Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thanks, Ric Bucher.

I’ve picked a scab and now it won’t stop bleeding. I read my first story of the year that exclusively dealt with the Sonics. ESPN’s Ric Bucher did this to me and I don’t appreciate it. I was minding my own business, reading stories about the draftability of some college players when I saw the headline, “The Rise of the…Thunder?” and I couldn’t help myself. I clicked on the story, read it, and held my own private pity party, which featured me jumping headfirst out of a two-story building with my hands tied behind my back.

It’s abundantly clear to even the most non-observant NBA fan that Presti has assembled a great nucleus and he’s got a real plan and vision for the team’s immediate and long term future. It couldn’t be more different than the Wally Walker regime. I never thought that Wally had a plan, and if he did, it was never a good one. We saw the team make pick after idiotic pick and it felt like the team was either treading water (a death sentence for mediocre NBA teams) or sinking, slowly (because of aging veterans with no young guys to take their places). It’s infuriating that this isn’t happening here.

I haven’t seen one game since they left town, but I’ve read reports on Russell Westbrook and people seem to love him. I already know that Durant is fantastic and will only continue to get exponentially better since he’s so young, so gifted, and so driven. They’re headed in the right direction and I suppose this realization is finally hitting me square in the face: They’ve moved and they’re not coming back.

Also, it seems highly unlikely that Olympia’s legislators are going to pass any bill to renovate Key Arena by the end of the legislative session (Sine Die is April 26). The bill is dead in the Senate, but could be revived because it’s a budget issue, but I’m not hopeful. If they don’t get it approved, then Clay Bennett is off of the hook and owes Seattle nothing (he’d owe $30M if Seattle didn’t get another NBA team in 5 years… but you know that already). Here’s the thing, I don’t care about the $30M. If Seattle got that money, that means that THERE WOULDN’T BE ANOTHER NBA TEAM HERE. And I want a team to relocate here, certainly before five years goes by. I’m worried that the people who matter will forget about the NBA and will no longer attempt to bring a team back. The longer the NBA stays away, the further it gets pushed out of our minds and the less it will matter. That’s a bad thing. Also, unlike some comments that I’ve heard, I do not care where the team comes from, just as long as we get one. If it’s Memphis, fine. I’ll take OJ Mayo and Rudy Gay. If it’s Sacramento, fine. I’ll take Spencer Hawes and Kevin Martin. If it’s New Orleans (please let it be New Orleans), then fine. I’ll (gladly) take Chris Paul and David West. I’m concerned about Kansas City and their already built arena though, I’ve got to think that the NBA would rather go there since an “NBA-ready Arena” (i.e. high ticket prices and luxury boxes and adequate parking) is already in place. The NBA is not going to expand, that’s for damn sure, so the only way to get a team is going to be through relocation and while that sucks, I don’t really care. The people in Memphis would not even shift in their seats if that team left. Sacramento is less likely because I’d be surprised if the Maloofs actually sold the team, don’t they like being NBA owners? As for New Orleans, part of me would feel bad, but like an addict, I’d take that hit. I’ve got to, especially for that real good package.

All that said, I readily admit that the NBA’s regular season is exceedingly boring. The season is way too long and the ticket prices are way too high. But since I go (or went) to the games so sporadically, the ticket prices don’t affect me. I just watch on TV because all of the games are televised. Regardless, while the regular season is dull, the playoffs are quite the opposite. The drama that builds during each of these series is great. This year presents several compelling matchups in both the Western and Eastern Conferences. Even if the Sonics were here, they wouldn’t be in the playoffs, I get that, but I’d have hope that they were on their way so it wouldn’t bother me too much that they’re left out.

I’m curious to see how many games Utah takes from L.A. Denver has its hands full with New Orleans, despite Chandler’s issues. San Antonio is highly vulnerable without Manu against a Dallas squad that is playing well. Portland and Houston is great for so many reasons, not the least of which is how Brandon Roy will respond to being guarded by two of the best defenders in the NBA (Artest and Battier) in a series. Sentimentally I’m pulling for Portland simply because of Roy (although I’ll be rooting for Aaron Brooks as well), but my head tells me that Houston is going to pull out this series, mostly because they won’t have to worry about McGrady’s extraordinarily fragile psyche. I’m also curious to see how Oden handles Yao. My guess? Not well.

I care less about the Eastern Conference with the exception of LeBron. I would very much enjoy watching him trounce all comers and average something like 37 points 10 boards 11 assists 3 steals and 2 blocks throughout the playoffs. No one in the East can stop him and I’d like to see him try to snap at least one defender’s forearm at the rim with one of his “I’m a He-Man Action Figure While You’re a G.I. Joe Action Figure, Thus I’m Out of Scale and Will Hurt You” dunks. He’s amazing and I want to watch him do amazing things.

I know that we’ll see the same sort of maniacal effort out Kobe, so they are set for a collision course in the finals and the basketball world should not be cheated here; we need to see Medusa v. The Kracken we deserve a Cleveland v. LA finals.
So, I’ll be watching the playoffs, while cursing my Durantlessness, but I’ll still be entertained, and I’ll remain hopeful that someone will right this wrong.

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