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Road Trip '01: Jan. 31

  • Road Trip '01 Index

    Tuesday, January 31, 2001
    If it's Wednesday, it must be Seattle!


    Artest Ron Artest thought by sinking this halfcourt shot he would walk away victorious ...
    As I said in my last post, we flew out of Portland right after last night's game and arrived in Seattle around midnight. Just like before, we had two big passenger busses waiting for us on the tarmac. As soon as everybody was off the plane and all the bags were transferred, we took off for the 20-minute ride to our downtown hotel. although the trip between the Rose Garden in Portland to our temporary Seattle home lasted only 50 minutes, everybody was more than ready to call it a night.

    This morning everybody met in the hotel lobby at 10:15 a.m. and jumped on the bus to head to practice at KeyArena - home of the Sonics. Besides a couple of maintenance workers, we were the only people there. It's an interesting place - but then, I'm kind of a stadium geek. Wherever I travel, I usually make it a point to attend some sporting event in town. Besides the enjoyment of seeing a game, I like to walk around to get a feel for the stadium.

    Miller ... But an unlikely winner stepped up, and Brad Miller was the halfcourt champ!
    For me, making this trip is a real kick on many fronts. I not only get to hang out with my favorite team - Da Bulls - and see first-hand what it's like for these guys as they go through a season, but I'm also getting the chance to visit three cities and five different arenas that I've only seen on TV.

    Anyway, KeyArena is very much like the Rose Garden, with respect to the seats being pretty close to the action. There's very little "buffer" room between the front few rows and the court. The lower level also has a fairly steep incline, giving the illusion that the players on the court are in some sort of a pit, with the fans hovering over the action. It wasn't hard to imagine the noise that could be, and most likely will be generated by the Sonic fans for Thursday's game.

    Crawford Erik Helland gives Jamal Crawford some tips on hitting the weights.
    According to the game notes provided by Seattle's media relations staff, the Sonics have sold out KeyArena 12 out of their 22 home games this season. Even if the game's not a sellout, it's most likely to be pretty close, as the Sonics are averaging 15,682 per game and KeyArena holds 17,072. I'm curious to see just how tough a place KeyArena is for opposing teams.

    The team looked good at the shootaround today, which ended with a spirited halfcourt shootout. Each player got one shot to launch the ball to the hoop without stepping across the centerline. A few shots came close, rimming around the unforgiving iron, only to bounce out.

    Artest Ron Artest is definitely pumped up at Gold's Gym!
    In the middle of the third round, Ron Artest knocked home what seemed to be the winner, but Brad Miller tossed in a clutch shot on his final throw, forcing a 50-50 split of the Halfcourt Heave Showdown. It's nice to see these guys loose and having fun. I'm sure it's easy to tighten up and get down during a losing streak, but these guys look like they're taking it one game at a time and making sure they're ready to play.

    After leaving KeyArena, we immediately headed for Gold's Gym downtown where Bulls assistant strength coach, Erik Helland, had made arrangements to put the players through their paces. The Bulls normal practice routine on off-days often involves lifting weights. Being on the road made no difference in regards to this policy - especially so with an expert such as Helland traveling with the team during this journey. The session lasted a little over an hour, but when everyone came outside ready to head back home to the hotel, a little problem popped up - the team's bus driver forgot he was supposed to wait after dropping everyone off at Gold's front door. That meant the guys would now have to hoof it back.

    Artest Stranded by the team's bus driver, the players had no choice but to walk back to the hotel.
    The rest of the day was open for the players and coaches to do whatever came to mind. Some guys went shopping, while others went to the movies. I tagged along with Khalid El-Amin for a trip to Seattle's waterfront to check out the restaurant scene at the Farmer's Market.

    There, we came across a unique opportunity for Khalid to showcase his catching abilities, as the guys at Pike's Fish Shop suited El-Amin in their traditional rubber overalls and tossed 15 pounds of raw fish in his direction. Sporting a New York Yankees cap, El-Amin did a great impression of Yankees All-Star centerfielder Bernie Williams as he easily tracked down the airborne denizens of the deep.

    We later made our way down to Pier 54 and stopped by the Crab Pot restaurant for some non-flying seafood. While there, rookie forward Marcus Fizer called, having made it to Seattle after staying home in Chicago for a couple of extra days to battle the flu bug. Fully recovered, Fizer jumped in a car and hooked up with us down at the waterfront for an evening of fun.

    Market The Farmers Market, a popular spot to grab a bite in downtown Seattle.
    Well folks, that's what happened here today. Thursday it's back to business as we begin to focus on defeating the SuperSonics in their own backyard. The Sonics are playing pretty well, with a 26-22 record, but our guys are getting so much closer every game. I think if they play like they did in Portland this could be the first win of the road trip.

    Check back tomorrow for more inside scoop of what's going on out here, and give you more insight as to how the players and coaches get ready on game day. I'm also going to try to hang out a little bit with Jamal Crawford and find out what it's like to come home to Seattle for the first time as a pro.

    Fizer Marcus Fizer caught up with Khalid and the two enjoyed Seattle's waterfront.
    El-Amin Khalid El-Amin demonstrated that he can fit right in with the crew at Pike's Fish Shop.


    All photographs courtesy of Bill Smith, Chicago Bulls