Monday, March 30

McLendon Facing Legal Mumbo-Gumbo

Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times reports that former Sonic owner Aubrey McClendon is facing an inquiry in the state of Oklahoma after a shareholder of Chesapeake Energy demanded tighter scrutiny of a huge bonus McClendon received in the tail-end of 2008.

As Morenson reports, McClendon was awarded $75 million by Chesapeake and a new contract in December 2008, after his old contract (a five-year deal signed in 2007), was viewed as out of date (translation - because Chesapeake's stock had dropped so precipitously, it was no longer financially viable for the soon-to-be-broke McClendon).

Anyhow, the board of directors deemed CHK's $33 billion drop in value from July to December to be meritorious of a $75 million reward to Aubrey. The shareholders, Louisiana Municipal Police Employee Retirement System, which saw their 85,000 shares drop in value from more than $6 million to less than $2 million, didn't think so.

And so, rather than file a lawsuit, the group decided to file a "books and records demand" in the State of Oklahoma. Will this filing force McClendon to return the $75 million and tear up his new contract? Unlikely. Will this filing force Chesapeake to go through a few months of uncomfortable headlines, require the conniving McClendon to fess up to poor management, and create some unsettling feelings for the board of directors? You bet.

Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys.

Wednesday, March 25

Donaldson To Make Announcement

Mike Seely of Seattle Weekly provides an in-depth look at James Donaldson's quest for the mayoral chair in Seattle, including news that the former Sonic will officially announce his candidacy tomorrow (March 26).

Donaldson has a tough road to travel, as incumbent Greg Nickels has deep pockets and exceptional name recognition. Still, the 7'2" Donaldson received this eye-opening bit of praise from former Tacoma mayor Brian Ebersole:

"He's one of the most modest, kind, sincere, wonderful, good-to-the-core people I know. You feel like you're in the presence of greatness, like the Dalai Lama or Jesus Christ."

Alright then.

Tuesday, March 24

KeyArena News; Gelabale Signs

KeyArena will still be KeyArena, even if the Sonics are long gone. Key Bank has inked a deal with the city that will cost them $300,000 a year, down from the $1.3 million they used to pay when the Sonics were still around, Chris Sullivan reports. The city council will vote on the revised payment structure at 2 pm today.

Greg Johns at the PI notes that the city is closely following the progress in the state legislature of the two possible stadium bills currently being considered.

Former Sonic Mickael Gelabale has signed a contract with the Lakers' D-League team, the Los Angeles D-Fenders, Ridiculous Upside reports.. Gelly is hoping to resuscitate his career after a terrible knee injury last season.

Monday, March 23

Amazing But True

Last year, in his second season in the NBA, at the age of 24, Leon Powe played in 24 playoff games as the Celtics won the NBA title.

Juwan Howard has been a member of the league since 1994 and he currently ranks sixth among active players in regular games played. In all that time - the arrival of the internet, the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations, proliferation of cell phones, and so on - Howard has played in 23 playoff games, or one fewer than Powe played in last year.

And you wonder why Juwan keeps playing ...

More Than Black and White

Came across an interesting article a few days ago on The Root detailing the dearth of black writers in the nation’s newspaper and, more specifically, how the narrowing of the country’s papers is cutting especially harshly among African-Americans.

The PI’s (well, used to be the PI’s anyways) Gary Washburn was one of those mentioned in the story, and Mr. Washburn made the following point:

“Generally, the difference for an African American in this business is, we don’t get the hookup. We don’t get ‘I went to college with your uncle,’ … You just have to deal with the climate. You can’t complain … because it ain’t gonna change any time soon.”

It’s a pessimistic (or realistic, depending on one’s attitude) analysis, and it caused me to wonder, just how many of the beat writers covering the league today are black? (Ironically, when the Sonics left town, they removed three African-American beat writers from the league; Washburn, Percy Allen, and Jayda Evans).

I did a quick study of the 30 teams, and while it’s nearly impossible to pin down the specific writers for each team, I tried my best to come up with a comprehensive list. In case you’re wondering, here are the writers I included for the study:

Atlanta: Sekou Smith, Terence Moore
Boston: Peter May, Ian Rider, Marc Spears, Steve Bulpett, Mark Murphy
Charlotte: Rick Bonnell
Chicago: John Jackson, KC Johnson
Cleveland: Brian Windhorst
Dallas: David Moore, Eddie Sefko, Jan Hubbard
Denver: Benjamin Hochman
Detroit: Vince Ellis, Chris Mccosky
Golden State: Janny Hu
Houston: Jonathan Feigen
Indiana: Mike Wells, Jeff Rabjohns
LA: Ramona Shelburne, Kurt Streeter, Art Thompson III. Kevin Ding, Janis Carr, Mike Bresnahan, Helene Elliott
Memphis: Ronald Tillery
Miami: Sarah Rothschild, Michael Wallace, Ira Winderman
Milwaukee: Charles Gardner
Minnesota: Don Seeholzer, Jerry Szgoda
New Jersey: Dave D'allesando, Al Ianazzone: Julian Garcia
New Orleans: John Reid
New York: David Boroff, Frank Isola, Mitch Lawrence, Howard Beck
Orlando: Brian Schmitz
Philadelphia: Phil Jasner, David Aldridge, Stephen A Smith, Bernard Fernandez, Kate Fagan
Phoenix: Paul Coro
Portland: Jason Quick, Joe Freeman
Sacramento: Sam Amick
Oklahoma: Darnell Mayberry
San Antonio: Jeff McDonald
Toronto: Dave Feschuk, Jeff Blair, Lance Hornby
Utah: Tim Buckley, Steve Luhm, Ross Siler
Washington: Ivan Carter, Michael Lee, Joseph D'Hippolito

(Feel free to chime in with whichever omissions you feel I’ve made in the comments).

Omissions and oversights aside, let us assume for the sake of the discussion that it is a somewhat accurate listing of who is covering the NBA for newspapers these days (and, yes, I am aware that electronic media could have been included, but if it’s nearly impossible to compile a print media list, compiling an electronic one is like convincing Dennis Rodman to wear a chastity belt). With that assumption in mind, here is the racial breakdown of those 64 writers:

White: 46
Black: 14
Asian: 2
Latino: 2

Or, by percentages:

White: 72%
Black: 22%
Asian: 3%
Latino: 3%

Compared to the rest of the newspaper business, it’s an impressive tally (according to The Root, about 13% of writers at America’s papers are black, roughly equivalent to the population as a whole).

But consider this from another perspective: roughly 75% of the league is made up of black men, meaning the percentage of people covering the league – racially speaking, anyways – is a mirror image of those they cover. And, by mirror image, of course, I mean completely opposite.

A sidebar is perhaps necessary here. I am fully aware that this is a sensitive and complicated subject. Calling a person “black” or “white” in today’s society is not so simple as it was 50 years ago, or even a decade ago. Our society grows more multi-hued every day, and, to be honest, this is an uncomfortable discussion to have. Thankfully, the point of this story is not to provide precise genealogical statistics of the NBA and those who cover it, but, rather, paint a broad picture.

Back to the point. If, as this analysis shows, the league is three-quarter black, and, if the men and women who cover them are three-quarter white, does that matter? (And, lest we forget, the folks writing blogs may be even whiter than those who write for the papers).

Obviously, we’d like to think it does not and, in many ways, I’m sure the majority of writers and players could care less.

But, honestly, a person’s heritage has to affect the way they write to some degree. Further, with the increasing proliferation of analysis pages from non-print media available to everyone (for free!), the job of a newspaper reporter has become more and more reliant upon their ability to acquire interesting quotes and anecdotes from players and coaches, and less reliant on providing analysis. I’m not saying beat reporters are incapable of providing insight – it’s just that they face much tighter time constraints than a blogger does.

Anyhow, I bring this up to make this point: If we take it as a given that a beat reporter’s primary way of proving his value to the basketball discussion is to provide insight into the inner activities of the team he (or she) covers, his (or her) ability to build relationships with the players involved is crucial.

And, to be frank, it’s not an earth-shattering revelation to point out that people are more likely to trust others of their own background. Obviously, given time, we’re all capable of building relationships with others of any cultural background, but in the mad rush of a post-game lockerroom, or in the frenetic sprint of an 82-game schedule, I don’t think it’s ridiculous to suggest that a black reporter may have a slight advantage over a white reporter in building a relationship with a roster made up of (predominantly) black athletes.

If you think all of this is moot and that beat reporters are as relevant to the future of basketball coverage as the price of printing ink, fair enough. I would argue, though: Where will the stories come from, then? Those memories we all have of our favorite players and teams, what percentage of them are built through what we read in the newspaper, in magazines, or on-line? Yes, statistical analysis has given us remarkable insights into the true building of a winning basketball team, and has enabled us to learn which statistics are overrated, underrated, or just plain irrelevant.

But being a basketball fan is more than pace factor and adjusted plus/minus, right? I’d like to think that the statistical aspect is but one slice of the pie, along with coverage from beat reporters, watching games in person, impersonating players when we were children, talking about your team with your friends, all of that … all of that goes into being a fan. Removing one of those slices shrinks the size of the pie, and, while this metaphor is beginning to give me mid-morning hunger pains, that can’t be good, can it?

I know, arguing that there should be a higher proportion of black beat writers is a dicey subject to tackle, in that figuring out how to change the percentages without resorting to affirmative action is near impossible. I guess, in the end, that I would hope the people doing the hiring – the editors – might give some consideration to what Gary Washburn said at the beginning, and that rather than hiring their cousins, or guys they golfed with at a conference in Scottsdale three years ago, they look at hiring someone who might be able to provide their readers someone who might provide stories they haven’t been hearing.

Thursday, March 19

Future Cards: Gilbert Arenas

KeyArena & Husky Stadium Discussed

KING-TVs Chris Daniels gives the lowdown on the state legislature's hearing on the funding for Husky Stadium and KeyArena, held yesterday in Olympia.

And while the Washington State cranks were out in full force with their nonsensical rantings about "unfair advantages" for the UW (hey, Wazzu fans, tell you what; if the Huskies agree to not accept funding for Husky Stadium, will you agree to not accept any funding for WSU? Yeah, didn't think so), there was some positive news for those hoping to see the state act on funding KeyArena's renovation.

The cunning way the bill's sponsors included arts funding and other projects along with the funding for the Key has enabled it to capture the mind of King County Council Chair Dow Constantine, and sponsoring senators Ed Murray and Jeanie Kohl-Welles also testified in support of the bill.

Unfortunately, Rep. Margarita Prentice, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee, indicated she was less than enthused about the bill's prospects (she was more enthusiastic about Husky Stadium), but did not rule out the possibility of it getting through.

Of strategical note, because the Key's funding would come from the local hotel/motel tax and not from the state, any monies spent would not be included as part of the state's massive, $9 billion deficit. Of course, that's semantics, and a savvy politician would point out that any money raised by the tax could be going to build roads, pay for teachers, and other such frivolities.

Wednesday, March 18

Future Cards: Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant Future Card

Kevin Durant Basketball Card

Aubrey's Wine Sale Nets $2.2 Mil

Well, at least one thing has gone well for Aubrey McClendon in the past eight months - he was able to unload part of his wine collection in New York this past weekend, and the WSJ reports it earned him (or, rather, Sotheby's) $2.2 million.

Just think, if the next auction (slated for Hong Kong for the other half of the wine collection) is as successful, maybe the Sonix could afford Tyson Chandler after all.

Tuesday, March 17

The Dulcet Tones of KC Jones

In this video, KC Jones is either:

1. Announcing that Portland, Maine's new D-League team is going to be nicknamed the Blackbirds
2. Infreakingsane
3. All of the above

Bonus points for noticing the semi-panicked look on the gentleman behind KC's right shoulder. I'm guessing "this wasn't on the script" and "my God, how much longer is he going to keep this up" floated through his thought processes at some point.

Drew Carey's Got Your Back

"Here comes this evil NBA owner who takes the SuperSonics, screws the city with this duplicitous deal he put together and takes them to Oklahoma. The whole city hates this guy. One of their major sports is gone now. And we come in like, 'Hey, is yo man not treatin' you right? Come and see us.'"

—Drew Carey, part-owner of Seattle Sounders

(Via AP)

Attendance Report

I've tried all sorts of ways to show how massive an impact the Sonics' move has had on NBA attendance, and how by removing that particular aspect from the equation totally alters the picture of the league's health.

Unfortunately, the graphs I've thrown up there haven't adequately captured just how much of an outlier the Sonix are this season. The graph below, though, goes a long way to showing that uniqueness. Listed below are all the teams, with their corresponding attendance from last year to this year.

NBA Attendance

Coach Lister

Word out of Manila is that former Sonic center Alton Lister is a "skills coach" for San Miguel Beer.

There are so many jokes to make with that sentence that it's almost not even fair to try.

It's a positive article, though, and Lister comes off as a modest man who appreciated his career in the league, without the standard ego-jock stuff you normally read.

Of course, the comments are filled with "remember when Kemp dunked on Lister in the playoffs"-type stuff. At what point does Alton Lister just come out and say, "Yes, I remember that. Yes, it sucks. But let me ask you - how many points did you score in the NBA?"

Monday, March 16

Payton, A Near-Fight, and Toothpaste

Humorous story from the Seattle PI's Jim Moore about his near-fistfight with Gary Payton prior to a Seattle-Sacramento playoff game in the mid-1990s.

Just One Question

If, for some reason, the NBA allowed blog authors to ask questions at David Stern's occasional press conferences, there would be a million questions I'd love to ask him. Naturally, it's never going to happen, and probably for good reason.

But there is one question I just wish someone would ask him:

Mr. Stern, you claim that during your tenure the NBA has gone from being on the verge of extinction, to being one of the strongest leagues in the world and your comments about the recent $200 million bailout given to your league just serve to further underscore that point. My question is this: If that is indeed true, how can you explain the Pacers posting a loss in 26 of the last 28 years? If the NBA is on solid footing, how can the Pacers lose money 9 out of 10 seasons in their brand-new arena?

You say that the league is healthy. Herb Simon says he loses money every year.

Who's telling the truth?

Friday, March 13

Face Time

If you're interested in seeing the KeyArena deal move forward in the legislature this session, the best way to make it happen is to reach out to your representative in the House of Representatives.

Normally, that would entail composing an email, removing the swears, hitting 'send,' receiving an automated reply, and then some incoherent grunting. In the end, the result would be little if anything in the way of progress.

This weekend, however, offers a more effective means of communication - face to face.

The Seattle Times' Politics Northwest blog lists the representatives who will be appearing at town meetings this weekend to grovel for votes find out how their constituents feel they should best spend tax money this session.

Might be worth a visit. Although I might warn you, watch out for the weird guy in the corner who smells like old flannel - once he gets to talkin' about his idea to replace the freeway system with a ferry-only plan, well, it's hard to get him to stop.

House Passes Stadium Tax Bill

On first blush, the report from the AP sounds great:

Wash. House approves stadium taxes bill
OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The state House wants to extend some taxes that paid for professional sports stadiums in Seattle.

But if you read the rest of the article ... well, not so much.

The account is not supposed to be source for a new NBA arena or Husky Stadium.

Essentially, the House has passed a bill that would extend the Safeco and Qwest Field taxes that are supposed to expire when the stadium debts are retired. However, the money would be used for arts programs, housing, and so forth, but NOT, again, NOT, for a revamped KeyArena or Husky Stadium.

It's still possible that the Senate could amend the bill to include the wording they showed us a week or so ago which enables counties to use funds for new arenas, but whether the political climate affords that is anyone's guess.

In other words, this bill hasn't really changed anything, other than to underline that the House members are not willing to put their necks out when it comes to using taxpayer money for new stadiums and arenas.

Thursday, March 12

RIP, Kenny McIntosh

Kennedy McIntosh, 1949-2009Former Sonic Kenny McIntosh, who played two seasons and change in Seattle in the early 1970s, passed away Friday of a stroke in Los Angeles.

McIntosh was a first-round pick of the Bulls in 1971 (the same year the Sonics found one Fred Brown from Iowa) and spent a little more than a season in Chicago before coming to Seattle in an October 20, 1972 trade for Gar Heard and a third round pick in the 1973 draft, which turned out to be Martin Terry.

McIntosh, a 6'7" forward who attended Eastern Michigan University before entering the NBA, never clicked in Coach Bill Russell's system, which, combined with injuries, led to his being waived by the team on November 12, 1974, ending his NBA career.

McIntosh's No. 54 jersey was retired by Eastern Michigan in 2006. During his time at EMU, McIntosh was named to the Division II All-American First Team. He turned 60 years old in January.

Wednesday, March 11

Pacer Situation Looking Awfully Familiar to Sonic Fans

History, consider yourself repeated.

An NBA team playing in a publicly funded arena about one decade old and with a 40-year history, is threatening that the lease under which they are playing is just not cutting it anymore, and while they don’t want to leave …

Stop me if you’ve heard this all before.

Except this time, the words are uttered not from Seattle, but from the heartland of basketball, Indiana. As in the home of Hoosiers, Larry Bird, and Bob Knight.

It’s the standard woe-is-me routine deftly practiced by all professional sports owners, but some of the declarations from the Pacers would stagger even the staunchest NBA supporters. Among them:

- The team has lost money in 26 of the 28 seasons Herb Simon has owned them
- Included in those 26 money-losing seasons is the year Indiana advanced to the NBA Finals before losing to the Lakers
- The team has lost money in nine of the ten seasons it has spent in Conseco Fieldhouse
- The current tab is $200 million in losses since Simons bought the club in 1983

Why is this coming out now? Well, as part of their lease with the city for the Fieldhouse, the Pacers are able to renegotiate the contract during a small window which, naturally, is right now. In other words, there’s no time to waste, and Mr. Simon really hates to bring this up, and he’s a good corporate citizen, and he loves Indianapolis, but that $15 million the Pacers are obligated to spend every year to operate Conseco? Yeah, that’s too much to handle.

Of course, it should also be pointed out that the Pacers are estimated to be worth $300 million, or $289 million more than when Mr. Simon bought them more than two decades ago, but who’s counting? (Actually, the Pacers are, and they dispute that number. They claim the team’s losses exceed whatever “golden egg” of a sale would net them. They wouldn’t say what they’re worth, or provide evidence as to why Forbes magazine’s estimate is faulty, but they did cross their hearts and hoped to die.)

Not everyone is buying what Mr. Simon is selling, though. Acccording to information from Forbes Magazine, the team actually made money for six consecutive seasons, ending in 2006 when the Pacers were a disaster both on and off the court. (And by the way, what the heck happened in 1999? Was Indiana writing down the debt on Vern Fleming’s leisure suits?*). The Pacers, naturally, refute Forbes’ calculations, although they refused to provide any evidence beyond their own words to back up their argument.

While on the topic of charts, I’d also like to take issue with the graphic the Star presented as a sidebar to the story, listing the Pacers’ annual salary expenditures. This is the chart here:

Pacers' Player Expenses

The ostensible reason for putting this artwork with the story is to buttress the Pacers’ argument that escalating player salaries are to blame for the team’s dire financial situation. Taken by itself, the chart is fine, but when you look at the statement accompanying it, it becomes a joke.

“PLAYER EXPENSES This price tag, which includes benefits and bonuses, is the second-highest in the 10 years the Pacers have played at Conseco Fieldhouse.”

Think about it for a minute – do you see why that statement is so wrong? It’s called inflation, people! To compare 2008 numbers with 1999 numbers without any adjustment for inflation that’s … well, that’s just dumb. In fact, if you adjust for inflation, there are at least four instances in the past ten years when the Pacers have spent more money on player salaries than this year. See below:

Pacers' Player Expenses, With Inflation

Of course, that doesn’t jive with Mr. Simon's assertions about how woeful his current predicament is, but that’s to be expected from someone in his position, although it does help his other argument about how crappy his annual financial situation is. I’m just surprised that no one at the Star thought to run that chart by someone in the Business section.

But enough bemoaning the Star, and back to the Pacers.

If you’ve lived through the Sonics’ situation you know that extortion is the name of the game in these encounters, and the Pacers are certainly armed and ready to do battle in that sort of contest. In fact, they even have a former Seattle resident on hand to lead the parade.
“I've seen it, I lived it for 18 months in Seattle and it was painful,” Don Welsh, a 40-year resident of Seattle and now the President of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association told WTHR-TV. “Losing a basketball team strips away some of the fabric of a city and Seattle is still mourning the loss. I'm hopeful it won't get that point here.”

And, of course, the requisite comments about what would become of Conseco should the Pacers leave town were flowing fast and furious, with one official asking, “What would you rather have, the Pacers or cat shows?”

That argument is one that we hear in Seattle as well, and I think it deserves further examination. Follow along with me, please, as we explore the methodology:

1. Team and city co-exist in harmony with older arena which perfectly suits the needs of both
2. Team grows tired of arena, demands new one
3. City balks, as existing arena is more than satisfactory for other, non-basketball activities
4. Team threatens to leave
5. City gives in, builds new arena, demolishes old arena
6. Team and city co-exist in harmony with new arena
7. Team grows tired of new arena/lease, demands new one
8. City realizes that because it is still on the hook for new arena, it can’t afford to lose its major tenant
9. City and team try to squeeze more money from taxpayers

Am I missing anything here? Essentially, by forcing the city to build a new arena, the team has painted the city into a corner and essentially given themselves the ultimate trump card in perpetuity, as the city desperately needs the team so that it may continue to pay down the debt on an arena it never needed but the team demanded.

Sickening, right? And yet, it’s the exact same situation in Indianapolis as it is in Seattle. Because Seattle rebuilt KeyArena, it is obligated to have a team fill it up with nightly activities, or else KeyArena becomes a giant white elephant with cat shows. Because Indianapolis built Conseco Fieldhouse, it is obligated to have a team fill it up with nightly activities, or else Conseco becomes a giant white elephant with cat shows.

More sickening still, digest what Simon has said, that the Pacers have lost money in 26 of 28 seasons. Is that really possible? 26 of 28 is 93%, meaning that for the past three decades the Pacers are more effective at losing money than the best free throw shooters in history have been at making free throws. Ask yourself, do you really believe that Herb Simon would own a business which was better at losing money than Rick Barry was at making free throws?

And is it possible in a year when the Pacers advanced to the NBA Finals, playing more than a dozen home playoff games to sell out crowds, and all the accompanying merchandise, concession, and parking sales, etc, etc, that this team lost money? Did that really happen?

There are two answers. Yes, it did, in which case the NBA is a horrible investment for both Mr. Simon and the city of Indianapolis, because if the Pacers can’t even make money with an NBA Finals appearance and a new stadium to boot, well, they must be an investment of which only Bernie Madoff would be proud.

Or, no, it did not, and Mr. Simon is flat-out distorting the truth to advance his case for concessions from the city.

Take your pick.

[*-Obviously, the deficit in '99 was due to the lockout. Like David Stern, I guess I had tried to block that year out of my mind.]

From the "In My Day..." Files

I hate to discredit a Hall of Famer, but I came across this quote from Hakeem Olajuwon in LZ Granderson's otherwise wonderful story about the rarity of quadruple-doubles in the NBA:

"When I was playing, it was expected that a good player, especially a big man, would get a double-double. Today, getting a double-double is considered special."

Hakeem Olajuwon's career double-doubles (data only from 1986-87 season): 674
Average per 82-game season: 53

Double-double leaders, last four seasons: 69, 66, 62, 69
Number of players who compiled 53 or more double-doubles, last four seasons: 4, 3, 4, 2

Even giving credit to Olajuwon due to the fact those numbers encapsulate the decline phase of his career, and while it may be true that the number of players achieving double-doubles were greater "back in the day," it would seem pretty obvious that double-doubles by the elite players are as frequent now as they were back in the day.

And, of course, none of this takes into account pace or number of possessions.

Eye-opening Story in PI About SU Player

The PI's demise is on a when, not if, basis these days (Wednesday? Thursday?), so it's bittersweet to see a story such as this one in the paper today.

Reporter Dan Raley details the story of Peller Phillips, a former point guard who attended Seattle University in the 1960s, was accused of point-shaving, kicked off the team, denied entry to the NBA, then completely exonerated.

Philips' ability to let the charges and impact upon his life roll off his back is admirable, as is Raley's telling of the story. Well worth a read.

Tuesday, March 10

NBA Attendance, From Another Angle

In studying the NBA attendance figures this season, my eyes have gone a bit bloodshot entering in daily totals for every single team. Still, it hasn't been without its rewards, garnering such insights as:

-If every NBA team could play every game on Saturday night, the Sonics would be in KeyArena right now and David Stern would be wearing platinum-plated underwear instead of those miserable gold-plated boxers Larry O'Brien gave him in 1982. LeBron, Kobe, Shaq ... nobody has as much impact on an NBA team's attendance as a Saturday night.

-I don't know which is more worrying for the league, that the Bobcats are as popular in Charlotte as George Shinn biographies, or that the Pistons have dropped from the ranks of the Sellout Every Night Club. If the Pistons don't advance to the second round in the playoffs this season, I'm guessing next year might be a bit tough at Auburn Hills.

Sideways banter aside, allow me to provide you a new graph for your reading enjoyment. This time, I've taken the average attendance of every team and paired it with their standard deviation from said average.

NBA Attendance, Average & Deviation
You'll notice that fans of the teams grouped in the bottom right corner are those in no danger of seeing the word "relocation" any time soon in their local newspapers. Fans of those teams in the upper left and, especially, in the bottom left, on the other hand, are free to start their bitching about the inequities of modern professional sports. Not that it will do you any good, mind you, but I thought you ought to prepare.

As you'll gather by looking at the chart, teams which fall into the bottom left quadrant are victims of (1) low attendance and (2) apathy, in that their attendance is neither high on average nor on a once-a-month scenario, regardless of a LeBron sighting, a foam finger giveaway, or what have you.

Teams with high deviations, those at the top half of the graph, tend to have more fluctuations, which is why you'll see the Wizards and their schizophrenic attendance at the very peak, located nearby Charlotte, Minnesota, and Philadelphia, who have managed to get good numbers occasionally, but not often enough to off-set the bad nights.

The graph points out all too well how precarious the situation is in Sacramento these days. Not only is their average attendance quite poor, but it very rarely changes. Please don't take this to mean that I believe Kings' fans are unjustifiably apathetic. Far be it. Rather, I think they've been afflicted with the same malaise we've seen in other cities (cough, Seattle) that visits fans of teams with uncertain futures and miserable on-court play.

Donaldson Eyes Mayor's Seat

As per today's Seattle Times, former Sonic James Donaldson is exploring the possibility of running against incumbent Greg Nickels in this year's mayoral election in Seattle. Donaldson, who earlier announced his intention to run for city council, said he would make a decision within the next two to three weeks on his decision to run for mayor.

At 7'2", Donaldson would obviously become the tallest mayor in the country (world? checking various sub-Saharan African cities) should he pull off the upset over Nickels, but I couldn't help but ponder a bizarre bit of trivia upon hearing of his plans.

With former Phoenix Suns guard Kevin Johnson in Sacramento's mayoral chair, and the possibility of Donaldson in Seattle's, and with Sacto facing the possibility of losing their team in the near future (I'm not saying it will happen, but bear with me here), it's entirely possible that the only two cities in the United States with former NBA players as mayors would be the two most recent cities in the United States to lose their NBA teams.

And, maybe, if I'm living in Detroit, I think twice about voting for Dave Bing.

Monday, March 9

Sonics & Huskies: Another View

Last spring, the Sonics (this is when they were still the Sonics and before they were the Something Elses) were in a unexpected pickle: They needed to extricate themselves from a lease they had signed, and their only excuse for doing so was to prove that they had no impact, economically anyways, on Greater Seattle.

It was a surreal experience, seeing a professional sports team begging others to understand that professional sports teams have no monetary impact, as odd as seeing Dick Cheney trying to convince the House of Representatives that they needed to excuse Halliburton from its contract because defense contractors do nothing to help employment, or, at least, some much more well thought out analogy.

And, so, as I watched/read the deliberations in court, I wondered to myself, "How long is it going to be until somebody uses the Sonics' words against them?" Well, if not them, then at least another pro sports team clamoring for public financing for its stadium so that its fans can have bigger cup-holders, because, hey, those other kids in the next state have them, and, geez, how can you expect us to compete against those cup-holders when we've still got these puny, 1996-style ones? I mean, come on, I wouldn't even put a warm cup of Mountain Dew in these things!

Well, to answer my question from seven months ago, it apparently took about seven months. From The Heartland Institute (which, apparently, is run by the Son or possibly Nephew of Zod, at least judging by his photograph), in an article discussing the merits/lack of merits of improving Husky Stadium and KeyArena:

Ironically, the SuperSonics—Seattle’s former professional basketball franchise—last year went to court to get out of a lease at Key Arena and agreed sports facilities do not promote economic development.

“The financial issue is simple, and the city’s analysts agree, there will be no net economic loss if the Sonics leave Seattle,” the Sonics said in a brief. “Entertainment dollars not spent on the Sonics will be spent on Seattle’s many other sports and entertainment options. Seattleites will not reduce their entertainment budget simply because the Sonics leave.”

It means nothing to Bennett & Crew, obviously, since they have long since packed up the wagon and moved on down the road, but is it not the least ironic that in swiping our favorite basketball team, the Sonics' former owners not only managed to harvest the crops — as it were — from our fields, but to salt the earth on their way out of town?

Saturday, March 7


Bend it Like Bennett checks in with a report from the MySpace page of Graham Bennett, son of Clay.

With these sorts of things, you never know what the truth is, but if what we see is true, and Graham's dad did indeed ask what was up with the "black midget with a pickle in her hand," well, it can't be good.

If nothing else, it might serve as an interesting test of Charles Barkley's hypothesis that Oklahoma is "no place for black people."

Thursday, March 5

Wait a Minute, Clay Bennett Owns a Bookstore?

Clay Bennett's Bookstore, In Happier Times
Were one to compile a list of possible retail soups in which Clay Bennett would dabble his entrepreneurial finger, small-town bookstore owner would surely are one of the least-likely possibilities, perhaps right below running a laundromat in Ballard and above operating a GLBT Sex Shop in San Francisco.

And, yet, surprisingly, small book store owner is exactly what Mr. Bennett has listed on his resume, Owner, Town Center Bookstore in lovely Basalt, Colorado. (It's right there on the sheet, see it? next to Carpetbagging Owner of Seat ... well, let's leave that alone for one day, at least, shall we?)

Unfortunately for the employees of said store, the swinging ax of the economic downturn has finally landed upon their heads, as Mr. and Mrs. Bennett have decided to close the doors on their little operation. Naturally, as someone who has witnessed first-hand the havoc of which the Bennetts are capable and the rapidity with which they are able to yank rugs out from underneath unsuspecting victims, I'm less than enthusiastic about dancing a jig over the Bennetts failed store. After all, the dozen or so folks working there aren't exactly thrilled about it.

No, my reason for bringing this up is more pertinent to the operations of a certain basketball team in Oklahoma City.

You see, the bookstore's General Manager, Fred Durham, dropped an interesting tidbit of information while in conversation with Aspen Daily News reporter Brent Gardner-Smith. Quoting the article here:

"Durham said the Bennetts looked down the road at the challenges facing both newspapers and independent bookstores and decided to close up shop in Basalt.

“'When you have to write a check every month to make something work, you begin to say ‘Now wait a minute,’” said Durham."

Why is this relevant? Simply because Clay Bennett's fortune is tied extremely closely to two entities: Chesapeake Energy and Oklahoma Publishing, the Bennett's media conglomerate. We're all well aware of the sad state of affairs at Chesapeake (no need to document them on this site, surely), but it might surprise you to know that the Daily Oklahoman is no stranger to financial problems.

With the ongoing death watch of newspapers across North America, is it any wonder that the Bennetts decided that it might be a good time to tighten their belts when it came to their financial holdings? And is it any wonder that 99.9% of Sonic fans in Seattle are cursing the day the city caved in to Bennett's group last summer?

Because, mind you, if Clay Bennett is willing to sell a 10-man operation in Colorado to save a few bucks, don't you think he might have been the same about a basketball team in Seattle?

Tuesday, March 3

Attendance Report, March 3, 2009

All data through March 2, 2009. Teams are shown with their attendance on a year-over-year basis from the 2007-08 season.


Oklahoma City


New Orleans












New York








LA Lakers




















San Antonio


LA Clippers




New Jersey


Golden State









NBA Economic News

A couple of stories of interest to those who are curious to see how the league is handling the global economic downturn:

1) Sports Business Journal discusses how premium-seat renewals may be difficult for both the NBA and the NHL.

2) The Wall Street Journal marvels at how 80% of the teams in the league are essentially out of the running for a title, and how almost all of those clubs have given up in even trying.

Monday, March 2

Another Kemp Comeback? Not So Much

Instead of battling sweaty Italians and Croatians on the court and mingling with anti-birth control groupies in Italy off it this year, it appears Shawn Kemp will be taking on ... middle-aged Americans desperate to prove they can hang with former NBA superstars.

Yep, the Reign Man will be competing in Spike's "Pros vs Joes" this season, alongside Alonzo Mourning, Robert Horry, Glen Rice, Antoine Walker, and Steve Francis.

Rice, Walker and Kemp were previously booted from their earlier deal with "The Biggest Loser" after the trio managed to boost the weight of not only the competitors, but the cameramen, cleaning staff, producers, and these freaks.

Dear Mr. Shinn

You could really just use this article from Hornets Hype as a template for all NBA fans who are facing an uncertain future for their favorite teams.

And while the article is enjoyable in and of itself (providing a nice insight into the oft-ignored passion of Hornet fans), I found this tidbit from the comments as, if not more, interesting:

"[The Hornets] can’t [leave] because the lease is now ironclad thru 2014, with only a practice facility as a potential sticking point. As I understand it, the state of Louisiana could be stuck with giving bonuses to the Hornets in some of these upcoming years on the lease should attendance drop below thresholds (however, the early out clause no longer applies)."
-commenter chefcdb

Certainly a different take on things than what we've grown accustomed to with the Hornets and their possible relocation to other cities (such as, well, Seattle). When you take what is happening to Sacramento, add it to New Orleans, and multiply it times New Jersey, at what point do you, as a Sonic fan, start to feel just a twinge of guilt about coveting these franchises?

I hate to slit the throat of NBA basketball in Seattle, and I know this goes against the league's current franchise-go-round method of economic stability, but I'm growing less and less enamored with the idea of swiping someone else's club.

Not Sure What Stern Means

I missed this the first time reading about the NBA's new line of credit with Bank of America, but it struck me as odd the second time around. Here's the pertinent quote from Commissioner Stern, courtesy of the AP:

“They told us there’s no chance of any additional funds being raised for any sports league, and indeed, the credit facilities that had come up for other leagues were being termed out rather than renewed."

Here is what I am struggling with as I read that quote: To which league(s) is Mr. Stern referrring? Is he claiming that the NBA is more financially stable than the NFL? That the banks would rather loan money to his league than to Bud Selig's?

I don't pretend to have in-depth financial information on those leagues, but even a cursory look at the figures would tell you that's a bit odd, no? Ask yourself the question - you have unlimited funds and are looking to loan money to a professional sports league, with no emotional attachments to accompany the purchase, what league are you looking at first? Who's more likely to pay you back, the owner of the Kansas City Chiefs, or the owner of the Oklahoma City Thunder? The Tampa Bay Bucs or the Orlando Magic?

Hey, if Stern is referring to the NHL, I've got no quibble with that. Or, if he's talking about the PGA Tour, or the Arena League, fine, I can accept that. NASCAR, sure, I can see it. But to throw out a blanket statement like "no chance of any additional funds being raised for any sports league," then paint yourself as the only league that's worthy of getting those funds, well, I've got to question that kind of a statement.

Maybe there's something I'm not seeing here, but it sure seems as though we're just being fed some more well-seasoned NBA BS by the King of BS himself.