Wednesday, September 30

Mo Sene: Vive le difference

Mo Sene, part of a triumvirate of miserable picks by former Sonic GM Rick Sund, has inked a deal with Toulon of the French basketball league, the team announced by press release on Monday.Which leads me to posit something: In Sene’s mind, has he failed?

It’s an interesting question to roll around in your mind. Viewed from a North American perspective, he most certainly has failed. Drafted as a lottery pick, Sene has never provided anything remotely resembling a productive NBA career, despite his prodigious wingspan and agility.

Whether due to injury, lack of ability, or poor work ethic, Mo Sene has seen his entire NBA career produce, in three seasons, a total of 47 games played and 103 points.

Three season. 103 points, or three more than Wilt Chamberlain scored in one game 50 years ago.

To return to my point, then, I suppose the majority of basketball fans in this country would most assuredly agree that Mo Sene has had a crappy career.

But look at it from his perspective. Sene has earned in excess of $5 million in three seasons and is, quite likely, set for the rest of his life. He has undoubtedly funneled a great deal of money back to his family in Senegal, a country whose per capita income (roughly $1,000 US) is the equivalent of a week’s worth of per diem for the typical NBA player.

During those three years, Sene spent the majority of his time in two cities – Seattle and Oklahoma City – where he bumped into fellow Senegaleses about as often as he started basketball games. I remember reading a story about Sene after his rookie season, wherein it was told that he spent the majority of that year just wandering around Seattle, eating poorly and lacking any semblance of friends.

Now, after playing poorly for three seasons, he is “punished” by being sent to Toulon, where the African population is quite high, where he’ll have no trouble finding food that he is used to, where he can speak a language – French – which is already part of his lexicon, and where the weather is, let’s face it, pretty damned good.

Toulon, for the curious, is about halfway between Cassis and St. Tropez on the French Riviera.

As opposed to Oklahoma City, which is halfway between Edmond and Midwest City.

Somehow, I suppose Mo will find a way to endure.

Friday, September 25

Sonic Fans v Bennett

Back when all of Greater Seattle was ready to light Clay Bennett on fire, a small group of season-ticket holders launched a lawsuit against the Sonics' owner, claiming that he misled them in a ticket-renewal advertising campaign.

And, if you're like me, you paid attention to the suit for awhile, and then let it ebb as slowly from your mind as Clemon Johnson making his way back downcourt after a made basket.

But thanks to the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, we can report that the suit - long-ignored by us - is still ongoing, and may, in fact, serve to be the only piece of justice Sonic fans will ever wring from Clay Bennett's sorry hide.

The story is chock full of interesting tidbits, such as the fact that the judge hearing the case is Quincy Jones' brother, and that Justice Jones decided that a jury would be the best arbiter of the final amount of damages owed to the three ticket-holders.

This week, according to CHSB, other season ticket-holders will be notified of the class action suit, and will be given the opportunity to take part. After reading the notice, it seems clear to me that we're not talking coffee-spilled-on-the-lap damages here. To quote the notice:

"A remedy remaining available to Plaintiffs and Class members is a potential money judgment consisting of the profit that might have been made through a resale of season tickets, if Plaintiffs and Class members had been allowed to exercise their options to purchase season tickets for the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons at 2006-2007 prices."

With the trial date set for January of 2010, and a deadline for prospetive class-action suit members to respond of October 24, it's still a ways to go before this case gets moving, but that's still plenty of time for Bennett & Co. to start coming up with ways (i.e., $$$) to keep this out of the courts.

Thursday, September 24

Let It Reign

If you've got $80 wearing a hole in your pocket, might I suggest this as an option for how you might best spend it?

It's a limited-edition poster of everyone's favorite dunking teenager, Shawn Kemp, from the shows Pearl Jam put on at KeyArena this week, now available on ebay (here's the link). Think more than a few 30-something Seattle men wouldn't mind having that on their walls?

(A hat-tip to my crazy friend, Erik, who is obsessed with all things Pearl Jam).

Wednesday, September 23

Misadventures in Maze Creation

If you hadn't heard already, a kindly family in Oklahoma decided to devote their horticultural efforts to creating a tribute to their favorite basketball team. To wit:

Sadly, the economy being what it is these days, the best intentions of even the most devoted fans of a cellar-dwelling team can be waylaid. There are bills to pay, and Cletis must prioritize (1. Sooner gear; 2. More Sooner gear; 3. Food). And, as a result, the grass starts to grow, the hedges get a little untidy, and well, this happens:

Amazing how nature can turn on you like that.

Tuesday, September 22


With word from The New York Times that at least two of the replacement officials to be hired by the NBA were fired less than a decade ago, the anti-league ammunition has grown even more powerful.

Then, if you add in the words of Julie Davis, wife of current ref Marc Davis, in an indignant letter to David Stern, that ammunition begins to take on military-like levels.

But, honestly, when I look at this situation from a broader perspective, I do not believe this is an argument that current NBA referees can win.

Essentially, the refs are counting on the ineptitude of their replacements to swing public opinion in their favor, forcing the league to capitulate to their demands and reinstate them to their rightful place on the NBA's courts.

But look closely - who are these men (and women?) who will be replacing them? They are, by and large, officials who are on the precipice of becoming NBA officials themselves. Look at it from this perspective - the last time you watched a high-level NCAA game, did you notice the poor quality of officiating?

I doubt it.

Or try this argument: Are the 61 current NBA referees truly the best 61 refs in the world? Or, more likely, are more than a handful of them past their prime and only in possession of their job(s) because of seniority?

As Bill Simmons has noted numerous times at, it's a bit odd that some of the men calling NBA games today are old enough to collect social security benefits. Sure, the five refs between the ages of 61 and 70 were exceptional at one time, but does that mean they are at the same level today? Or, just possibly, have their skills eroded with age, and their union has enabled them to hang on?

I'm not saying that a man loses his ability to call an NBA game at the age of 65. Rather, my argument is that if the current officials believe that the general public will be up in arms over the poor quality of the replacement refs, well, I believe they are sadly mistaken.

It's not fair, and it's incredibly sad that the NBA will, once again, be able to yield its power like a sledgehammer against a much weaker opponent. Being right, as Seattle was in its argument with the league a year ago, doesn't mean squat when it comes to dealing with the league.

It is painfully true that barring a horrible call in a crucial playoff game, the viewing public will, by and large, completely ignore the situation and forget about the "real" refs. By February, if this situation lasts this long and I seriously doubt it will, any leverage the current officials think they had will have evaporated, leaving them in the perilous position of having to beg David Stern for their jobs back.

Which, sadly, is what he was looking for all along.

(hat-tips to commenter JAS and to TrueHoop)

Monday, September 21

What's In a Name?

There are, I would imagine, more than 1,000 possible names a 6-year-old girl's soccer team could choose. Pixies, Wildcats, Princesses ... the number of ideas is endless, really.

And so, dear reader, it was with much excitement that I attended my daughter's first game on the road to her earning a full athletic scholarship to the University of Oregon. At the dinner table the night before her first game (at which time the team would pick their name), we bandied about some options: the Lucky Ducks (my wife and I went to Oregon, if you weren't aware), the Wildcats (we're thinking of moving to Tucson), the Green Machine (her team has lime green unis), and others.

Personally, I was rooting for the Lucky Ducks, and we even came up with an inspired idea for how the team could run around quacking after they scored a goal.

Regardless, though, I was sure it would turn out well. I mean, come on, how bad could the team name be?

How bad? How about ... the Thunder?

That's right, me, the lead writer for a site devoted to loving the Sonics and hating the Thunder, so much so that I came up with a way to reference the team without even using that dreaded word ... I have to spend every Sunday for the next five months watching my beloved daughter shout, "Go Thunder Go!" whenever she's taking a break on the sidelines.

Personally, I'm thinking the only righteous solution to this situation is to buy her team, complain about the conditions at her field, and then move the team to Kansas City.

It's really the only option.

Friday, September 11

Whitsitt Still Dealin'

Here's an interesting exercise for a late-summer weekend. Bring together two separate gentlemen, each a fan, respectively, of the sports of states of Washington and Oregon. Now, in as short a time as possible, see if you can find something or someone upon which both can come to an agreement.

Don't be surprised if the someone is Bob Whitsitt.

Honestly, I can't think of someone hated equally on both sides of the Columbia River. The architect of the Jail Blazers, Whitsitt would be lucky to survive ten minutes in Pioneer Square before a crazed Blazermaniac in a vintage Jerome Kersey jersey tried to put an elbow in his ear.

Likewise, should Whitsitt try to strike up a conversation with a regular at FX McRory's, his odds of escaping sans injury from an angry Seahawk fan would be rather slim.

So it was with a sly smile that one reads Whitsitt's biography at Whisitt Enterprises, LLC (motto: "We've Accumulated Talent Without Regard to Your Franchise's Future for 15 Years!"). To wit:

In nine years as president and general manager of the Portland Trailblazers, he built teams that averaged 50 wins per season and he played a key role in the successful completion of the Rose Garden Arena. President of the Seattle Seahawks from 1997 through the beginning of 2005, he negotiated the acquisition of the team for Paul Allen and led a successful statewide referendum that secured $300 million in public funding for the Seahawk’s new football stadium and exhibition center.
Did Whitsitt find his copywriter in Dick Cheney's rolodex? I haven't seen such glossing over of facts since Colin Powell visited the UN! I've now run out of liberal outrage! Wait ... compost!

Seriously, you have to admire the chutzpah of Whitsitt. The guy angers the fanbases at two franchises to a level he was lucky to walk away with both legs intact, and now he's selling his skills to other teams. If I'm a Blazer fan, I'd schedule a meeting with Whitsitt just so I could punch him in the nose and throw my Ruben Patterson drinking cup at him.

What's Good for the Goodell is Good for ...

I have still yet to find any information as to whether David Stern has opted for any form of pay cut similar to the one he wishes to impose on his referees, but I did find out that Roger Goodell certainly did.

Back in February, the NFL commissioner undertook at 20 to 25% pay cut from his $11 million salary.

No word, though, on whether Stern has followed or is planning to follow in the footsteps of his fellow commissioner, but I'd love to hear from anyone who could find evidence of such a move.

I'd love it even more if the media could ask him about this at the next NBA press conference.

Thursday, September 10

Stern Paycut?

Left unsaid in the angry rhetoric about David Stern's forced paycut for NBA referees (he wants them to cut salaries by 10%, they're willing to take about 5 or 7%), is this question:

What sort of paycut is David Stern willing to take?

According to what you read on the internet (I know, I know), Stern pulls down an annual salary of approximately $10 million. After spending some time researching the issue, I could not find any information as to whether Stern has opted to take the same paycut he is forcing the officials to take.

Now, that's not to say that he hasn't - absence of proof is not lack of proof, after all. One of our astute readers may be able to point me in the direction of an article which shows that the commissioner has, indeed, taken a pay cut this year.

But, if he hasn't, how hypocritical is that? On the one hand, he's sacrificing his officials upon the altar of the economic recession, yet he seems to not feel the need to do that for himself.

I hope I'm wrong, and that Stern is doing the honorable thing. But, somehow, knowing his character, I doubt it.

Wednesday, September 9

Stern to Refs: Nuts

Difference between the NBA and their refs in an ongoing labor dispute that caused Commissioner Stern to contemplate using scab officials this season: $700,000

Amount of time it would take for the NBA to earn $700,000, based on last year's revenue of $3.2 billion: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Wednesday, September 2

No Reign Forecast for Beijing

I'm puzzled as to how I missed this, but according to Chinese news sources, Shawn Kemp was all set to participate in Chinese Summer League basketball this past month.

Of course, Shawn being Shawn, it all fell apart in a mixture of miscommunications and prior commitments, the end result being Kemp has now tantalized and disappointed fans in North America, Europe, and Asia in the past 12 months, a considerable accomplishment for a guy whose last professional game was so long ago, Danny Manning was in the opposing lineup.

So, what's next for The Reign Man? Why not Australia, where Kemp could visit former teammate Sedale Threatt, or perhaps Africa, where he could provide an ironic twist on seeing teenage phenoms come from Africa to the U.S.? The possibilities, it would seem, are endless.

Much like Shawn Kemp's career.