Friday, November 27
Calabro will be joined by former Sonic Jon Barry on the telecast (wait, you say Jon wasn't a Sonic? You'll have to excuse me, all Barrys look alike to me).
If you had the revered former Sonic announcer's phone number or email address, what would you ask him to say during the broadcast? An accidental "Joklahoma" perhaps? Or maybe an innocent "Sonics" by mistake at some point?
Tip-off is scheduled for 6:30 on ESPN. Commence trolls from that state north of Texas to begin inundating the comments ..... now.
Thursday, November 26
Wednesday, November 25
You may have noticed that the New Jersey Nets have moved a step closer to becoming the Brooklyn Nets (or whatever) with Tuesday’s New York Court of Appeals ruling that the area desired by the team for a proposed arena can be seized under eminent domain.
As one writer at ESPN noted today, “There was undeniable positivity in New Jersey on Tuesday morning” because of the decision.
To which I would respond, “Excuse me?”
Just so we’re clear here, the road to this decision was paved with a Supreme Court case back in 2005 which ruled that eminent domain would no longer be limited to public use. That is to say, while in the past the government could seize an individual’s private property under the pretence of building public works (e.g., roads, schools, etc.), going forward eminent domain could now be used to transfer property from private owner to private owner under the guise of “economic development.”
In other words, if a corrupt Russian billionaire and his real estate developer partner want to take your house so they can build a $3.5 billion megaproject, hit the bricks.
There was a reason why the founders of the United States limited eminent domain to public use only in the Constitution, and never included private interests. As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor noted in her dissenting opinion (the case was decided 5-4):
Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.
Who do you think had more “influence and power” in the New York Court of Appeals case, the owner of the Nets and Empire State Development Corp., or the mishmash of Brooklyn taxpayers? It doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out.
Fortunately, for those who are opposed to this sort of thing, the case is still not over. Bruce Ratner's mega-development hinges on tax-free bonds, which must be sold by December 31st. Given the three other lawsuits still pending against the development and the fact that the project has a multitude of apartment buildings in an area with scads of vacant, unsold apartment buildings, bond insurers will no doubt be at least a little skeptical of dipping their toes in his pool. And, without the tax-free bonds, the project will likely disappear more quickly than a David Stern promise.
Still, the development is closer to completion now that the Appeals Court has made its decision, and that has to make NBA owners happy.
What does this mean to NBA fans, though? Well, to those who care more about on-court than off-court activities, not much. With blinders fully in place, it just means that they’ll have to get used to seeing BRO instead of NJN in the score at the top of their television screens. The fact that lawful homeowners were booted out of their homes is utterly irrelevant.
But to those of us with a smidgen of a conscience, it’s sickening. Not satisfied with fleecing taxpayers with rental car and restaurant taxes, arenas with lifespans shorter than a fruit fly’s, and extortion on a grand scale, the NBA and their owners have now opted for a alternate route to obtain a shiny, new arena if citizens won’t cooperate:
Just take it.
Friday, November 20
It was this last one which struck me, especially when I saw that my alma mater ranked as the rudest among Pac-10 fans (in defense of Oregon fans ... sorry, there's no defense. I don't know what the hell happened to Eugene after I left a decade or so ago. My only guess is that they were so crappy for so long that the fans have 80 years worth of trash talking to get rid of).
Anyhow, it naturally made me curious: Who would win a similar poll of NBA fans? Honestly, I've only been to a half-dozen NBA arenas, so I can't begin to offer any expert opinions on the matter. Offhandedly, I'd nominate Blazer fans, but I think they're only rude to Sonic fans, and they're not even rude to us any more because they just feel like we're kind of pathetic.
Ouch, that kind of sucks.
Laker fans are only rude when they're winning, which is often, of course, but when the team is mediocre they're pleasant enough. Warrior fans, from my experience, are too busy worrying about their own problems to give anybody else any grief (well, anyone not wearing a Kobe jersey, anyways). Clipper fans? Well, I could insert the obligatory Lenoesque joke, but it's really not necessary. I know Kareem said Phoenix was the only arena he felt unsafe in during his career, and I'm sure the Bulls' roster during the late 80s/early 90s would have no trouble nominating Detroit.
Hard to say, though, right?
So, despite never having been there, and with nothing other than just a completely unsubstantiated feeling to support me, I think I'll nominate the Boston Garden (or whatever they call it now) as the worst place to be if your wearing an opposing jersey.
But, as I said before, I'm no expert. See below for a poll with your opportunity to nominate the city of your choice. Feel free to express why in the comments.
Thursday, November 19
Wednesday, November 18
For example, to say that the Grizzlies are averaging 12,096 per game is meaningless when you compare it to their overall average from past seasons, because attendance clearly rises as the season progresses. By tracking the attendance on a game-by-game basis, I can compare Memphis' numbers from their first four games of this season to past seasons (which, if you're interested is 11,924 last year and 14,514 from the year before).
Anyhow, after I get the numbers for the individual teams, I like to total up game one, game two, etc., just to see how the league is doing after "Game 1" and so forth. It's not completely infallible - after all, game 7 in one season might have alot of Saturday night games, while game 7 in another season had alot of Tuesdays, but these things average out over the course of the season (I hope).
With that in mind, if you're still following along, that is, and with Denver hosting a game last night, all 30 teams have now played a minimum of four home games. Combined with the 41 games from each of the two previous seasons, that makes 86 games for which I have data on per-game attendance.
Care to take a guess where nights 2, 3 and 4 rank out 86?
Game 2: #86
Game 3: #80
Game 4: #85
All of which is a very long-winded way of saying that so far this season the NBA has managed to post the Worst, Second-Worst, and Sixth-Worst attendance figures of the past three seasons - and we're just getting started.
Tuesday, November 17
In the summer of 2006, if you'll recall, Clay Bennett’s and his group of investors purchased the Sonics from Howard Schultz and his group of investors, essentially beginning the process of bringing a team to the state north of Texas.
As you may or may not be aware, a large chunk of season tickets are sold in the spring and early summer, which made 2006-07 the last season for Sonic ticket reps to make some decent headway without a threat of relocation dangling over their cubicles. By the Summer '07, very few folks had any expectation the team was going to stick around beyond the end of the season, and attendance plummeted quicker than Shawn Kemp’s career post-Cleveland.
All of which is a long-winded way of explaining why that season is really the best way to look backwards at Sonic attendance. The 2007-08 season was a debacle – both on the court and off. Nobody wanted to see a miserable team that was leaving town, the ownership spent more on tumbleweed insurance than on marketing and the awful attendance reflected that.
In 06-07, though, the possibility remained that the team would stick around, making it the best measuring stick by which to gauge Seattle’s attendance. So, I thought I would take a glance at how Seattle Circa 2006-07 stacks up against this year’s version of the NBA. Below is a listing of the per-game averages for all 30 NBA teams through four contests, and the '06-'07 Sonics.
New York, 19,640
San Antonio, 17,960
Golden State, 17,827
Seattle 2006-07, 16,148
New Orleans, 15,156
New Jersey, 14,919
As it stands right now, nine teams are drawing worse than the Sonics did in 2006-07. And not “after Marc Gasol Lookalike Night it'll even out” kind of different, either. The difference between Seattle and the Sixers – 4,611 a night – is almost exactly the same as the difference between Seattle and the Bulls, the top-drawing team in the league. Put another way, the Sonics are as close to the Blazers in attendance (#2 overall) as they are to the Grizzlies (#29 overall).
Naturally, skeptics, Oklahomans, and David Stern's acolytes would say that we are in the midst of completely different economic times, that you can't compare the climate in 2006-07 with the one in 2009-10 and just call it even-Stephen Jackson.
To which I would respond: Fine. But, if the NBA and everyone else in the country is going to sit there and accuse Seattle of poorly supporting their team – all together now, "Hey, Seattle, if you loved the Sonics so much, why didn't you just go to the games more often, huh?" – then what the hell are you going to say to the nine teams ranked below Seattle on that chart?
If the support in Seattle was poor, what exactly would you call it in Memphis? Or Indiana? Or Milwaukee? Or Philadelphia? Sure, the economy stinks, but do you really think the Grizzlies would be averaging 18,000 a night if unemployment was at 4%. Do you think the Pacers be selling out if only the derivatives market hadn’t obliterated the banking system?
Perhaps, just perhaps, the problem wasn’t with Seattle, but rather with the NBA. It’s all fine and dandy when you’ve got a brand-new stadium, or if you’ve got terrific economic times, or if your team just played in the NBA Finals, but a healthy city supports the team even when it stinks, or when the unemployment rate is higher than your starting center’s rebounds per game.
Unfortunately, the league has set itself up in such a fashion that a team cannot be successful unless it sells 90% of its seats for all 41 games, regardless of on-court success or economic indicators. It’s a ridiculous scenario doomed for failure.
To exacerbate the situation, take a look again at those nine teams: fully seven of them have heard rumblings about either relocation or a sale - only the Clippers (the most moribund team in NBA history) and the Sixers (who for some reason only seem to draw better after Christmas) are seemingly safe. To be fair, it's a bit of a chicken and egg scenario, but do you think it helps ticket sales when David Stern whines about the situation in Sacramento, or when the Simons talk about moving out of Indiana? Call me crazy, but I'd guess that it doesn't.
Three years ago, Seattle was held up in front of the fans of the other 29 teams as an example of how not to support an NBA team. I just wonder if that same standard will now be used for the nine other clubs.
Friday, November 13
What about the four guys who have had #23 retired in their honor by their teams? I'm speaking of Lou Hudson (Atlanta), Calvin Murphy (Houston), Frank Ramsey (Boston), and John Williamson (New Jersey).
Of course, Williamson died of kidney disease due to diabetes 13 years ago, so I guess he won't complain much, and Murphy's had all sorts of off-court problems that help to keep him quiet, Hudson might have scored 18,000 points but LeBron never saw him play, so it didn't really count, right, and, sure, Ramsey made the Hall of Fame, but he was just a sixth man, really, and besides, the Celtics have too many retired jerseys anyways (okay, that last one actually makes some sense).
Can you tell that I'm bugged about this whole thing? Normally, it wouldn't be worth mentioning, but James has such power in the league right now, this idea might take off, regardless of how stupid it is. Retiring Jackie Robinson's jersey made sense, somewhat, because it was a way for baseball to atone for its past sins.
But why do we need to honor Jordan any more than Wilt, or Kareem, or Magic, or Bird, or Mikan, or anybody else in the upper echelons of greatness? Because LeBron watched Jordan as a kid, now the Warriors have to retire his jersey? Should the NFL retire Jim Brown's jersey league-wide because he was the best player ever?
To me, a better way of accomplishing this would be to go the way of the NHL and rename the trophies the league hands out at the end of the year. Call it the Chamberlain Award (MVP), or the Russell Award (defense), or the Jordan Award (offensive player of the year), or whatever. Keep those ideas on a league-wide basis, and leave the jersey retirements to the teams.
It was stupid enough for the Heat to retire Jordan's jersey a few years ago. Don't compound that idiocy on a league-wide scale.
“When I think of Sam Bowie, I think of a guy like me – someone who was drafted high but never was able to fully demonstrate his gifts to the world,” Foyle told reporters in a Taco Bell parking lot near the team’s practice facility.
“I mean, without Sam Bowie, there would never have been an Alaa Abdelnaby, or a Duane Causwell, or an Adam Keefe,” Foyle said. “I’m starting a petition around the league to get other guys on board with this. Mikki Moore, Darko, Jerome James – hey, those guys all know the importance Bowie had to this league. We're all #31's little kids, you know? Growing up in the Grenadines, I had a huge poster of Sam on my wall – and I’m just living his dream now.”
While picking through the remains of a gordita supreme, Foyle dismissed questions about the meaningfulness of a player who has yet to get off the bench issuing edicts on uniform numbers.
“Hey, Sam didn’t get off the bench in the late 80s, either, but that doesn’t change how he impacted this league,” Foyle claimed. “When you think of guys with wrapped knees sitting on the end of the bench, you think of Sam Bowie, right? When you think of teams regretting wasted picks on useless big men, you think of Sam Bowie. I’d like to think I’m part of that tradition as well.”
NBA officials declined to comment when reached by email, and Orlando officials expressed surprise at both Foyle’s petition and the fact he’s still on the team’s roster.
“Honestly, I thought we had waived him during the summer,” a baffled GM Otis Smith told reporters. “I thought I saw him at the end of the bench last week, but I wasn’t really paying close enough attention. It’s nice to have Adonal around, I guess.”
Number of times the Jazz failed to sell out the Delta Center in their last 164 regular season games: 1
Number of times it happened in their first four games this season: 2
Average attendance at the first four Pistons games in last two seasons: 22,076
Average attendance at the first four from this year: 17,541
Change in overall attendance in the first two games of this NBA season compared to the first two games of last season: -22,462
Number of teams who have seen attendance decreases: 19
Number who have increased or remained the same: 11
Tuesday, November 10
McGinn is, on the surface, less of a supporter of the NBA than his opponent, Joe Mallahan. This fact is troubling to those who support a revamped KeyArena, and McGinn’s left-leaning ways – he’s a former leader at the Sierra Club, he’s a “neighborhood activist,” his campaign was almost all volunteers – certainly don’t reinforce the negative opinions some may have of him.
On the other hand, though, I found one interesting aspect of his campaign that may indicate a willingness on McGinn’s part to be open to the NBA: His complete reversal on the Alaskan Way/Tunnel situation.
In the months after the run-off election, McGinn made considerable noise about his absolute opposition to a tunnel, and repeatedly stated he would oppose the tunnel regardless of what the state said.
Then, on October 19th, McGinn made a complete about-face, saying he would not oppose the tunnel if he was elected.
This, to me, signals one of two things:
1. McGinn is a political opportunist who realized the majority of voters supported the tunnel, and if he wanted to be their mayor, he’d better get on board.
2. McGinn tasted his tunnel soup, found it to be a little bland, and added some more salt. In other words, he looked at both sides of the issue and decided that maybe his opinion wasn’t the best one.
To many observers, McGinn’s flip-flop was a disgrace. How dare he change his mind! the opponents charged, with images of Bill Clinton pulsing in their minds.
To me, though, it was a blessing. Honestly, as someone who doesn’t live in the state, let alone Seattle, the future mayor of the city is really none of my business.
But consider it from this vantage: If you support an issue (oh, I don’t know, say an improved KeyArena), would you rather have as a mayor a man who staked out positions and refused to budge, regardless of what the populace said, or would you rather have as a mayor a man who listened to public opinion and did what he thought his voters thought was best.
I suppose, in a perfect world, our elected officials would do what was right and just, even if opinion was against them, the whole Atticus Finch ideal. And, in the instance of racial injustice or human rights abuses, that would be great. But KeyArena does not resemble one of those scenarios in the slightest. Rather, it is a public works project which, while its economic benefits are arguable, is certainly popular among some portion of the population.
Essentially, the election of Mike McGinn comes down to this point:
For the past half-decade, Seattle has been run by someone who was repeatedly accused of inaction when action was desperately needed. Snow removal, the Sonics leaving … Greg Nickels’ legacy will forever be one of what he didn’t do rather than what he did do. The fact his replacement is an activist?
Well, it certainly can’t hurt.
Friday, November 6
There is no rational explanation for this obsession, although I imagine it began while collecting baseball cards in the early 1980s. As much as I enjoyed discovering the nuances of Jim Essian’s 1.000 batting average or Bert Campaneris’ bizarre 1970 home run total, I was just as happy with the team names and cities which only existed as a quick blip on the back of those cards.
Sure, Toby Harrah’s last name forms a wonderful palindrome, but what the heck was the deal with the WASH at the top of his statistics? Who was the SEA on Marty Pattin’s card? And just what happened to those teams, those Roanoke Colonies of major league baseball?
As a 10-year-old, it was difficult to piece together, but fascinating nonetheless; those brief elements of history intrigued me, much the same way that the still-living actors who served as munchkins in The Wizard of Oz still command a small (pardon the pun) bit of attention from fans of that film, or why so much interest was lavished upon the last surviving members of the Titanic. In some way, they enable us to touch a piece of history.
It’s the same for the last men who played for extinct teams; their continuing existence in pro sports – whether basketball, football, or whatever – enables fans to see tangible evidence of a fable.
As you might have heard, the Sonics left Seattle nearly two years ago, with a roster full of cast-offs, rookies, and failed big men. From among that muck, though, are two young men – Jeff Green and Kevin Durant – who will undoubtedly be playing professional basketball for a very, very long time. The Pippen to Durant’s Jordan, Green may wind up outlasting his more famous teammate, but considering the age difference, the smart money is on Durant to hang on longer.
Durant is now 21 years old, having celebrated his birthday last September. By the end of this season, he will have scored – barring injury – more than 5,000 points as an NBA player. By that same age, the last two famous Seattle Sonic teenagers, Shawn Kemp and Rashard Lewis, had scored about 3,500 points.
Obviously, we’re talking about a special player here. Having played only a single season in Seattle at the start of what should be a prosperous career, is it possible that Durant will stand alone as the longest-tenured player of a defunct team? In other words, will his career stretch out the longest after the death of his initial team?
I did a bit of research, and, surprisingly, my guess is no. Here’s the list, in ascending order, of the longest careers after a team went bust. The numbers correspond to the number of years each player was in the league after their respective team either moved or folded.
LaSalle Thompson – Kansas City Kings
Tiny Archibald – Cincinnati Royals
Calvin Murphy – San Diego Rockets
Paul Silas – St. Louis Hawks
Walt Bellamy – Chicago Zephyrs
Chet Walker – Syracuse Nationals
Elgin Baylor – Minneapolis Lakers
Adrian Dantley – Buffalo Braves
Elvin Hayes – San Diego Rockets
Don Nelson – Chicago Zephyrs
Eddie Johnson – Kansas City Kings
Tom Chambers – San Diego Clippers
Ricky Pierce – San Diego Clippers
Otis Thorpe – Kansas City Kings
Terry Cummings – San Diego Clippers
And, your champion, at 17 years
Moses Malone – Buffalo Braves
You have to admit it’s a fascinating list, featuring no fewer than six players with ties to Seattle (Baylor, EJ, Chambers, Pierce, Cummings, and Silas). Of more importance, though, is the amazing career of Moses Eugene Malone, who played two games for Buffalo in 1976-77 at the age of 21, was dealt to Houston for two first-round picks, then spent the next 17 years moving his ample posterior throughout a wide array of NBA arenas, before finally coming to rest in the Hall of Fame.
Will Durant last 18 years in the league? It’s entirely possible, of course, but consider the length of the careers of these gentlemen, who, like Durant, scored 1,200 or more points in their age 20 seasons:
Magic Johnson – 17
Adrian Dantley – 15
Chris Webber – 15
Spencer Haywood – 14
Cliff Robinson – 13
Isiah Thomas – 13
Shareef Abdur-Rahim – 12
Antoine Walker – 12
John Drew – 11
Johnny Neumann – 7
Zero for ten. To be fair, there are a number of active players who will likely reach at least 17 seasons (Shaquille O’Neal and Kevin Garnett are at the top of that list), but for every Shaq there are a whole host of Tracy McGradys.
So, while it’s hard to say if Durant will match Moses’ longevity, it’s pretty clear to me that he will be the last man standing to have worn a Sonic jersey. And maybe, 15 years from now, some kid will be looking at three-dimensional statistics on his HoloComputer and ask his dad, “Who’s this team Kevin Durant played for at the start of his career? What’s a Sonic?”
And that sound, my friends, is the sound of a hundred Seattle fans punching themselves in the leg.