Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sonics Venting

Without looking at the standings, I have no idea what the Sonics’s record is. I’ve decided to continue calling them this even if they’re no longer here. It’s either that or call them the Symbols. Sort of like when Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol, he was referred to as “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.” Rather than being verbose and calling them “The Team Formerly Known as the Sonics,” I could go with the brevity of Symbols, but that’s petty, so I’ll just call them the Sonics and leave it at that.

I do know that several teams in the NBA are positioning themselves for the playoffs and that the Sonics are not going to be included. However, it doesn’t give me any joy to know that they aren’t positioned for success right now because it still kills me that they left. Not just that the team left, which completely blows, but rather that this particular team isn’t here anymore. I loved the way that they were and are putting the team together.

I couldn’t stand the sports purgatory that they were in after the Kemp/GP years. If a team doesn’t have the pieces in place to make a serious push for championship contention, then it has to make drastic changes and blow it up. Paying high salaries to players who have no realistic chance of leading the team to serious playoff contention makes as much sense as a short-order cook using all of his money to lease a Lexus. It initially looks flashy, but is ultimately unsatisfying and is a colossal mistake that will take years to recover from.

The Sonics had their Lexus for a few years during the Ray Allen/Rashard Lewis days. They shot the hell out of the ball and it was fun watching that for awhile, but there was no way that team was going anywhere beyond the first or second round of the playoffs. That’s not terrible, but I’d rather not have a team that has an absolute ceiling like that. I couldn’t delude myself into thinking that those guys were ever going to make any serious playoff runs, and that removes an element of fun from the games for me. I’d care, and care a lot about their games, but I always knew that they just didn’t have the horses.

This leads me to my righteous anger and justifiable envy that I feel toward the Sonics.

I applauded the non-signing of Rashard Lewis (age 29), despite his milky jumper. As much as I liked Rashard, he was basically a taller version of Ray Allen (and his buttery jumper), but he was as apt to take his defender off the bounce and got to the rim as often as “The Dude” put in a hard days work at the office. Rashard was simply far too expensive for what he brought to the table. I like him as a third option on a good team. Maybe even a second option in a pinch, but the Sonics would have torpedoed their future if they gave him 6 years $118 million like the Magic did, which is more than Dwight Howard makes by the way. He’s a nice guy and a good teammate, but that’s silly money.

I will always like Ray Allen (age 33) and his buttery jumper, but he was not part of the long-term solution either and Seattle was wise to let him go, especially after they fell ass backwards lucky into the second pick (Kevin Durant, age 20). Nabbing the fifth pick (Jeff Green, age 22), Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak, a number 2 was fantastic. Everyone loved Green and he’s going to be a good player.

If the Sonics kept Lewis, Allen, and Durant together they probably would have won anywhere from 45-49 games in the West—good enough to battle for an 8 seed, but probably out of the playoffs. The games would be exciting because that team could definitely compete night in and night out. Durant would have had a chance to grow and develop his game under two established stars and would have no pressure to be the man right away. The team would absolutely shoot the lights out and would easily lead the league in threes attempted and made, by over 100. But to have that team together would never be better than an 8 seed and probably would never get out of the first round of the playoffs, not with the West as strong as it is right now. Also, as noted above, it would have been a crazy expensive team. While Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis are really good guys and have no weird jerk-like tendencies, I think that they would have stifled Durant’s growth as a go-to guy and a leader. The Sonics, as presently constructed, are a team that will grow together and who knows that they’ll be good if they just give themselves time and it looks like the front office is giving them time.

By moving Allen and Lewis, the Sonics shed 20 years and over $14 million per year in salaries for two players who are better positioned (because they’re younger and have complementary skills instead of duplicative skills) to turn their team into contenders. It worked out great for Boston since they won a title with Allen. It’s working out great for Orlando because they now look like a perennial playoff team, but both of those teams were in different positions than Seattle. Boston had Paul Peirce and was gunning for KG, and Orlando already had Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, and Hedo Turkoglu.

Thanks to USA Today’s NBA Salary Database, which keeps tabs on player salaries, we see that the Sonics get to cut loose Chucky Atkins, Malik Rose, Desmond Mason, and Robert Swift at the end of the year if they want to in order to lure free agents that could help them win soon, of course convincing these players to live in the dustbowl is going to be difficult. We haven’t seen them do so yet. Also, their best players are signed to rookie-minimum deals through the 2010-11 season. They are a team positioned to do big things because KD is the real deal. He’s as talented as anyone in the NBA, he’s got a killer instinct, and he seems like a good dude whose teammates love him. I like everything about this team with the small exception that they were stolen from Seattle. Also, that weird Tyson Chandler thing has me baffled. I know that he would have cost some cash, but he’s a guy that I don’t mind paying money to because he’s actually a supremely talented defensive center who doesn’t complain about anything. He’s not a scorer, but he would have been on a team of scorers. Weird deal, that whole non-transaction.

Sonics Roster & Salaries
Chucky Atkins – 2yrs/$6,600,000, signed through 2008-09 (t)
Nick Collison – 4yrs/$26,000,000, signed through 2010-11
Kevin Durant –5yrs/$21,352,150, signed through 2010-11 (t)
Jeff Green – 5yrs/$15,768,441, signed through 2010-11
Nenad Krstic – 3yrs/$15,600,000, signed through 2010-11
Desmond Mason – 2yrs/$11,000,000, signed through 2008-09
Malik Rose – 7yrs/$42,000,000, signed through 2007-08 (p)
Thabo Sefolosha – 4yrs/$8,180,000, signed through 2009-10 (t)
Robert Swift – 4yrs/$7,895,000, signed through 2007-08 (t)
Earl Watson – 5yrs/$29,000,000, signed through 2009-10
Kyle Weaver – 4yrs/$3,612,904, signed through 2011-12
Russell Westbrook – 5yrs/$23,053,162, signed through 2012-13
D.J. White – 5yrs/$8,112,118, signed through 2012-13
Damien Wilkins – 5yrs/$15,000,000, signed through 2009-10 (p)

I’m not really sure why I bothered to do this other than to torture myself. I could have accomplished the same result by sticking clothes pins on my nipples. I just really liked that team and I like what they’re doing and I’m lamenting the fact that they’re not here. I, like many others, am pissed at everyone involved in the transaction. It’s baffling to me that some people say things like “I can’t blame Clay Bennett because he wanted an NBA team and one was for sale, so he bought it.” Well, I can’t parse my anger quite so easily. My anger knows no bounds and will not be constrained. I’m pissed at him for existing. If it wasn’t for him, they wouldn’t be in the dustbowl. They’d be here (in the snow, as it turns out, in f’ing mid-MARCH). He lied like a whore on his back. He tried to convince people that he wanted the team to remain here, sounding as genuine as mortgage broker. I hate him. I hope he and his cronies continue to lose money in the energy market and are forced to sell the team, even though I’m sure that they won’t sell to anyone back here.

I hold a special place of hate in my heart for Howard Schultz who is the worst bastard around. He sold the team because he didn’t have the stones or real power to stand up to his ownership group and tell them to ride it out to wait for a local buyer to emerge. Schultz loved the limelight. He loved being the “owner” of the team even though there were several other wealthy dudes who owned the team. He loved pumping his fist from his courtside seat, but when we really needed him to be a responsible owner, to be a steward for the community, he sold to out-of-town ownership. He owns the lion’s share of the blame and of course I hate him. But I don’t discriminate, mine is not a jealous hate. It has many partners. Two others are invited to drink my haterade: the Washington State Legislature and the City of Seattle, specifically Greg Nickels. They’re inability to re-do the lease on Key Arena (City of Seattle) and the inability to extend taxes to pay for a new arena make me want take a pitching wedge to their heads.

Of course, I can't leave out NBA Commissioner David Stern. His arrogance and overall demeanor when he spoke of the Seattle market seriously made me consider commissioning a rhino to commit sodomy on him. People would bring up Seattle's reach to the Pacific Rim and he's dismissively say that they have much closer reach because they actually have offices in China. Because that's the same as an actual NBA team. I seethed everytime I heard him speak. I don't know why I put myself through it because I knew that he'd say something to piss me off but I kept listening anyway. What's wrong with me?

Ok, now that’s off of my chest. I suppose I can watch the NBA playoffs now and root for random things so that I can squeeze some semblance of joy out of a sport that I’ve followed for years. I’ll pull for guys with Puget Sound ties to make some noise in the playoffs. Hopefully Brandon Roy (Garfield HS, UW) will become a force this postseason. I’m going to watch Atlanta play if Marvin Williams (Bremerton HS) can return from injury because he was having a decent season before getting hurt. I’m very interested to see if Nate Robinson (Rainier Beach HS, UW) can continue his torrid pace and lead the Knicks to the playoffs. Aaron Brooks (Franklin HS) is getting a lot of burn since Skip was traded to Orlando and is positioned to do some good things. Rodney Stuckey (Kentwood HS, Eastern WA) is playing reasonably well and Detroit is in no real danger of falling out of the playoffs.

Sigh. I know it’s pathetic, but it’s all I’ve got, NBA-wise. Luckily, another local guy (Rainer Beach’s Terrance Williams) will be making his way to the NBA off of a stellar senior season at Louisville.

At least I have March Madness to look forward to and selection Sunday, only three short hours away.

No comments:

My Zimbio
Top Stories