Friday, May 29

Stadiums Are Great, Or Not

Something you'll never hear from anyone associated with getting a new sports facility built:

"While the ballpark construction would create 453 jobs during construction, the $49 million total investment would actually create a net loss of 182 jobs citywide.

“If those individuals who put their money into baseball via taxes are allowed to put that money into the private market, that same amount of money would actually yield more jobs,” explains ECONorthwest number-cruncher Abe Farkas."

(From The Portland Mercury, via Field of Schemes).

Naturally, Portland city officials were less than keen to share this sort of news, and tried their best to keep it out of the public's view, but, eventually it got there. And so, naturally, the city tried to explain that the study (which they commissioned) was all screwed up to begin with.

After studying these situations (far too much, honestly) for the past few years, I can see both sides of the argument in these discussions. Certainly, pro sports teams provide economic activity and help keep neighborhoods such as the one surrounding KeyArena viable. Just talk to the folks running businesses in that area these days about how thrilled they are about the Sonics leaving town. Not much.

However, teams also are a consistent drain on public finances, and the bang for the public buck is often a whimper, relatively speaking. In the end, there is no logical argument for throwing money at stadiums - only an emotional one. When times are good, that emotional argument can be persuasive, as it was for the Seahawks and Mariners. When the economy is in a freefall and the state and city are scrapping together bake sales to pay for basic services, though, that argument becomes increasingly flimsy.

And so it is for the Sonics these days. Sure, some of the candidates for the Mayor of Seattle have thrown their two cents in about saving the Sonics, but most of that is posturing and looking to stake a claim to a perceived weakness of the incumbent, Greg Nickels. In reality, none of these people did much to keep the team here when it really mattered (although, to be fair, James Donaldson did more than the rest).

The Sonics are, it seems, not a priority in Seattle these days. Despite the fact that private backers were willing to cough up $150 million towards re-building KeyArena, it didn't happen, largely because the public outcry was not enough to convince legislators that it would be in their political interests to do so. To get a new arena, supporters must overcome two significant dead weights: 1) The fact that arenas and stadiums are not nearly the economic panacea supporters purport them to be and 2) The citizens of this area aren't sufficiently on board.

You can climb the mountain with one of those weights chained to your leg, but with both of them shackled to your ankles, you ain't gonna make it.

30th Anniversary Trivia

In the spirit of the 30th Anniversary of the Sonics' only championship, riddle me this:

Which two participants in the 1979 NBA Finals were the last to suit up for the Seattle SuperSonics?

Wednesday, May 27

30 Years Ago: Game 3

30 Years Ago (from what used to be

May 27, 1979

"The Sonics returned home looking to maintain home-court advantage. That wasn't a problem in Game 3, as the Sonics cruised to a 105-95 victory that was in reality more lopsided. With nearly 36,000 fans packing the Kingdome, the Sonics took a lead as large as 17 and were never seriously threatened. Williams again led the way with 31 points, but the big game came from Dennis Johnson, who fell an assist and a rebound shy of a triple-double, settling for 17 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. Sikma had 21 points and 17 boards. On the other side, Washington got 70 points from Dandridge, Hayes and Unseld, but just 25 from the rest of the team. The Bullets shot 25% in the first half, just 33% for the game."

Coach of the Year

Here’s an interesting thought to roll around in your head while debating which active player expends the most pre-game energy on fixing his hair … why is it the best NBA coaches so rarely win Coach of the Year?

I thought of that because of Mike Brown. Not to pick on Brown while he’s down (there are enough other supposed NBA geniuses doing that already), but have you ever seen an NBA coach do less work? Maybe it’s me, but every time they cut to the Cavs braintrust, Brown is standing around while his assistants diagram the plays, leading me to wonder, for what, exactly, is Brown responsible?

Regardless, Brown won the Coach of the Year Award this season, which is a remarkable feat, in that, one, he seems to have done a good job, and, two, it’s only the second time since Phil Jackson got tabbed in 1996 that the coach of the team with the NBA’s best record went home with a trophy.

In fact, in reviewing the history of the award, it becomes painfully obvious that the media seems to prefer the coaches of mediocre teams who overachieved than they do the men who are busy winning championships.

Skeptical? Well, answer this puzzler: From the year I was born (1972) until the year I graduated from high school (1990), guess how many Hall of Fame coaches won the Coach of the Year Award?

If you answered one (Hubie Brown, 1978, Atlanta), give yourself a pat on the back.

18 years, and one Hall of Famer. Does that not strike you as a little odd? Lenny Wilkens takes over a team (Seattle) destined for the top of the 1978 NBA Draft, takes them to the NBA Finals, and that’s considered an inferior achievement to Hubie Brown getting the Hawks to 41 wins? (And, yes, I am aware that voting takes place before the playoffs but, bub, the Sonics won 47 games that year, so, you know, they weren’t exactly crapola during the regular season).

Or, try this angle: Del Harris, Don Chaney, and Cotton Fitzsimmons have a total of four awards, while Jerry Sloan, Jack Ramsay, and Chuck Daly (all HOFers) have zero. None.

Or this one: Mike Dunleavy has won as many COY’s as Phil Jackson.


In fact, if you study the entire history of the award, you’ll see that of the 47 recipients, only 12 are in the Hall. Granted, two active coaches (Gregg Popovich and Don Nelson) will undoubtedly receive their due from Springfield some day, but even adding Pop and Nellie only brings the total to 16, well short of 50%.

As a comparison, if you look at the winners of the MVP Award over the same time frame you’ll see that 100% of them are in the Hall of Fame (minus active players, naturally). As far as I can tell, every single MVP winner since 1962-63 is in the Hall of Fame. Which makes sense, because generally the best player wins the award, and the best players tend to be, well, the best players.

Not when it comes to coaches, though. Instead of rewarding the Coach of the Year, writers and broadcasters prefer a guy who turned a lottery team into a first-round-of-the-playoff-exit team to a guy who guided a team to 64 wins. Call me crazy, but shouldn’t we be rewarding the Coach of the Year with the Coach of the Year Award?

I suppose there are two conclusions you could draw from this overly long diatribe:

1. Coaches are underrepresented in the Hall of Fame, and henceforth some of the fellows who won the COY and should be in the Hall are, in fact, not.

2. The media does a crappy job of picking Coach of the Year Awards

It’s probably a little bit from Column 1 and a little bit from Column 2, but it seems to me that perhaps the media ought to revisit how it selects COY winners, with more of an eye for the best coach and less of an eye for the best turnaround job.

Tuesday, May 26

One More Time

I mined this topic once before from a different angle, but if the Nuggets manage to knock off the Lakers and advance to the NBA Finals, it is entirely possible that they will play 24 playoff games this season.

Why is this significant? Because Juwan Howard, who had a cup of high-altitude coffee with Denver earlier this year, has played 23 playoff games in his career.

Chesapeake, McLendon Could Use Some

I’ve avoided any comments about our friend Aubrey McClendon recently, which may be good news to people who want to read about basketball on a basketball website.

But with news from Gerson Leason Group’s Michael Lynch that Chesapeake Energy is planning to sell $1 billion in assets in the near future, and further news that Chesapeake is expected to sell another $1.5 billion in 2010, I couldn’t help but mention it.

Bear in mind that Chesapeake is not selling these assets because the company wishes to further pad its bank statement. Rather, it is because portions of their more than $12 billion in debt financing are coming due soon, and with natural gas prices lagging, a stock price still off more than 50% from the highs of last summer, and the CEO embroiled in lawsuits … well, they need the money.

And, even more importantly, as Lynch points out:
the worldwide financial collapse which has impacted all nations coupled with a self-inflicted shale gas glut in the U.S. has seriously jeopardized the entire natural gas industry. Close observers think the market weakness will extend into 2010 and based on what is known about the planned LNG worldwide expansions, could last a decade [emphasis added]. That is why it is imperative for the shale gas drillers to align their budgets with their cash flow and prepare for inevitable bond maturities.
In other words, despite the optimistic statements from Mr. McClendon, it will get better before it gets worse. And, considering the Sonix rank at the bottom of the league in revenue, and that Chesapeake may very well be bought out by BP any month now, you’ve got to wonder, how much longer will he be able to continue subsidizing this team?

Friday, May 22

This Might Make Your Head Hurt

Consider, if you will, the role the Denver Nuggets franchise has played in the life of one George Karl.

The Nuggets, have, thanks to an infamous series from 15 years ago, served as the millstone around Karl's neck, the very emblem of his playoff failures. It could be argued that the Sonics' continued first-round playoff debacles in the years following that Denver series may not have happened were it not for the three-game collapse Seattle suffered at the hands of the Nuggets, inasmuch as they planted the seeds of doubt into the minds of the entire roster, not to mention thousands of anxious fans.

And, if Seattle doesn't suffer those failures, basketball historians look back a bit more fondly on George Karl's tenure as a head coach, correct? In fact, if Karl's Sonics had won a couple more playoff series, he doesn't get fired by Wally Walker, doesn't take over the Bucks, get fired by the Bucks, and then get hired by the Nuggets.

All of which leads us to last night's stirring win by Denver - now coached, obviously, by George Karl - over Los Angeles. For if the Nuggets are to pull off a series victory over the heavily favored Lakers, it might be enough to propel Karl into the Hall of Fame, as the list of NBA coaches who have guided two separate franchises to the Finals is about as long as the list of David Souter's girlfriends.

And so, you might argue, if Denver is to pull off the upset, the Denver Nuggets would be - simultaneously - the franchise that held back and then propelled George Karl into the Hall of Fame.

Thursday, May 21

George Karl: Hall of Famer?

While watching Tuesday’s agonizing Laker win against the Nuggets, I overheard an interesting comment from Jeff Van Gundy. I’m paraphrasing here, but the gist of it was:

“A guy like George Karl, you talk about those other guys [the trio was in the midst of discussing coaches], and George Karl is a Hall of Fame coach.”

Quite a bold pronouncement, no? I’m sure Van Gundy was speaking more off the cuff than he was providing a cogent, nuanced argument, but regardless, it’s one I had been thinking about for the past few days.

Specifically, where does George Karl – wearer of funny ties, most intriguing coach in Sonics history, resident grouch – rank among the NBA’s all-time coaching greats?

Karl is a Gene Mauchian character. With no ring on his finger, he lacks the cache of such renowned “winners” as Gregg Popovich, Phil Jackson, or Chuck Daly. A wonderfully successful regular season coach who revitalized five different franchises (Cleveland, Golden State, Seattle, Milwaukee, and Denver), Karl has, sadly, proven incapable of capturing the brass ring.

And so it is that, rather than lounging on the patio with the Auerbachs and Rileys, Karl is relegated to the kitchen with such lesser-knowns as Cotton Fitzsimmons and Rick Adelman. But is that a just scenario, or is his greatness being overlooked?

To make the case for Karl as a Hall of Famer, one could easily turn to his regular season accomplishments. He’s 10th all-time in victories, and almost everyone ahead of him is in the HOF.

Only ten men have coached as many regular season games as Karl, and take a guess as to how many have a better winning percentage.

Would it surprise you to find out that the answer is two? Or that those two – Jerry Sloan and Pat Riley – are both in the Hall of Fame?

With plenty of years left in his career, Karl now has more wins than Hall of Famers John Kundla and Alex Hannum, combined.

Fine, you say, but Kundla and Hannum are poor comparisons from a different era. What about someone who had a career of a roughly similar length to Karl in the same era, how would your boy match up then?

Well, if he lost every game for the next two and a half seasons, Karl would still have a better career winning percentage than legendary Hall of Famer Jack Ramsay. How’s that for a matchup? Further, even if Karl’s Nuggets flame out against the Lakers this spring, he’ll still have a better playoff winning percentage than the former Blazer coach.

Yes, the critics say, but Karl never won a title, so how can he deserve to go into the Hall?

Well, Jerry Sloan never won a title as a coach, his winning percentage is only marginally better than Karl’s (.602 to .592), he’s got a losing record in the playoffs (94-98), and he only managed one more conference championship than George, despite the fact he’s coached an extra five seasons. And Sloan’s in the Hall, right?

Or Hubie Brown. Sure, he’s great on tv, but he wasn’t all that great as a coach (70 games below .500, no conference titles, .368 playoff winning percentage), and he’s in the Hall, right?

You hear all of that, and you start thinking, hey, maybe Van Gundy’s on to something, maybe George Karl does deserve to get into the Hall. Top 10 in wins, brought five different teams to the playoffs … I know he doesn’t act or look like a Hall of Famer, but, geez, when you look at those numbers, it’s hard to argue, right?

Well, that’s one side. Here’s the other.

Of all the coaches in NBA history who have won 933 games (Karl’s total at the end of this season), the only other two without a title are Don Nelson and Jerry Sloan.

And while his regular season winning percentage ranks 12th all-time, cheek and jowl with Daly, Sloan, Kundla, and Sharman, his playoff winning percentage is a pedestrian 33rd, alongside the likes of McMillan, MacLeod, and Silas.

To get a better picture of Karl’s “greatness,” I crunched the numbers for the 50 coaches with the most regular season games, taking into special consideration four factors: Playoff Winning Percentage, Regular Season Winning Percentage, Conference Titles, and Championships. I further multiplied their career wins times winning percentage to give a truer indication of their accomplishments, divided the results by five to bring the total into a more manageable figure, gave each coach five points for a conference title, and finally 15 points for a championship. Add it all up, and you’ve got a list of the best coaches in history. (See chart accompanying this article for the complete numbers).
50 Greatest Coaches
As expected, Phil Jackson is the top dog, with Riley, Auerbach, Popovich and Wilkens rounding out the top five. (Yes, Auerbach is ill served by his lack of “conference titles,” inasmuch as there were no conferences during his era. However, even if we give him credit for eight “Division” titles, he still falls short of Jackson. Regardless, any chart with Riley, Auerbach and Jackson as the top three can’t be all wrong, can it?).

Not surprisingly, the majority of the top ten are Hall of Famers, with the exceptions of active coaches and KC Jones, making him the only member of the Celtics not to be in the Hall (a little anti-Boston humor there).

In reality, the most comparable coaches to Karl are Don Nelson and Rick Adelman, neither of whom are in the Hall of Fame, although I’d have to imagine that eventually Nelson will be enshrined, considering that next year he’ll pass Lenny Wilkens for the most wins in NBA coaching history (or, at least Golden State fans hope he will; Nellie needs 24 to pass Wilkens).

Adelman, like Karl, has a strong regular season pedigree (even topping George in winning percentage), has taken multiple teams to the post-season, but is 0-for-Career in winning a championship.

For both gentlemen, barring a title run in the future, they will need to rely upon the length of their careers to gain access to the Hall of Fame. Unfortunately for both of them, the NBA landscape is littered with proficient coaches who couldn’t capture that one glorious season which catapulted them into the league’s upper class.

And so, to answer Jeff Van Gundy’s statement from Tuesday: Is George Karl a Hall of Famer?

Maybe someday, but not today.

Magic Thoughts

A few things I was thinking after Wednesday night's surprising Orlando win over Cleveland:

1. I agree, in the long run, Rashard Lewis' contract is going to be a killer for the Magic and as soon as Dwight Howard is done with his rookie deal, Orlando will be in for a world of hurt. So, yes, Otis Smith overpaid for Lewis and all that. But, look at it from Smith's perspective: What's the shelf life of an NBA GM? 4 years? Maybe 5? So, let's assume Smith looked at it that way two summers ago. He's got a young Dwight Howard just reaching his prime, and the one thing he needs to make his team contend for a title is a versatile PF/SF who can hit 3's. On the market is a still-young Rashard Lewis who fits the bill perfectly. Granted, Smith went overboard on the contract, and offered an extra year when he didn't need to, but considering that he thought that Lewis would be the one piece to complete the puzzle, it's somewhat understandable.

And, as to what happens in a few years, well, let's say Smith doesn't sign Rashard Lewis and the Magic continue their parade of 35- to 45-win seasons ... pretty good odds that Smith wouldn't be around, either.

2. A good reason for a Sonic fan to root for Orlando and Denver - it's exactly what David Stern doesn't want to see this June. Naturally, the Lakers are the A #1 choice to be in the Finals, and while LeBron doesn't have the ratings appeal most people think he does, a matchup of Kobe v LeBron is ratings gold. A matchup of Dwight Howard against Carmelo Anthony in two mid- to small-range markets? Not so much.

3. How glad are the Magic that Billy Donovan changed his mind?

4. More than anything, I'm happy as heck for Rashard Lewis this morning.

Tuesday, May 19

Win it for George

How long must a man stand outside the door before they let him in?

How long must he submit applications before he gets approved?

Surely, surely, George Karl asks these questions every year.

On the one hand, Karl is a remarkably successful head coach. He’s been on the plus side of .500 nearly every year of his coaching career. He’s taken five different teams to the NBA playoffs, and most of those squads were languishing in mediocrity before Karl brought his unique blend of enthusiasm and nastiness on board. Instead of Jordan or Shaq or LeBron, Karl had World B. Free and Joe Barry Carroll and Ricky Pierce, and yet he still got those clubs into the playoffs.

A starter at North Carolina and a draftee of the Knicks, the gritty Karl parlayed a modicum of talent into five years as a professional basketball player, not a bad accomplishment for a 6’2” kid from Pennyslvania. He followed that with one of the best stretches of coaching in CBA history, with the Montana Golden Nuggets and Albany Patroons, including a remarkable 50-6 record for Albany.

And yet (you knew this was coming), Karl has seen his share of frustrations. To wit:

21 NBA seasons, no championships
2002 FIBA World Championships, lost to Yugoslavia
2 Real Madrid seasons, no championships
5 CBA seasons, no championships
2 seasons, San Antonio Spurs, assistant coach, no championships
5 seasons, San Antonio Spurs, player, no championships
4 seasons, University of North Carolina, no NCAA championships

And it’s not as if he was with lousy teams all those years. The Sonics’ failures are already all-to-familiar to our readers, but don’t forget that the Bucks went from being a #1 seed to watching the playoffs on television under Karl’s watch, that the Nuggets lost in the first round after winning their division, that Real Madrid won seven titles in less than two decades, but none under George, that the Spurs parlayed two consecutive first-place finishes into two consecutive early exits, that the Tar Heels fell short in the ’72 Final Four …

George Karl's Close CallsThe ultimate knife in the back had to be Karl’s experience in Madrid. He was unable to guide the team to a title during his two-year run, grew dissatisfied with the situation (shocking, I know), quit mid-season to return to the NBA, then watched Real Madrid captured the Saporta Cup in his absence, something they had been unable to do during his tenure.

Of course, it could just as easily be 1991, when Albany went 28-0 at home and 50-6 overall … and didn’t even make it to the CBA Finals. Instead, they lost in six games to Wichita Falls in the semifinals.

That’s how it is with George Karl, though: Studying his coaching career is akin to studying the history of modern Italian warfare. The talent and passion are there in abundance, but the results always fail to materialize.

Pair Karl’s experiences with those of Phil Jackson, his coaching nemesis for the next fortnight. The Zen Master saw success as a collegiate athlete, as a professional with the Knicks, as a head coach in the CBA (two titles), then finally in the NBA (nine more). By my count, Jackson, now a Hall of Famer, has won 13 championships in his career.

George Karl? One.

In 1970-71 the Tarheels won the NIT.

That’s it.

Nearly 40 years ago, George Karl got to win the last game of his season and he hasn’t done it since. 40 years, man! An entire generation has been born, gone to school, graduated, gotten married, had children, and slouched towards middle age since Karl called himself a champion.

So, with that in mind, tell me, just please tell me, you’re rooting for George this year. Forget Kobe, forget Carmelo, forget Phil, forget all of them.

Instead, remember the Sonics losing to the Nuggets in 1993, remember the debacle with Wally Walker, remember the Bucks falling to the Sixers in 2001, remember how the 1991 Albany Patroons managed to go 50-6 during the regular season and lost the title, remember the Spurs losing year after year in the ABA playoffs … remember all of that.

Then, fellow basketball fan, ask the basketball gods to smile just this one time onto George Karl’s lumpy, looking-more-like-WC-Fields-every-day physique.

He’s earned it.

George Karl and Phil Jackson, A History

George Karl & Phil Jackson

Friday, May 15

NBA Cares

There are any number of aspects of the typical NBA broadcast which get under the skin of the average viewer: timeouts in the final minutes that pour water over what should be the hottest part of the game, ads for shows that you have no interest in watching but are forced to endure ad nauseum, Reggie Miller … the list is endless.

But today I’ll nominate another candidate for the Stop It Already Museum: NBA Cares.

Is it me or does the league have a serious case of self-congratulationitis? I’ll grant you that the NFL and its similar United Way spots are a bit gratuitous, but those are 1) humorous and 2) paid ads, unlike the NBA Care spots which are 1) boring and 2) apparently gratis, as they show up as segues into live action.

Further, I can see the logic behind the NFL’s spots, in that they promote a charity – the United Way – which everyone can agree provides a service.

But what is the logic to promoting NBA Cares, other than to show how wonderful the league is? As far as I can tell from my limited viewing this spring, the majority of the spots show individual players painting graffitoed walls, reading books to second-graders, and making chit-chat with people in soup-kitchen lines. There is no specific action the ads – and, let’s face it, that’s what these are – command the viewer to take; no charity name, no organization, no website.

Hey, NBA, we get it. You care about “the community,” whatever that ambiguous phrase means. Good for you.

Granted, I’m a bitter Seattlite with a Paul Bunyon-sized axe to grind with the league, but this sort self-adoration stuff irks me to no end. What is the point, other than to flaunt the league’s bloated self-image? I suppose there is some merit to these bits of fluff, but I’ll be damned if I can see what it is.

I guess the seeds of disgust were planted for me when the NBA went to New Orleans for the All-Star Game, gave David Stern a paintbrush to show how much the league “cared” about helping the city … then watched the local team attempt to extort the same city to build a new practice facility to the tune of $20 million, or risk watching the team leave.

What does the NBA care about? Well, I can think of one thing.

Wednesday, May 13

Sonic Links

What do beat writers for deceased basketball teams writing for deceased newspapers do when it all goes sideways?

Apparently, they go to work for blogs AOL.

Gary Washburn, erstwhile reporter for the Seattle PI, is now with AOL Fanhouse, and checks in with a story about the government's inability to seal the deal on SB 6116.

Elsewhere, Spencer Haywood made sure USA Today represented the past - by mentioning him. For nothing else, it's worth reading the story for a chance to see this photo of Haywood bringing the funk over a crouching Bob Lanier.

Monday, May 11

Scoring At 30

If, like me, your #1 reason for watching the NBA playoffs this year is to root against Kobe Bryant, then you'll appreciate reading Mike Kurylo's piece at KnickerBlogger about Kobe vs MJ (via TrueHoop), if only because it gave me some validation for your hatred for #24.

Mike's points are valid - even a Kobe-lover would concede that - and they got me to wondering: How does Bryant stack up on a year-to-year basis with some of the other top scorers in NBA history?

Bryant is currently 30 years old, so, to be fair, we should only count stats for players in the same time frame. Shown below is a chart listing what I believe to be the top nine scorers at age 30, plus two youngsters who merit mentioning:

Top Scorers, Through Age 30

A few quick notes to take away from this graphic:

1. Michael Jordan gave Bryant a three season head start, took off two seasons (one for injury, one for baseball), and still ranks within a half-season of scoring of Kobe. Amazing.

2. Wilt Chamberlain gave Bryant a five-year head start, and managed to catch Bryant by age 30. And that's in spite of having a tired groin.

3. As far as I can tell, only one player has outscored Bryant through age 25. That player? Tracy McGrady.

4. Both LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are ahead of Bryant at their respective ages, Melo by a small margin and LBJ by a significant one (12,993 to 10,658, a difference of 21%).

If you found that first graphic a little too cluttered, you might want to view this one instead, which just includes the three greatest scorers in league history to date: Bryant, Jordan and Chamberlain. Yes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone are 1-2 in scoring, but they never dominated the league to the extent those aforementioned gentlemen did.

Bryant, Jordan, Chamberlain: Age 30

What's most interesting to me is that from ages 26 to 29, the three were almost identical in career scoring. Were it not for MJ's decision to give up basketball, that might have continued for the rest of their careers.

Still Pulling Off the Band-Aid

Niki Sullivan of the The Capital Record checks in with word that. Sen. Jeannie Kohl-Welles is looking to keep SB 6116 on the table during a special session of the Washington Legislature in September.

The senator argues that, as the legislature will be in Olympia anyways for "Assembly Days" (no, they don't look like this), there will be no extra money coming out of taxpayer pockets to fund the session.

Chicken salad, anyone?

Thursday, May 7

Forecast Gloomy for KeyArena Bill

Sen. Majority Leader Lisa Brown tells that SB 6116 will not likely be taken up during the legislature's special session.

According to PI reporter Chris Grygiel, Brown explained that, "there were definitely people who felt that you couldn't go out and cut schools and do anything connected to an arena or stadium."

Of course, Brown is just one member of the legislature, so who knows what her opinion is worth (and, considering the problem the bill had was mainly with the House and not the Senate, it may not be worth all that much).

UPDATE: Nevermind, as there is no special session after all. Clay Bennett, please send thank you cards c/o Ms. Christine Gregoire, Olympia, WA.

Wednesday, May 6

Worth a Smile

From Oklahoma City Friday "The Newspaper for Oklahoma's Trendsetters:"
Our energy giants still glow in Fortune 500


While the rest of America’s economy is struggling, Oklahoma City’s two large energy companies were looking good this week in the annual FORTUNE 500 largest revenue producing corporations in the nation. Devon Energy, headed by CEO Larry Nichols, was No. 163 and Chesapeake Energy, led by CEO Aubrey McClendon, was No. 230.


Value of Chesapeake Energy stock, over the course of the past year.

Oh, yeah, lookin' gooooood.

Tuesday, May 5

A Sonic Fan's Guide to the Western Conference

Okay, so we’ve looked at the East and settled on the Magic as our surrogate team, but what of the West? As mentioned before, the Lakers are out, leaving us Dallas, Houston and Denver.

As a bonus, the Western Conference teams offer us a cornucopia of Sonic playoff history – especially these three. For crying out loud, you’ve got Mutombo, Dale Ellis vs Dick Motta, the Derrick McKey Game ... and we're just getting warmed up! So, let’s take a look, shall we?

Positives: None
Negatives: Everything
Kobe, Jackson, Gasol, celebrefans … ugh.
Rootability Level: -12,378

Assistant Coaches Terry Stotts and Dwayne Casey, Jason Terry, Mark Cuban
Negatives: Mark Cuban, big-haired fans, proximity to Jerry Jones
Cuban is a big X Factor – the joy of seeing him on-stage with David Stern at a championship ceremony is counterbalanced by his annoying tendencies to self-promote. Still, just imagining how he’d tweak Stern as he receives the trophy is a bit tempting, no? Casey should have gotten the job that Bob Hill wound up with; of course, that’s assuming Howard Schultz hadn’t already bailed on his five-year Master Plan to Bring A Championship to Seattle, alienating his incumbent (Nate McMillan) and the most likely successor (Casey) in the span of about three weeks. Thanks, Howie! I hope you suffocate on your store foreclosure notices!

Back to the Mavs, though. Dirk has finally advanced to the stage where he’s almost likable, so they’ve got that going for them now. Plus, if you look at it from a How Much Do We Hate These Guys perspective, the Seattle-Dallas history is pretty Seattle-heavy. Sure, the Mavs knocked off Seattle 25 years ago for the franchise’s first-ever playoff series win, but that was a 4 vs. 5 matchup, and Dallas was the 4. You can’t really compare that to Dale Ellis doing everything but driving the team bus when Seattle knocked off the Mavs in 1987.

Kinda Reminds Me Of: Dirk Nowitzi meet … Tom Chambers
Rootability Level: 7

Positives: George Karl, Assistant Coach Tim Grgurich, Johan Petro
Negatives: Well, there is the matter of that series …, Rick Reilly, John Elway

You want to know something? If I could hire anybody in history to coach a team I was on for 3 months, it would be George Karl. You know how Jesse James booted himself off of “The Apprentice” this year because he just didn’t give a crap about promoting himself? That’s George Karl. On the one hand, he can be a complete jerk who has trouble getting along with his best player (see: Payton, Gary; Allen, Ray; Iverson, Allen), to the detriment of his team’s fortunes. On the other, he’s so uninterested in impressing people he doesn’t care about, he’s willing to wear zupaz pants to NBA All-Star Weekend. Sure, he could have done more with his coaching career (the Sonics should have been in at least two more NBA Finals and Ray Allen would still be living in Milwaukee), but he could have also done a whole lot less.

Plus, you’ve got Grgurich, one of the greatest Assistant Coaches in Sonic history, right there with Les Habegger and Bernie Bickerstaff (who, sadly, saw his chance at advancing die with Chicago’s loss in Game 7). Grg and Bob Kloppenburg were the unsung heroes of the great 90s Seattle teams, so I’d love to see him get his chance for a title this year.

Of course, George and Tim winning a title would also mean rewarding the franchise that drove a stake into my heart 15 years ago. I already admitted I’m willing to forgive Mutombo, but am I willing to forgive the rest of Denver? Sadly, no – I’m that petty. Screw Denver.

Kinda Reminds Me Of: J.R. Smith meet … Fred Brown
Rootability Level: 7

Positives: Brent Barry, Carl Landry (long story), Assistant Coach Jack Sikma
Negatives: Herr Adelman, Ghost of Tracy McGrady

Funny story – Back in the mid-90s, Gary Payton, Gerald Paddio and somebody else (Kevin Williams?) put together a rap song with Sir Mix-A-Lot (206 in the house!) called “Not In Our House.” Everyone in Seattle who 1) rooted for the Sonics and 2) was alive in 1994 knows the words to that song by heart, but only the people who bought the single (on tape!) know that the flip side had some assorted attempts at humor by the fellas. One in particular scored, though: there were a selection of about 3 or 4 recordings the listener could use for his answering machine. (Sadly, GP’s idea of, “Sorry, your boy can’t come to the phone right now. He’s sitting on the porch while I nail his girlfriend in the shower.” did not make the cut). The best of the surviving choices was Gary Payton intoning, “Hey, the person you’re calling’s not home right now. He’s out worshipping a poster of Jack Sikma. (cue cackling from all involved).”

It was a great – and cutting – moment. In two sentences, GP managed to insult all the white wannabees (like me), who thought Jack Sikma was all that, while letting us all know that even though we knew that he knew, we were still such big fans of his (GP) that we would put the message on our machines. It was really no different than the way he treated opposing point guards – you’re going to hate me, but you’re going to respect me, too.

I thought about that recording while I watched Sikma lumber off the bench Monday night during a timeout in the LA-Houston game. Sikma, too, could have been a head coach in Seattle, assuming, of course, that Satan’s minions hadn’t taken over the team three years ago. It’s amazing to think that – in the span of two years – he’s gone from trying to convince Johan Petro to put at least one foot in the paint during a rebounding opportunity to working with the most talented giant in NBA history, Yao Ming.

Call me crazy, and I wish I had brought this up before the Portland series, but I have an odd feeling that this is going to turn into the Summer of Yao. I’m with Doug Collins on this – Yao just exudes positivity, and I can’t help but root for the guy. I don’t want to make too much out of one game, but if I have to pick any team to beat LA this year, I’m picking Houston.

Kinds Reminds Me Of: Aaron Brooks meet … Dana Barros
Rootability Level: 8

So there you go: Houston vs. Orlando. If you, like me, love the Sonics, you're pulling for one of these two teams. Personally, I'm going with Houston to run the table. Think of it this way: Not only will you get to see Jack Sikma holding up the O'Brien Trophy, but you'll get to see Tracy McGrady at his most uncomfortablest.

An Orphaned Sonic Fan’s Guide to the NBA Playoffs

Admit it – that Game 7 on Saturday night between Boston and Chicago sucked you in, didn’t it?

Oh, sure, you like to play it cool … “I don’t need the NBA,” you tell your friends, “I’m fine watching soccer, or the Mariners. Really, I don’t need it. The NBA is dead to me.”

But like a 16-year-old loser with a ridiculous crush, you know you’re lying to yourself. You were fine all winter while the games didn’t matter, but now that the league has essentially worn cut-off denim shorts and a tank top, you can’t keep your eyes off it. Right about now, you're probably re-watching the 1996 playoffs, trying to convince yourself that you're watching it in real time.

So, Former Sonic Fan, for whom should you cheer? The Lakers, naturally, are out; only a pathetic bandwagoneer of the lowest level would abandon the Sonics for L.A., right? Well, you’ve got seven choices left, each of them with a peculiar brand of Sonicinity (?) with which to lure you. Here goes:


Positives: Former Sonic Flip Murray and former GM Rick Sund
Negatives: Former Sonic Flip Murray and former GM Rick Sund
It’s pretty tough to make a case for the Hawks, unless you’re one of those “I love to root for the underdog” type guys. Yeah, that always works out well. In this case, having two former Sonics on the roster isn’t a positive, unless you’re a big fan of GMs who opt for underachieving big men in not one, not two, but three consecutive first rounds. Of course, there’s always a chance Sund will make a deal sending Joe Johnson away for Calvin Booth and a first-rounder …

Kinda Reminds Me Of: Joe Johnson, meet … Dale Ellis
Rootability Level: 5 (out of 10)

Positives: Ray Allen, Mikki Moore, Glen Davis
Negatives: It’s the Celtics, people
You can’t help but root for Ray Allen and Big Baby is transforming into a non-underachieving Stanley Roberts – what’s not to like, right? Well, how about the fact the Celtics have 78 titles already, that the typical Boston fan has partied more in the past five years than anyone outside of Paris Hilton, and that, in general, New Englanders have become increasingly insufferable? Fine, I’m still bitter about the fact Dennis Johnson is known more as a Celtic than he is as a Sonic. Hey, anyone want to buy my collection of Paul Westphal cards?

Kinda Reminds Me Of: Glen Davis, meet … Lonnie Shelton
Rootability Level: 3

Positives: Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West
Negatives: LBJ hysteria is drawing closer and closer to overkill
Thankfully, it’s not there yet, though. Everybody rags on the Cavs’ non-LBJ lineup, but, really, how many centers are better than Ilgauskas (when healthy; which, admittedly, is not often)? Granted, the playoffs are chock-full of talented big men, but Big Z isn’t horrible, Mo Williams is a borderline all-star, Delonte is above average, and Wally’s teeth are better than ever.

Kinda Reminds Me Of: Mo Williams, meet … Gus Williams
Rootability Level: 8

Rashard Lewis, Assistant Coach Patrick Ewing
Negatives: Stan Van Gundy, non-s ending team name
Personally, I’m pulling really hard for Rashard, if only because it will somewhat redeem the criticism the Magic received for doling out all that money for him two summers ago. With Courtney Lee sidelined, a difficult task got even tougher for Orlando, but if Lewis pours in 25+ a night as he is capable, it might help.
Kinda Reminds Me Of: Adonal Foyle, meet … Clemon Johnson
Rootability Level: 9

Consensus Eastern Conference Sonic Fan Choice: Orlando Magic

Western Conference

So Close, And Yet So Far Away

Photo courtesy of The Seattle Times.

Monday, May 4

Governor Doubts KeyArena Bill Will Surface

Jim Brunner at the Seattle Times reports that Gov. Gregoire does not expect to see SB 6116 to be passed during the upcoming special session. According to Brunner, Gregoire said, "I decided it wasn't a fight I was ready to fight for. I had other things I had to fight for."

This may seem to be a death knell for the bill - and for the Sonics in the near future - but as Lyndon Johnson famously said, "In politics you've got to learn that overnight chicken s*** can turn to chicken salad."

Friday, May 1

Heckuva Night for Former Sonics

From last night's action:

Donyell Marshall, Philadelphia: 0 points, 2 boards
Carl Landry, Houston: 6 points, 7 boards, WINS SERIES
Glen Davis, Boston: 23 points, 6 offensive boards, 10/18 FGs, 53 minutes
Rashard Lewis, Orlando: 29 points, 7 boards, 5 assists, WINS SERIES

And, of course,

Ray Allen, Boston: 51 points, 27 3's (well, it seemed like it), 59 minutes

Not to mention, Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West, just chillin' at home waiting to get it on in the 2nd round. It's crazy how the players involved in that Ray Allen/Jeff Green trade have gone on to such stellar playoff success this year (West/Wally S. in Cleveland, Davis/Allen in Boston). Except, of course, the guy the Sonics got (Jeff Green), who is likely mowing his lawn today.

Long-term, the Sonix will be fine, and all those draft picks (and their relatively cheap salaries) will be fine, but, man, doesn't a team made up of Kevin Durant, Ray Allen, and Rashard Lewis sound kind of exciting? Sure, they'd give up 120 points a night, but exciting nonetheless ...