Monday, April 6

Not Quite Right

Last year, a friend of mine recommended I read Daniel Yergin's "The Prize," an exhaustive study of the petroleum industry, from the 1800s to today. (How exhaustive? Try 928 pages.)

After slogging through the first quarter of the book, I came to Yergin's analysis of World War I, and how oil played a role in that horrific bloodbath. I was especially interested, in that I had spent the past year reading every book I could on WWI (don't ask; I get obsessed with weird topics sometimes).

Sadly, Yergin's focus on tanks and supply lines was totally out of whack with the facts, and it ruined the rest of the book for me. While previous to that point of the story I was swallowing everything he wrote, all subsequent chapters came with hesitation in my eyes. After all, if he could be so wrong about the section which I knew alot about, how wrong was he about the rest?

That's a rather long-winded reference to this piece from ESPN's Tom McKean at TrueHoop today. McKean compiles a list of teams that failed to win championships despite posting phenomenal regular season records over an extended period of time.

And, yes, your favorite basketball team is right there, sandwiched between the Blazers and the Knicks. I won't repeat everything McKean wrote (you should read the article in its entirety), but I will copy this portion:

In 1996, Seattle reached the NBA Finals, but fell to the Bulls in 6 games. During that era, to be the best, a team most likely had to go through Chicago, and the problem was that Seattle was 4-12 against the Bulls between 1991-98 when Michael Jordan played, including playoff games.

[emphasis added]

To which my astonished inner reader responded, "Uh, come again?" Is his contention that the reason the Sonics failed to win a championship during George Karl's tenure was Michael Jordan?

Think back to that time frame. When Wally Walker canned Karl, was it because he lost to the Bulls in the NBA Finals, or because the Sonics imploded in the first round so often? Obviously, it was the latter, right?

I don't mean to belittle McKean's article, and I'm sure he spent a considerable amount of time culling together candidates for the story, but, as I did when reading The Prize last year, I was left with a slightly bewildered and disappointed feeling after I read it. If he can be that wrong about a crucial element of the Sonics' failure, how wrong is he about the rest of the article?


Hacksaw said...

There's a chance you might be reading the story wrong and/or reading too much into a fluff piece.

The subtitle of the article claims that McKean is looking at "elite NBA teams that never won titles". The Sonics of the mid-90's are certainly a fit given their gaudy regular season winning percentage.

As to the CHI/SEA reference, McKean isn't referencing the record vs. the Bulls as a reason Karl got fired, but rather it seems, as a point tagged on at the end to help explain why they didn't win a title during the mid-90's.

It is certainly fair to say that the Sonics' poor record against the Bulls was one of the reasons Seattle didn't win a championship during that era. After all, in the simplest terms, if the Sonics had a better record against the Bulls in '96, they would have won a title.

Just like if USC had a better record against MSU in the tourney this year, they would be in the title game against UNC.

OK, that might be a stretch.

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