For those of us that left professional basketball behind, where it probably ought to be, here is an update on what's happened since the sport left Seattle.
Writer David Foster Wallace once wrote that movies get worse as the budgets get bigger. With more people to please, a wider audience to satisfy, in different demographics and countries, you simply lose the "art" of a movie and replace it with "mass appeal." An example would be from James Cameron's Terminator to Terminator 2 (a movie that helped set the stage for the modern day blockbuster) and then to Cameron's latest, the awful Avatar. Wallace was perhaps lucky to not survive long enough see that one.
In a way, the same can be said about the NBA. With billions of dollars being spent on the sport, it is expected that billions will be going back into the hands of owners. There is no time for them to worry about nostalgia, tradition, or the goodwill of the fans. Even Mark Cuban, my favorite owner in the league, has to worry about making money. With that, the SuperSonics were sold from Howard Schultz to Clay Bennett, with both full aware of what the future was going to hold for the franchise, and eventually moved to Oklahoma City where they are now in their fifth season.
The failure of the Schultz' group to make money in Seattle seemed to shift blame to the fans and not the ownership, as if every time they close a Blockbuster or K-Mart, it's because we failed as consumers. Rather, Schultz legacy in sports should instead be that he was one of the worst owners in league history, taking over one of the best teams in the '90s and seeing them into a few years of mediocrity before blowing up the roster just a year after making the second round of the playoffs. The rebuild would have actually worked out perfectly for Seattle, having acquired the right to draft the best young player to enter the NBA since LeBron James, if not for the fact that it had already been setup to move the team to Oklahoma. Unfortunate that the terrible 20-62 product that was put on the Key Arena floor in 2007-08 was the last we got to see of the Sonics, knowing that brighter days were certainly ahead for a franchise haflway out the door.
The Sonics were never an attendance powerhouse, but quickly fell from 17th in the NBA in attendance to never finishing higher than 21st under Schultz and falling to 28th in the zombie year of Kevin Durant when everyone knew the team was gone. At a time when attendance should be shooting up to see the rookie that could do everything, we didn't want to give ownership anything. The perfect excuse for Bennett to bolt, if only we had soldout Key Arena every night to see a team that would finish near the bottom of the league. If only we had put more money into the pockets of a billionaire that couldn't wait to leave.
The NBA motto, "I Love This Game" is meant to pull on your heartstrings. To say that the purity of basketball is no different on an NBA court than it is in Rucker Park. Unlike football or baseball, this is a game that's so simple to play, you don't even need anyone else to join you. A ball and a hoop, you're playing basketball. I spent many summer days going to the schoolyard, where it was completely empty, and just shooting around pretending that I was Sam Perkins taking the final shot to win the game. (On the ninth attempt.) I do love this game.
I just hate the living crap out of this business. That's what they want you to forget.
In the absence of the only professional basketball team that I've ever loved, until they bring back the next reincarnation as soon as the next wave of financial viability presents itself to the league, I have instead forgotten about the sport itself. I ignored most new news in regards to the NBA over the past four-plus years, rather careless of what has and will happen. Perhaps you have to. Perhaps you don't know what's going on. If that's the case, read on, as I explore the league as it stands today. This is almost a completely blind exploration for me, so I'm excited to find out some stuff! Here is what you've missed:
Thunder Roster 2012-2013
What was unavoidable news was Oklahoma City's run to the NBA Finals last season, their first run in franchise history and if anyone tells me that "they" have been to the Finals three times before, they can click 'X' on the web browser right now.
Remember when the Sonics used all those picks on project big guys and every single time they got Swifted and Petroed? Welcome to Serge Ibaka, a 6'10" forward out of Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo. What you already know is that "Brazzaville" is the best place name ever. Did you know that Ibaka led the NBA in blocks last season at 3.7 per game and is doing it again this year with 3.3 per? He's added offense though, shooting 59% from the field and 14.3 PPG to go along with 7.6 rebounds. He is only 23.
After an exciting run to the Finals, the Thunder no longer had a hard-on for James Harden and sent him, plus three other players, to the Rockets for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, 2 1st round picks and a 2nd. Harden won sixth man of the year last year, which I guess Martin could do this year?
Harden last season: 16.8 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 5.4 APG, 1.9 3P, 42.7% FG, 34.1% 3P, 83.4% FT
Martin this season: 16.1PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.7 APG, 2.3 3P, 46.2% FG, 47.7% 3P, 92.8% FT
Not only is Nick Collison alive, but he's still with the Thunder. He just plays a much smaller role now as his minutes from the final season in Seattle have dwindled from 28.5 per game to 18.6 per game this season. He has started seven games in the last four years, none since 2010-2011.
Hasheem Thabeet is on the team. Thabeet was the 2nd overall pick in 2009 out of UCONN. He has played for four teams in less than four years. Thabeet was the 2nd overall pick in 2009. He plays 13 minutes per game. Thabeet was the 2nd overall pick in 2009. He was taken ahead of James Harden, Tyreke Evans, Ricky Rubio, and Stephen Curry. 2nd. Overall. Pick. Sounds like the big man is a Sonic to me!
Former Sonics Update
Earl Watson - Don't stop believin' that Watson's journey was going to be over any time soon. Watson is in his third season with the Jazz, averaging 2.1 PPG and 13.1 minutes. He's probably a millionaire.
Damien Wilkins - Jesus, are you ever allowed to leave the NBA? Wilkins is with the Sixers, putting in 5.4 minutes per game. He gives them one point per game, and sometimes you lose or win by a point and sometimes you go to overtime!
Delonte West - NOT in the NBA anymore!
Chris Wilcox - Just missed a really easy shot and turned it over.
Reggie Evans - Just the fact that Evans is in the NBA (Brooklyn) and Sene/Swift are not says it all. Oh, also Brooklyn is now an NBA "city".
Ronald "Flip" Murray - Last played for the Bulls in 2010. Didn't last as long as Earl Watson.
Vladimir Radmanovic - Scored 7 points for the Bulls this season. If you guessed "1 of 6 from three-point range" then you were right.
Championships while you were gone:
Of course we want an NBA team back but man what kind of a long road does a new Sonics team have ahead of them? NBA replaces parity with parody. Over the last 30 years, here are exhibits (the entire alphabet): Knicks, Nets, 76ers, Raptors, Bucks, Pacers, Cavs, Hawks, Bobcats, Magic, Wizards, Timberwolves, Nuggets, Trailblazers, Warriors, Clippers, Suns, Kings, Grizzlies, and Hornets. Oh also, the Hornets are changing their names to the Pelicans? I think the bigger story there is that the Hornets are moving to the WNBA.
Sure there's a couple NBA Finals appearances in there, and I didn't include the Jazz because of the 90s, but there is a very short list of title contenders every year. This isn't something to forget.
The 2012-2013 Season:
The Celtics are finally old, and all they did was replace Ray Allen with Jason Terry. Though they got Jeff Green back from the Thunder after they traded him to the Sonics for Allen, and Green is averaging 8.9 ppg off of the bench.
Even if you avoid the NBA, you couldn't avoid the news that Dwight Howard went to the Lakers because of course he did. Except that the Lakers started 1-4 under Mike Brown who got fired, then went 4-1 under Bernie Bickerstaff and hired Mike D'Antoni, who is now 3-5. So take a moment to laugh at the 8-10 Lakers, who will undoubtedly make the Finals anyway. Steve Nash (who is also a Laker) played two games and broke his fibula. Pau Gasol seems to have gotten old very fast (check his Barcelona birth certificate!). And yes, if you go to official basketball sites, there's a name that actually say "Metta World Peace". Also, holy crap Antawn Jamison is still in the NBA? Who else is still in the league, Jerry Stackhouse? lol.
Wait, yes he plays for Brooklyn. Holy crap.
The Thunder (15-4) have the best record in the NBA :(
If you're looking for an NBA team to root for while you wallow in sorrow for the Sonics, how about this: Go Grizz? The Grizzlies are 13-3 and could be the biggest obstacle between the Thunder and the Finals. The Grizz are formerly of Vancouver, BC. The Grizz have been historically bad and now are good. The Grizz have former Huskies (which is not my cup of tea but I'm willing to pass the news along) Quincy Pondexter and Tony Wroten. Well, Wroten is in the D-League. The Grizz have former Portand Trailblazers' Zach Randolph and Jerryd Bayless. Also, it's so much cooler to root for Marc Gasol than it is for Pau Gasol. As of today, Marc is the player you'd rather have so haha Lakers.
The Warriors are playoff contenders again, with a lot of help from former Washington State Cougar Klay Thompson, who is averaging 15.4 PPG in his second season. They also have Andrew Bogut and Richard Jefferson? And they do nothing?
Jamal Crawford leads the Clippers in scoring. And the Clippers are good! Former Zag Ronny Turiaf plays a little bit. He plays almost as much as Lamar Odom. Remember Willie Green, who was a Sonic for like a few minutes on draft day? Still in the league!
The Heat still have the big three but they also have Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. Which we can refer to as "the other two" except that no, Lewis is not very good anymore. Man, Lewis is younger than Shane Battier and only averaging six points per game.
I made fun of the Bobcats (Pelicans) because I thought that was "the cool thing to do" but they are 7-9 so now who is the fool?
A cLIN bill of mental health: Jeremy Lin is not being talked about anymore. Remember when we almost renamed Google to "JeremyLin.com" and replaced the word 'the' with 'Lin'? I wouldn't say he's "just another player" now but he's on the Rockets and that's just not very important to a lot of people because it's not blowLin up my twitter anymore.
His former team, the Knicks, are 12-4 and that's without Amare Stoudemire. Jason Kidd still being in the league, I can understand. Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas, and Marcus Camby? No no no no no no no... this is just not making any sense anymore. I'm starting to think that the NBA has forgotten to do a software update on league rosters.
I don't have an answer for that. As you can clearly tell, my following of the NBA has been rather casual in the last five years. All of my news comes from tidbits on Twitter and random moments when I decide to see who is leading the league in scoring and not seeing many differences. Truthfully, the NBA does not change very much from year to year. The Lakers, Celtics, Spurs, and Heat are almost certain to win the title in most years and now sadly, the Thunder have joined that conversation. Probably for the long-term, as long as Kevin Durant is still there.
If a team moves to Seattle, they're going to have to hope for a lot of lottery luck and a draft with one generational talent. A Durant, a Kobe, a Duncan, a Shaq, a LeBron. That is the way, that is almost the only way, that you win an NBA title. The Mavericks and Pistons are the only examples in the last 15-some years that I can think of that didn't win with a player of that caliber. And their success was not sustained.
You never know if Seattle will get lucky, should they relocate a team back to the Pacific Northwest, but look at how lucky Oklahoma City got. They stole one of the best players in the league when he was only going into his second season. There's hope yet.
There's hope that a new arena would be one of the top arenas in the league, and the money that could bring in will surely attract back the sport. There's hope that the new team will be lucky enough to land one of the best young players in the NBA and be competitive. There's hope that the Thunder never win an NBA title and that attendance dwindles to the point that Clay Bennett sells the team to the Coca-Cola corporation and that they start hocking cans of soda instead of playing basketball.
Until then? Go Grizz.