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?
Kobe, Jackson, Gasol, celebrefans … ugh.
Rootability Level: -12,378
Positives: 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.