TrueHoop: Seattle SuperSonics
Terrence Vaccaro/Getty ImagesNick Collison, right, is one of two Thunder players who can tell you what it's like to be a Sonic.
LOS ANGELES -- Nick Collison built a career in Seattle.
He built a life in Seattle.
But when Collison looks around his locker room these days, there’s little left of where he, and the franchise he’s only ever known, came from.
“There’s three guys -- me, the equipment manager and strength coach -- from before [GM Sam Presti] got there,” Collison said. “And then Kevin [Durant] had the one year. So yeah. We’ve changed a lot. We’re in a new city, new ownership, new front office. So it does feel like a totally different organization.”
While the photos of a lean and fresh-faced Durant wearing a white Seattle cap on draft day 2007 will forever tie him to the Pacific Northwest, and though Durant has since expressed his appreciation to the “first city that I lived on my own,” only Collison can tell you what a KeyArena playoff crowd sounds like, or what it’s like to see Flip Murray come out of nowhere and drop 20.
Or the sting the city has felt since owner Clay Bennett moved the franchise to Oklahoma City, where its identity and image were reconstructed largely through Presti’s brains and Durant’s athletic brilliance.
Collision is the longest-tenured player currently with the franchise, with four seasons in Seattle and another five in OKC tacked to his player page. He’s also one of the longest-tenured players with one franchise in the league, right up there with the Kobes and Dirks and Duncans; he’s currently signed for two more, having signed a four-year extension that kicked in two seasons ago.
Seattle is also now home; the Iowa Falls, Iowa, native and his family still live there in the summers. In the documentary “Sonicsgate,” which details the Sonics’ transition to the Thunder, and all the backlash and backdoor dealings that greased the process, Collison appears in a Seattle Mariners cap.
So like everyone else in King County, Collison is keeping an eye on reported negotiations between the Maloof family, owners of the Sacramento Kings, and a Seattle-based group that intends to purchase the team for a hefty sum and move the franchise up north.
“I watch it,” Collison said Friday night before the machine that is now the Thunder steamrolled the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. He’s certainly not alone. Several Seattle-based NBA players, including Nate Robinson and Spencer Hawes, have recently expressed excitement -- some more tempered than others -- over the potential move.
But Collison knows it’s a complicated situation.
For the mega-rich guys hashing out any deal. For Kings fans, who Collison sympathizes with. For Seattle fans, who he also sympathizes with. And himself.
If a team is shipped to Seattle, and the city is looking to pick up where it left off, as the SuperSonics, will the team’s history, which is owned by Bennett, be returned? And what will happen to the Kings’ records if Seattle gets its back?
“It’s not a perfect situation,” Collison said. “Lucky for me I don’t have to worry about where I rank on the all-time lists in any statistical categories. Any way they do it is gonna be strange. But there’s nothing you can really do about it. It’s just the way it is, I guess.”
In the meantime, he’s waiting, and watching, with the rest of us.
The Thunder, meanwhile, are now 28-8, tied for the top spot in the Western Conference, and eying a second straight trip to the NBA Finals.
“It’s just a unique situation,” Collison said. “It doesn’t happen very often that you pack up the whole organization and move.”
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty ImagesJames attacked the basket far more than Durant, but Durant owned the perimeter this season.
James leads the Miami Heat into the Finals for the second consecutive season, making it his third-career Finals appearance overall. Durant will make his first-career Finals appearance, leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to the franchise’s first championship round since they were the Seattle SuperSonics in 1996.
As dynamic as these two prolific scorers are, they record their points in different ways. Let’s take a look at the breakdown of each player’s strengths and the history of the matchup.
During the regular season, James attacked the basket more than Durant. Among the 1,683 total points James scored, 37.4 percent occurred within five feet of the basket. Only 24.1 percent of Durant’s baskets were scored within that range.
Inside the paint, James was one of the league’s leaders. He recorded 12.2 points per game in the paint, the fourth-highest average among all players this season.
On the perimeter, Durant has the edge. Of his NBA-high 1,850 total points, 43.4 percent of Durant’s points were scored outside of the paint. By comparison, James only recorded 31.9 percent of his points from outside that area.
Also, Durant is the better pure shooter. From 15 feet and beyond, Durant connected on 42.5 percent of his field goals, trailing only Dirk Nowitzki (44.8) and Chris Paul (42.6) among players that ranked in the top 20 in scoring during the regular season.
The Real Help
James might play alongside former Finals MVP Dwyane Wade, but Durant has benefited the most from his team’s point guard play. Overall, 48.1 percent of Durant’s field goals were assisted during the regular season, compared to just 37.4 percent of James’ field goals.
Much of that was a result of Durant playing alongside All-Star guard Russell Westbrook. Although Westbrook isn’t viewed much as a distributor, he assisted on 171 of Durant’s field goals, the third-most assists by one player on a single teammate’s field goals in the NBA this season. Only Steve Nash (217 to Marcin Gortat) and Chris Paul (187 to Blake Griffin) assisted more of a teammate’s field goals.
History Dominated by James
Game 1 will be the 10th meeting between James and Durant, with the previous nine coming in the regular season. Durant holds the scoring edge with a 27.3 points average, but James has been more efficient from the field shooting 49.7 percent. Overall, James has dominated the most important category, winning seven of the nine meetings. The Heat and Thunder split the 2011-12 regular season series 1-1.
- Bret LaGree of Hoopinion on Larry Brown's ejection via replacement referee: "Larry got his 2nd T from Kevin Scott, who never got within 35 feet of Brown before, during, or after the call. Brown tried to engage any of the refs on the occasion of his ejection but none would speak with or possibly even look at him. Rather than deal with the issue directly, Scott walked to the opposite end of the court and appeared to attempt to enlist a befuddled police officer in asking/making Brown leave the court."
- The Knicks and Nets have both claimed to have the most cap space of any team in 2010. Who's right?
- The Bulls like each other.
- Dean Oliver, the Denver Nuggets' statistical consultant, and the case for drafting Ty Lawson. Also, I think Oliver is in a very small club of team stats experts: He gets to inform the front office on personnel decisions, and the coaching staff on game strategy. Also, Lawson was part of a Nugget lineup that played very well in Beijing.
- Hope in Philadelphia, where a 3-0 preseason has people feeling good. Elton Brand tells Philadunkia: "All the major injuries are totally behind me and I feel great. Plus Thaddeus Young and Andre Iguodala have gotten better over the summer as well as I so we're going to have a good formidable team."
- The Blazers -- one of those teams that has had a messed up cable deal that makes it hard for some fans to watch games -- say that by January they hope to have video of every game streaming live on their website, which would be an NBA first.
- Jermaine Taylor and Chase Budinger didn't get a lot of attention on draft day, but they're looking pretty good in preseason.
- Rasual Butler makes the Clippers better.
- Gregg Popovich has inspired winemakers, and now vegetable growers.
- Kevin Durant's one-game plus/minus in last night's OT victory over the Suns: plus-24. That's what I'm talking about!
- An old video clip of Delonte West and Paul Pierce, pre-Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett trades, talking about how good the Celtics are going to be.
- In my review of SonicsGate yesterday, I listed four goals of the movie. Producer Adam Brown adds two more: To preserve the history of the Seattle SuperSonics. Since that history is now officially owned by Clay Bennett, we needed to document some of the good times as well as the team's demise. OKC didn't celebrate in June 1979, and they didn't cry in May 1994. We did, and we deserve this document to remind us of that. Also, to get the issue back in people's mouths here in Washington with the primary goal of getting an NBA team back. Ultimately we have to convince our politicians that a 50% privately funded arena deal will create jobs and boost the economy while allowing us to regain this cultural asset."
- Malcolm Gladwell on the ethics of a gladiator mentality.
"It's like fighting a hurricane. You hope the hurricane's not going to blow your house down. But good luck with that."
-- Author Sherman Alexie, in the new documentary SonicGate
When your strongest weapon is hope, you're out of bullets. And that's the feeling NBA fans had in Seattle throughout the painful multi-year "teamectomy" they recently endured.
Howard Schultz, Clay Bennett, starring in How Not to Sell Your NBA Team 101.
(Jeff Reinking/NBAE/Getty Images)
SonicsGate (which is now viewable in its entirety for free online) is the movie that documents just about every step of that miserable process.
It's a documentary with a big four-part mission:
- To make clear the steps that led to the team's departure. The crucial events were so disparate, even people following closely would have a hard time following the story.
- To give Sonic fans a vehicle to grieve.
- To put viewers in the shoes of sports fans who are -- when push comes to shove -- amazingly unable to exercise any power over the people who matter, including owners, leagues and politicians.
- To do something besides complain.
SonicsGate succeeds mightily at the first three. On the last point ... I don't know what the solution is, but in succeeding in pointing out that nearly everybody was wrong, it's hard not to wonder ... what would have been right?
Watching the documentary is (brace yourself, we're getting graphic) a bit like puking. There's an "aha" moment -- oh yeah, that's what my lunch tasted like the first time.
Even though I covered it pretty hard in real time, thankfully, I had forgotten many of the details of this whole endeavor. But SonicsGate snapped them right back into focus.
For instance, remember this series of e-mails among Thunder owners?
Tom Ward: Is there any way to move here [Oklahoma City] for next season or are we doomed to have another lame duck season in Seattle?"
Clay Bennett: "I am a man possessed! Will do everything we can. Thanks for hanging with me boys, the game is getting started!"
Tom Ward: "That's the spirit!! I am willing to help any way I can to watch ball here [in Oklahoma City] next year."
Aubrey McClendon: "Me too, thanks Clay!"
It's not alarming that these Oklahoma-based NBA fan/owners would be eager to have their NBA team move home. But at the time, the owners were bound by a signed agreement with the former owner, Howard Schultz to make a good faith effort to keep the team in Seattle.
So, when these e-mails were made public, Bennett actually had the nerve to claim (on video, in SonicsGate) that when he said he was a "man possessed" he was talking about being possessed with keeping the team in Seattle.
If the mainstream media has showed us someone lying more blatantly than this, I am not aware of it. Seeing it on video, I'm insulted once more. The documentary may have been worth it just to once again set up this all-time whopper.
If you don't have a strong stomach for that kind of thing, don't watch SonicsGate.
But if you do, by all means tune in for a tutorial in how badly the public can be treated by insiders and powerbrokers. You know the beginning, middle and end of the story, but there's a lot here you probably didn't know:
- Sherman Alexie does eloquent rage better than anyone, and his is the heartbeat of this movie when it's at its most interesting. A lot of the movie speaks to people in Seattle. Alexie speaks to just about anyone who has ever been ripped off.
- Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton softened the fanbase -- before all the Oklahoma City craziness. Kemp was irate that Jim McIlvaine was making so much money and asked to be traded. Payton moaned about a contract that made him of the highest paid guards in the NBA. Eventually both left and the team began losing. None of those things help fans pass referendums.
- This documentary does a tremendous job making former owner Howard Schultz look like a fool and a hypocrite. It's done with some good reporting (former team executive Wally Walker: "Howard thought he could motivate [the players] in a way they didn't know they could be motivated") but mainly just by letting Schultz talk. In archived news footage, he does an amazing job of making himself look ridiculous. He may emerge as the ultimate villain. (Pay special attention to the special thanks section of the credits, where it says "for nothing, Howard.")
- Is this a tale of disenfranchised and powerless sports fans? Or is it a tale of one city wronged by another? This matters. The first story is universal. The second one is a Seattle-only story. SonicsGate makes one big mistake, in my estimation, in this regard. When Clay Bennett is on the screen, as often as not there's essentially the hokiest jaw harp music imaginable -- the message is that he's dumb because he's not from Seattle, and it doesn't wash. He outmaneuvered everyone and got his team against long odds -- he's clearly not dumb.
- The stadium financing game is messed up and wrong all over this country. It's a national battle, but, as it pointed out in SonicsGate, it's fought locally. You ever play Risk? All over the map, it's 60 armies going against one little army after another. Whatever city doesn't feel like paying, the big army can march over there and pick them off. The cities are vying against a bigger opponent, and instead of working together they work against each other, with predictable results. Throughout the documentary, people like Ross Hunter and the people from Citizens for More Important Things make principled arguments that say, in essence, we can't pay for a stadium when we don't have enough money for good schools. Hard for anyone to tell them they're wrong. However, like a lot of people with strong ideals, they may lack pragmatism ... when the CEO of Microsoft has his checkbook open ready to fix up your stadium, you play ball.
- The other person in the movie who gets his own "I'm a dummy" music is the mayor at the time, Greg Nickels. His dopey soundtrack seemed well-earned, especially for clutching defeat from the jaws of victory by cutting a deal to give the team away when everyone interviewed for the movie seemed to think a judicial victory to keep the team was moments away.
A couple of points that have emerged since I published the first part of a talk with the Dallas Mavericks' stat expert Wayne Winston:
- On his blog, Winston has explained in some more detail why he thinks the Bulls were wrong to let Ben Gordon go.
- David Thorpe cautions against reading too much into individual defensive ratings, as coaching has such a massive effect. His example: With Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis, Seattle was a bad team. Both players, then, had very bad defensive ratings according to adjusted plus/minus. Yet in the last two years, those same players have been starters (Allen on the 2007/2008 Celtics, Lewis on the 2008/2009 Magic) on the NBA's best defensive teams, with good defensive ratings. His point: Put a motivated player in a good defensive system, and they'll perform."On bad teams, there is often not a good plan," Thorpe explains. "But get them playing for Tom Thibodeau or Stan Van Gundy, and all kinds of players can master when to go over the screen, when to go under, when to lock and trail, which 3-point shooters to close out, not fouling on shot fakes, when to help from the weakside. ... Take the five worst defenders in the league -- so long as they're motivated to be good defenders -- and sprinkle them among the Cavaliers, the Magic, the Celtics, the Spurs and the Rockets, and I think you'd be surprised at how effective they could be."
- Kobe Bryant called Hakeem Olajuwon, and Mark Berman of MyFoxHouston reports on the tutorial that followed: "'He gave me the biggest compliment,' Olajuwon said. '(He said) You are the best (at the) mid-post and post move. He wanted me to show my moves to him.' Olajuwon said his style of play in the paint is really suited for a guy like Bryant. 'In my mind most of my moves for a guy (with) that agility can use it better than the big guy. Because my moves are not really for the big guy. It's for the guards and small forwards. So he would benefit most on the post because of his agility. It was so much fun because how he picks it up. I worked with him for two hours, step by step.' Olajuwon expects Bryant to be even better than he was last season when he led the Lakers to the NBA Championship. 'Adding those moves to his game, watch out for him this year,' Olajuwon said."
- Another health setback for Mike Dunleavy -- the Pacers say he won't practice until November at the soonest.
- Is Tracy McGrady ready to go? He was expected back from surgery in December. UPDATE: Not so fast. November 23, at the earliest.
- NBA referees calling your local high-school game? Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald: "Locked out NBA referees Danny Crawford and Marc Davis will stay in shape by working three fall-league high school games at the Bulls-Sox Academy in Lisle on Sunday night."
- Heli-skiiing to a Nirvana soundtrack, flipping a jet ski, and playing in a charity game against Scottie Pippen ... video highlights of the athletic life of Mikhail Prokhorov, would-be Nets owner.
- PG-13 for language, talk of sex, the number of mouse clicks required, and mainly just craziness ... a longish imagining of various things about Dirk Nowitzki.
- Randy Foye's harsh family tale, as told by the Washington Post's Michael Lee: "His father, Antonio -- whom Foye only faintly remembers -- was killed in a motorcycle accident when Randy was just 2 years old. Three years later, his mother, Regina Foye, climbed into a truck and disappeared. To this day, Foye doesn't know if he was abandoned or she was murdered. Her whereabouts remain a mystery more than 21 years later, but her likeness is tattooed on his chest. Foye said relatives sometime weep when they see his 20-month old daughter, Paige, because she bears a striking resemblance to Regina." (Via Truth About It)
- Quotes about Devin Harris, Courtney Lee, Terrence Williams, Brook Lopez ... the Nets don't have a title team right now, but they're assembling a growing list of keepers.
- Jessica Camerato of WEEI on Shelden Williams as father: "'He was the most supportive person ever,' [his wife, and WNBA star Candace] Parker said. 'I was working out a lot during my pregnancy, and after practice was over he'd stay at the gym with me. I'd be at home and he'd make me get off the couch and go work out because he knew how bad I wanted to come back after my pregnancy. He was great about if I wanted something. Vanilla wafers were my favorite thing during pregnancy, so he stocked up on vanilla wafers for me and he was just really great. He was with me from the start to the finish. He was very into it, he made all of the doctor's visits that he could. I'd reschedule them so he could be there, so he was very supportive."
- A blog is aiming to take 400 kids, who couldn't normally afford to go, to an NBA game.
- Daryl Morey gets a contract extension.
- Quincy Jones' brother, a respected Seattle judge, is presiding over one last legal fight about the Sonics' departure: Season ticket holders say they were deceived, in marketing materials, into thinking the team had committed to stay. The judge threw out many aspects of the case, but the essential deception claim is intact and headed to a jury to decide damages. (Via SuperSonicSoul)
- The Blazer off-season -- fruitless pursuit of Hedo Turkoglu, Paul Millsap and maybe Lamar Odom -- has been called a waste. But it resulted in Andre Miller and Kevin Pritchard is happy and optimistic. "This is a team that we believe in ... we want to win our division and then we want to go deeper in the playoffs. ... We're not afraid to say we want to go deeper in the playoffs."
- If you see Bucks guard Charlie Bell working at your local Wendy's, order the 10-piece chicken -- he serves up 11 just because.
- UPDATE: A must-read tribute to Jim Carroll, basketball player who shared the court with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, had drug trouble, and became a professional artist and writer. You probably know his book "The Basketball Diaries."
PN of SuperSonicSoul, a guy who maintains his Sonics blog even though there are no more Sonics, was excited for his six-year-old daughter's soccer team. At their first game, they were going to choose the team's name, and there were lots of good candidates.
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.
- Steve Nash, Hall of Famer?
- Hard to argue he isn't grown up yet: Kevin Durant reportedly organized 6:30 am pickup games, which he'd play in before his summer University of Texas class on ... adolescence.
- Ryan at the Basketball Geek goes in-depth discussing a new book by Wayne Winston. Winston is one of the big names in basketball statistics, who is under contract with prominent referee-basher Mark Cuban's Dallas Mavericks. So, when Ryan writes about one particular part of the book, I'm dying to know more: "In the next chapters, Are NBA Officials Prejudiced? and Did Tim Donaghy Fix NBA Games?, Wayne shows how we might try to analyze these topics, and what conclusions we'd want to arrive at based on the analysis." Good tease! (Also, Winston explains why Sebastian Telfair is an underrated gem.)
- There have been so many stories of professional athletes being misled or ripped off in various financial schemes. This is a refreshing and new angle. Horace Grant is reportedly due a payment of nearly $1.5 million. He made a mutual fund investment on the basis of representations it was extremely safe. Turned out, it wasn't, and now he's getting his money back.
- A suggestion that the NBA might have better referees if they busted the union and started from scratch. I have my doubts. Before declaring any such thing, I'd want to see evidence that the recent hires from the D-League -- the referees who presumably most approximate what we'd have as replacements -- were in some way more accurate than the old ones.
- This is a teaser, and the payoff is, if you sign up ... getting to watch video of two people you don't know playing a video game. That counts? That's enough? That's teasable?
- The Blazers hired Hersey Hawkins as player development director. Attention lucrative market to the north in search of an NBA team to love: In case Brandon Roy, Martell Webster, Nate McMillan and Paul Allen didn't have enough Seattle ties for you ... Chris Bowles, who had that title previously, and got the Blazers doing some interesting stuff, has a new job with the team.
- Have you seen the hot new rumors about the European big man the Spurs are in love with? Those rumors are three months old!
- Marvin Williams just signed a contract worth around $40 million. I'm thinking it might be time to buy his family Leage Pass. Here he is in an interview with HoopsTV: "The Hawks have seven nationally televised games on their regular-season schedule this year, equal to the total amount the franchise has had over the past 11 seasons combined. Have any thoughts on the Hawks moving into the NBA spotlight? That's huge. Huge. I think every player loves top be on national television, but especially me being from the Seattle area, my family doesn't get a chance to see me play very often, so having all those games on national television is big. It's big for the Atlanta Hawks organization. It just shows people around the League and the world that we are getting better."
Brian Robinson of Save Our Sonics has been the voice of fans of Seattle basketball.
Over the weekend, Robinson posted this on his blog at SonicsCentral.com:
I want to thank Gary and Monique Payton for so graciously allowing us into their home today. It is one thing to meet somebody to talk. It is another to be in their house and be treated as kindly and graciously as we were today. GP spared nothing. ...
Oh, and he is really confident a team will be coming. We're setting a few meetings up. ...
GP talked about how we went to the finals together and when I asked about the team he told me about how the team couldn't do it with the fans and that we were all like his brothers and sisters. It was really touching.
The trailer for Sonicsgate begins with a cheery montage to the tune of the Sonics' 1979 theme song:
From the opening tip up till the final call
You can be with the people and hear them shout
As you watch the shooting stars come out!
Three minutes and several indignant testimonials later, the reel ends with the mournful sounds of "The Truth" by Seattle-based producer Jake One.
The interview clips in the trailer feature everyone from longtime Sonics announcer Kevin Calabro to former Washington state Senator Slade Gorton to leaders of Save Our Sonics. What's most striking is the number of people to whom you can reasonably assign blame -- Howard Schultz, Clay Bennett, Greg Nickels, the state legislature, citizen groups who opposed a taxpayer-subsidized new arena for the team, and so on.
The film's internet premiere is October 12.
The trailer can be found below. [Hat Tip: Mike Seely of Seattle Weekly]
Posted by Timothy Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell.
- I'm always more sympathetic to players who test positive for PEDs when the phrase "over the counter" is part of the story. If a substance is readily available to your local high school football team, why would we slap the hands of professional athletes for taking it? Well, as you might have guessed, that sort of reasoning is entirely too simplistic. Dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, is only available by way of a sad piece of legislative history. Jeff Passan details that episode in this article. Go read Passan's take, and when you're done join me in giving the NBA three cheers for having more integrity on this issue than MLB. The NBA has its warts, but I'm happy that looking the other way on DHEA is not one of them. (Thanks to Third Quarter Collapse for bringing our attention to the Passan piece.)
- Bradford Doolittle of Basketball Prospectus frames the Rashard Lewis discussion differently than most: "Performance enhancers are a fact of life. Rather than pouring all of these resources into vilifying athletes that made choices no different than what 99% of us would have made, perhaps it would be better to legitimize the industry and work to make PEDs safe. After all, the reason that they have been declared illegal by the FDA isn't because they allow you to hit a baseball farther (if it's true that that is the case); they are illegal because they have unacceptable risks for potentially lethal side effects. Modern athletes are serving as guinea pigs for a developing arm of pharmacology that in 20 years, no one is likely to object to...if they have found ways for all of us to improve the quality of our lives."
- Will the Rashard Lewis suspension dramatically impact the playoff race? One stat geek says not so much: "As far as I'm concerned, the only relevance this news has is this: The Magic will lose the services of an excellent player for 10 games. But Orlando projects to be a deep team this season and when I reduce Lewis' playing time projection by 10% and up that of players like Mickael Pietrus, Matt Barnes and Ryan Anderson, I see that the Magic's win projection drops from 52 to 51. That is all that really matters."
- Marvin Williams is set to re-sign with the Hawks. Really, it's true this time.
- Jon Nichols of Hardwood Paroxysm takes a smart look at shot selection in the final two minutes of games.
- The Memphis Grizzlies fascinate me. Memphis GM Chris Wallace recently spoke to Chip Crain of 3 Shades of Blue and placed the size of his team's scouting staff in perspective. Michael Heisley takes a beating in the press, but Ronald Tillery makes an argument that Heisley does some things very well. And in a companion piece, Heisley paints himself as Clay Bennett's opposite. Who knew that the Grizzlies were so provocative?
- Russell Westbrook tells Dime about all the hard work that has gone into his vertical leap. (Thanks to Royce Young of Daily Thunder for the alert.)
- Someone else who thinks the Lakers lost in the Ariza/Artest exchange.
- Ridiculous Upside reconsiders the question of whether to play in the D-League or Europe. And, don't look now, but they're out in full force defending the Grizzlies too.
- Neil Paine of Basketball Reference provides a bunch of data that adds up in this way: "...it appears that there's a very slight trend over the last decade that says teams who rely on their guards and smaller players tend to win a few more games over the course of a season. This makes sense, given that the league spent most of the Oughts trying to tip the advantage in favor of perimeter scorers with modifications to the rules on hand-checking and more liberal foul calls on drives in general."
- Meet Dr. Foot.
- You have to appreciate Tony Parker's candor. He tells L'Equipe that his recent return to San Antonio was upsetting and that he plans to gradually work himself back into his national team's rotation. They have a heavy schedule between now and training camp. (HT: Kace)
- I spent the morning listening to a terrific Blazer's Edge podcast with Kevin Pelton. If you don't have time to listen to the entire podcast, skip to segment 4 where Benjamin Golliver and Pelton pick up the hot-button topic of Moneyball, scouting, and the changing face of player evaluation in the NBA. (Soft caution: PG-13 audio between clips.)
- Jeremy Tyler will not be playing for Union Olympija Lubiana.
- Kurt Rambis is the leading candidate to become the T-Wolves next head coach. Shaquille O'Neal is not the GM in Minnesota.
- Most of the emails I received today were about the new Nike promotional featuring Kevin Durant, Mo Williams and Rashard Lewis.
- Save Our Sonics thinks James Donaldson has the best chance of restoring an NBA franchise to Seattle.
- Bethlehem Shoals says meh to the much ballyhooed free agent race of 2010. Chad Ford says these nine teams are in that race.
- Update: Sebastian Pruiti of Nets Are Scorching learns that upon being drafted Terrence Williams was immediately enamored by New Jersey's market size. That Terrence Williams caught on quick.
- Some grumbling about the Team USA role earned by the Raptors head coach. Jay Triano works for Bryan Colangelo, whose dad is Jerry Colangelo, who runs ... Team USA.
- Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference digs deep into the numbers on new Spur Richard Jefferson: "The bottom line is that Jefferson is a nice, efficient offensive player when he's not the focal point and he has a good passing PG to set him up, and luckily the Spurs pass on both counts, so he'll be a boon to a San Antonio offense that's been merely average for a few years now. The real question, though, is how much he has left in the tank defensively, and whether he can reclaim his pre-injury form at that end. With Bowen gone and Finley on his last legs, the Spurs need a bounceback performance from Jefferson on D for this trade to truly pay big dividends."
- Allen Iverson ... and a zillion other free agent guard alternatives for the Clippers.
- You notice that the Nets are really talking up Jarvis Hayes?
- This is PG-13 for language, but it's also hilarious and amazing. Delonte West, freestyle in the KFC parking lot. Just think, if the chicken could be grilled faster, the world would have been robbed of this great moment. (Thanks Seth.)
- When Tyson Chandler was traded away from Chicago, he was bitter. With New Orleans in the rearview mirror, he has nothing but nice things to say about his ex-city and teammates.
- If every team ends up in need of corporate sponsors for their jerseys, some suggestions as to which corporations each team should approach.
- European star Stefano Mancinelli reportedly chooses Armani Jeans over the NBA.
- CelticsHub to Shelden Williams: "Here's the deal, Shelden: You can play for the Boston Celtics provided you stop taking jump shots unless absolutely necessary. And by absolutely necessary I mean the shot clock is running down and ... that's really about it."
- Dave from BlazersEdge on seeing NBA players in public: "Reflecting on spending time with my son and how precious that is (in every sense of the word) made me think about all of these Blazers who have children of their own and all of the time they have to spend away from them. I think if I saw Brandon Roy out in public alone I'd feel fine about saying, 'Hey, Brandon!' and thanking him for what he does. But if I saw Roy out with his kids, you know what? I'd leave them alone no matter how much I wanted an autograph and even if I felt this was my only chance to see him ever. ... We get what we need by watching him on the basketball court. [His kids] need so much more."
- Steve Perrin of ClipsNation on how he became a Clipper fan. A key factor: "They were there."
- A good roundup of the state of Ramon Sessions as of this morning.
- Officer, if you're really going to get Jared Dudley in legal trouble for playing wiffle ball in the street, you're going to have to lock me up, too.
- Brian Robinson of Save Our Sonics: "I do not believe that we have any shot at getting a new NBA team while we have this mayor in office."
- Mike Trudell of Lakers.com tackles this question from a reader called Stanley: "Jay-Z has seemed to have aligned himself with LeBron James (he's in his new video) and Lil' Wayne made the song called 'Kobe Bryant' ... So who wins that battle, and what's your take on arguably the two best rappers in the industry using the two best basketball players on the planet to sell records?"
- Michael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns: "The biggest criticism for [Steve] Nash nationally is that he appears to be giving up his final chance at a title for a little short-term cash. Then again, what does it say about a player trying to steal a cheap ring like Payton and Malone tried to do with the 2003-04 Lakers? At least for the next three years, Nash won't be doing that. You don't want to say Nash doesn't care about winning, because he does, but he did say something interesting near the end of last year about being happy if this Suns team would just play with spirit and have fun together like they used to. The assumption would then be that they'd be a pretty damn good team as well, but overall team camaraderie and togetherness obviously are very important to Nash." I'm sure this sentiment is wholly alien to a lot of people. What do you think? Is there something wrong here, or is it just smart to want to enjoy your work?
- John Krolik of Cavs the Blog has the unenviable task of trying to make Shaquille O'Neal make sense to Cleveland. At the conclusion of a long and hilarious breakdown of O'Neal's night in the pro wrestling gym, Krolik writes: "I have no possible clue how to make sense of any of this. Once we get onto the second extended bit involving a midget, I'm generally out of reliable analysis. This is one of our stars, and he's going to play a big part in the championship run. This is part of the deal. Just try and embrace the crazy." Lang Whitaker of SLAM breaks down O'Neal's performance in unmatchable detail -- opening in a Georgia middle school library, stopping by a 1990s limousine to share some Copenhagen with a pro wrestler, all before O'Neal even encounters the ring.
- As things re-shuffle in Houston, with the departure of Ron Artest and the injuries to Yao Ming, might Shane Battier become available?
- A nice and growing collection of Stephon Marbury quotes. How can one man say so many amazing things? In his own words: "I had to overconversate."
- Joey, writing on FreeDarko: "When it was reported that [Allen] Iverson might be signed by the Clippers in a desperate attempt to sell tickets, my heart sank. Not because I am such a huge fan of AI's game, but because I do tremendously value AI's meaning in the sociocultural continuum. Reducing Allen to the NBA equivalent of a carnival attraction immediately summoned sad notions of minstrel things. For several years, now, I have been unable to stop thinking about Iverson and his unforgivable blackness, to borrow the Jack Johnson term. Whatever else he was or is, and however sincere it might have been, Iverson's identity has always counted his blackness as a primary component. Seeing a symbol of the black experience he has been held out to represent reduced to a sorry gimmick would feel horribly gross."
- OK, so let's say the U.S. is favored to win the World Championships. What if the U.S. had a second team -- made up of the players who didn't quite make the final cut? Where would you expect that team to come in?
- Why you don't really want to pay Nate Robinson big dollars.
- Every now and again one-time dunk champion Desmond Mason makes "SportsCenter" with one of his dunks. And when he does, don't you think something like this point, from Austin Kent at The Good Point? "If Desmond Mason were less talented he may qualify as 'only a dunker,' but at least he'd be known for that. Instead his advanced ability leaves him no choice but to reach for that next plateau of basketball acceptance, falling ultimately short (ironic considering his ability to reach very high things) and thus stranding himself between two defined and easily-classified points. It's a phantom-like purgatory in which he's apparently content. As a result, the 2001 Slam Dunk champion is relegated to 'Oh yeah, I forgot about him' status ..."
- Sophisticated analysis reveals: Malik Allen is not all that good.
- The Sun Sentinel's Ira Winderman quotes Dorell Wright: "It's been my year for years. Ain't going to be my year until I go out there and do it."
- There is reportedly only one candidate for Seattle mayor who is against using taxpayer money to fix up the stadium to get an NBA team back. It happens to also be the only candidate who has played in the NBA.
- Shaquille O'Neal on video, strapped to another man in a gym somewhere, with a plastic knife, in honor of Michael Jackson. In fact, it's kind of awesome. (Also, if you have a New Yorker subscription, you can read the full text of this profile of "America's Toughest Sheriff" in which Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley both almost make cameos.)
- Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times catches up with David Stern: "[Seattle] was a great city for the NBA,' Stern said, dropping the stridency of last summer. 'It supported us very well, and we had great teams and great memories. I don't consider it a success that we left Seattle, but a failure of types. And I hope someday, whether on my watch or a successor's watch, that we again have a team in Seattle.' With a public-relations staff member tape-recording our brief interview, Stern was asked what he thought Seattle should do next. 'The next step is really the right putative owner, who really wants to have a team and is prepared to do what it takes, working together with the city, the state to get an arena and get the job done,' he said. 'I think ultimately there will be [another team in Seattle]. I really do.' When he was asked if Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, an NBA maven who is part of a group that has offered to make a sizable financial commitment to bring the league back to the city, could be the kind of owner Stern would like to see in Seattle, the commissioner gave maybe his most encouraging answer for Seattle since Howard Schultz sold the Sonics to Bennett. 'I don't want to put the whammy on him,' Stern said, 'but he'd be a hell of an owner.'"
- When Barack Obama comes over, Gilbert Arenas will have the perfect chair waiting for him.
- The Blazers threw all that money at Hedo Turkoglu. And now Lamar Odom is still out there. Would they offer him some money if Utah matches the Paul Millsap offer? There has been no suggestion they will, but the reasons are unclear. Dwight Jaynes, however, has some reasons: "I've heard a lot of Trail Blazer fans reject the notion of Odom coming here. You know, all that stuff about him trash-talking LaMarcus Aldridge, bumping Brandon Roy around a little bit. He's a big Laker villain in Portland. Folks, that's no reason not to sign him. Grow up. The moment he'd put on a Blazer uniform and started doing all that stuff to the other team, you'd love him. And you'd love him even more if he puts up some big numbers. In hockey it's almost a cliche that when you go out and trade for the hated goon on the other team he immediately becomes your most popular player. And I go all the way back to the old Portland Buckaroos and Connie Madigan for that anology. But the real reason not to sign Lamar Odom is that at times he's a moody, sulky dog who doesn't bring it every night. Even for the Lakers (let alone what he was like with the Clippers). The guy grew up in New York, has spent his pro career mostly in LA, other than a season in Miami. This town isn't big enough for him, either."
- The NCAA does not pay the young athletes who star in their multibillion dollar entertainment enterprise. And it looks like sometimes they don't give them health benefits either.
- Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: "None other than Garden chairman James Dolan was on hand to see one of his biggest investments, Eddy Curry, prove that he is ready to resurrect his career. And here's the show Curry gave his boss: He forgot to bring his sneakers. ... Other than dropping a few pounds, Curry failed to make much of an impression during his two-day visit with the Knicks' top executives." (Via Basketbawful)
- The Painted Area is ticking off the 25 best highlights of the playoffs. There's a Derrick Rose save that blows my mind, as well as all kinds of Kobe Bryant, Trevor Ariza and that amazing Chauncey Billups pass to himself off Kobe Bryant's back.
- Kobe Bryant says he has talked to Lamar Odom, and told him how important he is to the Lakers.
- At the start of this season, it will be interesting to know how much total guaranteed money is committed to NBA salaries, compared to recent years on the same date. That number will tell us something about how bullish NBA owners are on the future.
- Perhaps the internet's only video scouting report on new Nugget Walter Sharpe. Jeremy Wagner of Roundball Mining Company writes: "As I point out repeatedly Sharpe played power forward in college, but Detroit was working on transforming him into a small forward. Based on watching him I think it was the correct decision. Even less than a month after he was drafted, he showed the ability to play perimeter defense. His ball handling and passing was also very solid for a guy trying to fit into a new position. Wait until you see him shoot a jumper before you get too excited."
- You notice that Kevin Durant's brother Tony is on the Thunder's summer league team? You ever wonder how those teams are built? Insight. (Via Daily Thunder.)
An anonymous TrueHoop reader, and former die-hard Sonic fan writes about his complicated relationship with NBA basketball as of last night:
How is it even possible for an Arizona State fan to not enjoy NBA Draft night 2009?
Let me tell you.
As a big Seattle Sonics fan for two decades (1987 to 2008), the last couple of years have obviously not been that fun. One of the most painful aspects of the transformation of my team into the Zombie Sonics has been the fact that Sam Presti has constructed something pretty good in the town-that-shall-not-be-named.
A welcome sight for Sam Presti. A welcome sight James Harden. A death of sorts for a former Sonics fan with season tickets to Arizona State.
(Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE/Getty Images)
He's had some old school Sonic luck (jumping into the second pick to get Durant, just like they did with Gary Payton), and he's put together a fun group of young talent. I would really enjoy rooting for this team in Seattle wearing green. But I can't. So, since the Sonics died, I've just rooted for former Sonics (Ray Ray in Boston, George Karl in Denver). That's been kinda fun.
I also got season tickets at my alma mater, Arizona State. I picked the perfect time to get on board, as James Harden and the rest of Herb Sendek's squad have just been a pleasure to watch over the last two years.
Then something started to rain on my James Harden parade. I started looking at the mock drafts, like Chad Ford's lottery/draft generator, many months ago. When it didn't give me the results I was hoping for, I started a little e-mail correspondence with Henry Abbott.
December 8, 2008 "The worst case scenario for me right now is the following: I'm a big Arizona State fan, and the idea that the Zombie Sonics might end up with the fourth pick and then take James Harden is enough to keep me up at night. Harden must not end up there, please ..."
December 16, 2008 "Just ran ESPN's mock draft a bunch of times. Every time the Zombie Sonics end up with the fourth pick, it has them taking Harden ... the computer is mocking me by predicting my worst nightmare!!"
January 30, 2009 "I keep running that mock draft generator and it looks like Chad Ford now has Harden at #2 on the Zombie Sonic's list, so the only way he doesn't end up there is if they slip out of the top spot. I know a lot can change, but all signs continue to point toward impending disaster."
June 10, 2009 "The nightmare approaches: Zombie Sonics select James Harden with the 3rd pick in several different mock drafts. I watched the lottery with serious attention. The Zombie Sonics moved up to the third spot, and that was too high for them to pick Harden, right?
June 25, 2009 (moments after the Zombie Sonics' pick)
Email: "GAH! Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo"
So, I guess, all I can say is ... congrats James! It will be really hard not to root for you and your team, because I really wish I could. If you were in Seattle like you should be, tonight would have been a seriously awesome night for me.
I'm happy for you and Arizona State, while I'm also sad that you now make the transition into the undead. I hope it doesn't hurt.