I know, Malone played more minutes, he took more shots (483 to 275 to be exact), yada, yada, yada.
Still, that’s incredible, right? Think back on all those clashes, all those times Malone escaped on fast breaks and threw down one of his ridiculous Kid ‘n Play dunks with his left hand behind his head … shouldn’t Kemp have prevailed at least once? He was Shawn Kemp, for crying out loud. The man child! The dunker of dunks! Only a Mormon would put up a poster of Karl Malone, but Kemp’s posters were in college dorm rooms across the country. You could get away with charging $20 for a Kemp’s Greatest Dunks DVD, but how much could you get for The Mailman’s Greatest Dunks? 37 cents? Heck, it probably came on Betamax, those moves were so played out.
Put all that aside, though. Even if you look at their playoff performances, Malone still comes out ahead in the numbers, almost absurdly so. He averaged 10 points more than Kemp did in the postseason. 10 points! C’mon, people, can you seriously consider any alternative to the notion that Karl Malone was head, shoulders, and pointy elbows above Shawn Kemp in their head-to-head play? Sure, Kemp could dunk, but what difference does that make, really? What kind of moron would dare suggest that any conclusion other than Malone’s supremacy is possible?
Raises hand meekly.
Um, this moron does. It’ll take some slight-of-hand statisticology that may qualify me for an emergency federal bailout, but I think I can make it work. Tune in tomorrow to find out.
Tuesday, February 24
The Reignman and The Mailman
The Silence of the Lambs had dominated the box office that weekend, topping the lists for the second time in what would prove to be a five-week run as the top movie in the country. More importantly, the US launched ground war offenses into Iraq after six weeks of bombing, a battle which would end by the next weekend with the allied forces victorious.
But for the crowd of 12,080 gathered at the Seattle Center Colisseum that evening, it was an auspicious event, a foreshadowing of greatness in many ways, for that night, unbeknownst to anyone, was to be the first of many nights in which Shawn Kemp would take his place in the starting lineup matched up with Karl Malone.
Kemp had begun the season on the bench, and in Seattle’s first clash with Utah, a thrilling 97-96 loss at the Salt Palace, Kemp would only play 17 minutes as Michael Cage, Xavier McDaniel and Derrick McKey received the lion’s share of the forward and center minutes.
That all changed on December 7th, though, when the Sonics dealt the X-Man to Phoenix for veteran supersub Eddie Johnson. That evening in Orlando, while Johnson and McDaniel were packing their bags and journeying to their new homes, Kemp was inserted in the starting lineup, a position he would not relinquish (with the exception of a small spell in 91-92) for the better part of seven years.
It is said that the true judge of a great player is how he matches up against another great player, and there was no greater power forward in the NBA in the early 1990s than Karl Malone. Averaging close to 30 points a game and a double-digit rebounding total every night out, Malone was a fierce opponent for any player, let alone a youngster who just got the thumbs-up to drink legally less than two months before (insert alcoholism pun here).
Despite the overwhelming differences in the two teams’ records (Utah at 35-17, Seattle at a middling 24-28), the Sonics prevailed 103-91, thanks in no small part to a young Shawn Kemp’s 22 points. Still, even a true devotee of the green and gold would have to admit that Malone won the battle, even if he lost the war, as the Mailman finished with 29 points, 7 boards, and 5 assists.
Six years, and many battles, later, the two would match up again in late February, the final time Shawn Kemp and Karl Malone would face one another as members of the Sonics and Jazz, respectively. Again, Malone would win the battle, but Kemp won the war, as Malone’s 32-point night and Kemp’s 3-point (!) evening were overshadowed by a 2-point Sonic win in Salt Lake City.
In the intervening years, the two would match up no fewer than 25 times during regular season play, and another 17 times during post-season play, including, of course, the classic seven-game Western Conference Finals in 1997. In the next few days, we’ll take a closer look at how these two titans fared against one another, but for today, I’ll provide a small glimpse at their total numbers.
Regular Season Wins
Kemp 12, Malone 13
Kemp 8, Malone 9
PPG, Regular Season
Kemp 14.6, Malone 26.6
Kemp 16.6, Malone 26.8
Rebounds, Regular Season
Kemp 9.1, Malone 10.7
Kemp 9.6, Malone 10.8
TS%, Regular Season
Kemp 55%, Malone 57%
Kemp 62%, Malone 54%
You can tell that Malone dominates the raw numbers, a not unexpected occurrence considering the way he dominated the league for so long. But this study will delve a little deeper than the raw points and rebounds by which players are usually judged – and I believe, they’ll show that while the Mailman has the illusion of being far greater than Kemp, if you look closely at the numbers, and if you focus on the 10 biggest games of their careers in head-to-head competition, you might come away with a different impression altogether.
Suit Still Ongoing
Greg Johns at the PI details today how the case between a group of Sonic season-ticket holders is still pending, at that there is a fair chance the group could see damages of up to $7.5 million, now that a Federal Judge has granted them a jury trial on a portion of their case.
It's a small pound of flesh, granted, but considering what Seattle fans went through with the Oklahomans, I'm guessing it might be a little more salve for the wounds.
Friday, February 20
KeyArena: Deal or No Deal?
1) Rep. Ross Hunter and the legislature is just trying to get this situation out of their collective laps, and pin the responsibility solely in the hands of the City of Seattle. By only providing authorization to the city to raise taxes - an authority the city already possesses, thank you very much - Hunter's bill 2252 really doesn't do much of anything. Looked at from that vantagepoint, it seems clear that Olympia is more interested in making sure they don't get accused of letting Clay Bennett's $30 million penalty payment go down the drain without any action on their part.
2) Hunter, and the city, are not done working on this. This, to me, is the more likely scenario. As in everything in politics, the devil is not in the details, but in the negotiations. Perhaps, just perhaps, Hunter is trying to keep this topic in the news by any means necessary, knowing that if he waits until spring to act, it will be too late. Lest we forget, the most common invective hurled at the state legislature in the past two years has the accusation that they have acted with all the swiftness of an Alton Lister fast break, when they should have proceeding more like Sedale Threatt.
If you choose to view this as a glass half-full scenario, then you might want to holster this quote from Hunter in your arsenal, in which he comments on how long it would take for a bill to be put together to satisfy the requirements of Bennett's payment to the city:
"These things are always done in three days at the end of session."
As it stands now, the city has rejected Hunter's bill, and the state has rejected the city's plan to use the hotel/motel tax. It is, simply, a minor impasse, not a major one, at least from where I sit. The important aspect to remember is that the two sides are still talking about the future of KeyArena. And while the aftertaste of reading this story might be bitter, remember that an even less tasty option would be this one:
No one talking about KeyArena at all.
Wednesday, February 18
That's Great, Dale, But About That Suit ...
More On KeyArena Tax
- The bill, in essence, authorizes counties or cities to institute a restaurant tax of no more than five-tenths of one percent of the selling price. It does not, however, authorize any state funds.
- Once a threshold of revenue is reached (approximately $5 million), any extra monies received would be doled out as follows: 70% for “art museums, cultural museums, heritage museums, heritage and preservation programs, the arts, and the performing arts” and 30% for “stadium purposes … acquisition of open space lands; youth sports activities; and tourism promotion.”
- This, however, is only for revenues up ‘til 2013. From 2013 to 2015, all revenues collected go towards retiring any remaining debt on the arena. From 2016 to 2020, all remaining revenues go to a “stadium and exhibition center account.” After 2021, all revenues go to a “special county arts, regional center, low-income housing, and community development fund.”
- As far as I can tell, there is no end date to the tax.
- A car rental tax could also be utilized.
Again, the most important thing to note, from what I can tell, is that the state is merely giving cities and counties authorization to collect the tax. Rep. Hunter has determined that the state should not be involved in the KeyArena situation – perhaps wisely so, given the political climate in Olympia. If this tax can be instituted on a Seattle-only basis, it has a much more likely chance of passing (granted, that chance is still low, in my opinion, but it’s more likely to happen in Seattle than, say, Tumwater).
All that said, there’s no sense getting too worked up about this proposal. There are many more revisions and changes to come, naturally, and the bill as we see it today will not be the bill as we see it at the end.
Still, I would like to quote one particular part of the proposal which made me smile:
“The county shall not lease a public stadium that is financed directly or indirectly by bonds to which the tax is pledged to, or authorize the use of the public stadium by, a professional major league sports franchise unless the sports franchise gives the right of first refusal to purchase the sports franchise, upon its sale, to local government.”
Man, where was that language when we needed it …
Thursday, February 12
A Picture's Worth ...
No, what I was looking for was what it looked like in the arena. Sure, the teams are announcing attendance which makes it look as though things are rosy in the NBA, but are those announced numbers even close to being accurate? With the overwhelming number of digital cameras and cameraphones, there's really no excuse for the public to start being reporters.
Well, Jason Ferguson was at last Monday's Rockets-Bucks tilt in Milwaukee, and was nice enough to forward some photos to me. Bear in mind that announced attendance was 13,904, and that the Bradley Center holds 18,717, which means that the arena was supposedly 75% full. These pictures were taken during the middle of the second quarter.
First, the lower level:
Then, center court, upper deck:
Finally, the upper deck endzone:
From the looks of it, the Bradley Center's upper deck is about as populated as the surface of Mars these days.
Jason apologized for the quality of the pictures, but considering what he was paid to do this (that's nothing, in case you're wondering), I don't think it's necessary. I'm just glad someone took me up on my offer, so much thanks to Jason for the effort.
Now, does this offer irrefutable evidence that the NBA is on the verge of collapse? Of course not - even a cranky old Sonic fan such as myself wouldn't go that far.
Does this indicate that maybe the NBA is doing worse than it is letting on, and that while the Clevelands, Bostons, and LAs of the world are doing just fine, that the smaller markets are really caught in a tight spot between huge salaries and other expenses on the one side, and declining disposable income on the other?
You're darn right it does.
If you're going to be attending a game in the near future, do us a favor and pack your camera/phone with you, snap some shots, and email them to us at supersonicsoul AT hotmail DOT com. We'll be glad to post them.
And Your Sign of the Night Is ...
If you didn't see it on ESPN.com, then perhaps you might catch it on the Seattle Times website, or the News Tribune, on Yahoo sports, or Sports Illustrated.
Congrats to former Sonic employee Matt Heuer and his two-year-old nephew Zach Rankin for cracking the sports section of virtually every major media website in the country today.
Tuesday, February 10
Heading down the Oregon Trail?
In all seriousness, though, KIRO/MyNorthwest.com has asked me for some pictures from the game (especially of Supersonics fans, getting ready for the trip, holding your "Bennett Blows" signs, drunken sobbing, etc.). If you go, please take lots of pictures and send them to us (see contact info in upper right corner) and I'll post them here and forward them to KIRO.
So, who's going down to P-Town? Is there going to be a meet-up somewhere? Are you going to color coordinate? Discuss, whilst I sit in the corner clutching my Starting Lineup Xavier McDaniel figure and silently weep.
Monday, February 9
79 Finals Viewing Party?
Would anyone be interested in this? I was thinking maybe sometime in June. If there's enough interest, I will pursue a venue (preferably one with ample booze) to house this shindig. And, if all goes well, we could possibly make this a monthly deal ('87 playoffs anyone?).
Saturday, February 7
In the back of your mind, you all know it's going to happen. You should have been a little bit worried when Seattle Billionaire, Paul Allen, bought the Blazers. As Paul Allen was signing the ownership papers, you know that he was already plotting ways to move the Blazers to Seattle. Allen knew that the only way to get the Blazers to Seattle is to get the Sonics to leave, and to make the Blazers a team that Seattle fans will love.Thanks to Matt for the tip!
So what does he do? He goes out and hires Mr. Sonic, Nate McMillan, no doubt luring Nate away with the promise that one day soon he will move the Blazers to Seattle. Hiring Nate away from Seattle also destroys the Seattle Sonics franchise, making their departure from Seattle more eminent. No doubt Nate called up some of his millionaire and billionaire friends, including Clay Bennet, and asked them for a favor. Then he probably went down to Starbucks and told Howard Schulz that he had a plan for Schulz to get rid of the Sonics and become a hero again. No doubt Schultz will be there on the day that Brandon Roy announces that he "had a great time in Portland, but is so glad to be back in Seattle!"
Read the rest at Bustabucket.com
Monday, February 2
Now if we could just get Slick Watts to run for King County Executive . . .