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New Sonics radio play-by-play broadcaster David Locke is Locked on the Sonics. He'll follow all the news, rumors and more throughout the 2006-07 season. Locked on Sonics will be updated regularly, break news and have audio interviews on the biggest stories. E-mail David your questions at AskLocke@sonics-storm.com

So Easy
Posted on March 30 | permalink


This one was easy. The Sonics dominated early and often. The Grizz are not very good and they were generally uninterested after winning last night in Portland.

However, as one assistant coach reminded me, NBA teams are like women (or read men). If you put the 30 best looking women in the world together, someone has to be #30 and they are still pretty good looking. That is how NBA teams are. The Grizz may be #30, but they are still pretty good - that is, if you let them. This was a team for the taking and the Sonics took it. Impressively, the Sonics played the game correctly all night. They moved the ball and they played together. Instead of just jacking shots they executed sets and got great looks.

Luke Ridnour set the tone early and was very good. He had nine assists in the first quarter and finished with 12. It was the first time he had double-digit assists since the Sonics beat the Grizz on Feb. 20 and the sixth time this season.

Johan Petro notched a career high with 22 points. He had the jump shot rolling. He is going to be an effective offensive player in the NBA. He will be one of four post players in a rotation. How he develops his instincts defensively, his focus day in and day out and any back-to-the-basket game will determine which of those players he is in the post rotation.

The Sonics have won three in a row and will try for their longest win streak of the season, four, against Denver on Sunday. See you at the Key.

Remember it is time to act. Go to Find Your Legislator and send them a message.

Ra Lew is the Man
Posted on March 28 | permalink


Hello Stardom. In two nights Rashard Lewis has gone from borderline All-Star to a bona fide game-winner.

There are not many game-winners in this league. A lot of guys can score. More can take a lot of shots. But very few players can administer their will on a basketball game.

The Sonics have won three of their past four and in all of those Lewis has been the best player on the floor. Better than Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony. Rashard scored 21 points in the fourth quarter in Minnesota on Tuesday night and followed that with 13 fourth-quarter points in the win over Denver on Wednesday.

For the second night in a row, he did it with a variety of moves. He posted up; he hit threes; and most impressively, he showed the dribble drive.

The world has changed for Rashard now that he can put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket from the top of the key. I had always felt that he lacked the first-step speed to beat his man. However, when he drives from the top he has more room and is able to use his length.

Add to the equation the move he showed with 5:09 left in the game against Denver. He had the ball at the top of the key, guarded by Marcus Camby. Rashard got low into a dribble crouch and crossed over to the left hand and took two more left-handed dribbles and nailed the shot.

The book is out that Rashard wants to go right. However, a minute later, with seven seconds left on the shot clock, Rashard got the ball up top and Anthony shaded him to the left. Rashard gave an aggressive one-dribble jab to his left and Anthony retreated, opening Rashard to take two dribbles to his right and hit a nasty pull-up jumper.

The combination of his improved dribbling and his remarkable shot-making ability makes Rashard an unstoppable offensive player. The latest addition is a level of moxie that few players in the game can match.

Rashard has been brilliant late in games all season. Before the latest stretch he was 5-for-5 in the final moments of games and 9-for-9 in late-game situations. Now he has added to that resume.

I was talking to Nate McMillian about his time as the Sonics head coach and we talked about the end of games in the Northwest Division Championship Season. He said that during that season they had begun to go to Rashard late in games and play off his action to create for the rest of the team.

Thus the maturation we have seen the last two nights has been developing for some time.

On another note, I love seeing Gelabale on the floor. In the last two games the Sonics have outscored their opponents by 25 points when he was on the floor. On the flight back I had Walt Rock, assistant coach in charge of video, show me a collection of plays involving Gelabale.

Gelabale is so subtle. He makes the slightest move to create a passing lane. He keeps his arms spread defensively to discourage action. He runs the floor with fire, which forces the defense to react. This kid makes winning plays and the Sonics seem to be a much better team when he is on the floor.

A very impressive two-game stretch for the Sonics and two game stretch that changes who Rashard Lewis is as a player.

What a Comeback
Posted on March 27 | permalink


Tonight was completely beyond my wildest imagination.

There are a lot of items to be discussed. The #1 thing is the effort and pride the Sonics showed in the second half. Down 25, out of the playoffs, without your leading scorer and playing terribly, the easy thing would be to pack it in.

Instead, they battled. That says a tremendous amount for the future of this franchise. I am not sure where it comes from. Is it personal pride? Is there a leader emerging in the locker room?

Without this pride, your franchise is without hope. See Minnesota. This is the core that will allow the franchise to be re-built and develop a winning culture under the new ownership group.

The scariest moment for a franchise in any sport is when the players realize the checks still arrive regardless of outcome and that dictates their actions. The Sonics have impressively avoided that in a tumultuous season.

Rashard Lewisí fourth quarter performance was marvelous. Place it near the top of best performances of the season. He scored 21 points in the fourth quarter. He went 9 of 9 from the free-throw line.

Go back to Memphis before Rashardís injury. He willed himself upon the game. It was something new. I had never seen him will himself to dictate the outcome of a game. Only the rarest of players can do this in the NBA. Quite frankly, the future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett has failed to do that in the last two meetings between the Sonics and Wolves.

Down 15, Rashard scored eight straight and continued the run, scoring 18 of 22 Sonics points starting at the 6:25 mark. He hit threes. He posted up. He took a top-of-the-key dribble drive at both KG and Trenton Hassell. He was unreal.

Think about it for a moment. He scored 18 points in six minutes. The Sonics closed on a 25-2 and 18 of them were by Rashard.

The overall run was 51-18 over the last 18 minutes. Mike Wilks checked in with the Sonics down 25 and conducted the comeback. He played as you would anticipate from the ďExecutive.Ē

Chris Wilcox just finished his third straight night against a future Hall of Fame power forward. While in none of those games has he dominated like the insane game against Washington (27 points, 22 rebounds), he did manage to post 19 points and 9 rebounds against the Wolves. Over the three-game stretch he averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds. That is really impressive considering the competition.

Tonight was amazing. I hope you caught the comeback. This has been a tough year for Sonics fans and this was the reward, one of the greatest comebacks in franchise history.

Listen to some of the key calls in one of the biggest Sonics comebacks ever.

Time to Act
Posted on March 27 | permalink


THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.

The state Legislature is about to enter its final month. Have you e-mailed your legislator? Let him or her know that you want an indoor, multipurpose events center in the Puget Sound.

What should you say?

Speak from your heart, but if you want a little guidance, I have mentioned three things in my e-mails to them:

  • First, as a parent, I want the Sonics and Storm to be a part of my childrenís experiences. Following teams, going to games and being a part of the city's teams is an integral part of a child's upbringing. Moreover, I have very strong feelings about the value of the Seattle Storm for young boys and girls.

  • Second, the tax revenues are in place. The proposed new arena does not place undo burden on the King County tax payer. This is a reasonable manner to further the development of the region.

  • Third, what happens if you donít build the new arena? What happens to the teams? What happens to our region without a multipurpose arena? And what will it cost in 2014 when we decide we want a team and have to pay for it without a tenant and without this tax revenue?

    I also mention the value that a sports franchise brings to the community. What was it worth when we got a week's worth of national TV coverage about our great city when the Sonics played the Bulls in the Finals? What was it worth when the TV cameras showed our gorgeous city to the rest of the nation while 72,000 people screamed relentlessly at Qwest Field during the NFC Championship game? Or when the Mariners set an American League record for wins in a season? These are moments that bring a community together and make people want to be a part of that magic.

    PLEASE SEND A LETTER OR E-MAIL TO YOUR LEGISLATOR.

    It is time to act. Go to Find Your Legislator and send them a message.

    Fourth-Worst Loss in Sonics History
    Posted on March 25 | permalink


    To call this a really bad matchup is an understatement.

    I asked Bob after the game why he played Danny Fortson and he said "I promised Danny he could play Duncan and I wanted to keep my word." I can't tell you I have any understanding of what that means or why he played.

    The Spurs are in the class of the Mavs and the Suns. They are playing Duncan only 35 minutes a night, Parker just 33 and Ginobili just 28. That will change in the playoffs and that means they will be even better then they are right now. Remember, last year the Spurs and the Mavs series had five of the seven games decided by one possession.

    Had Dirk missed his shot to force overtime in Game 7, the Spurs would likely have won three of the last four titles. If Derek Fisher's miracle hadn't fallen in 2002-03, they might be the four-time defending World Champions. Think about that.

    Reboudning Rate
    Posted on March 24 | permalink


    Last night on the broadcast we introduced the term, rebounding rate. The best way to calculate someoneís rebounding prowess is to determine the % of rebounds they grab that were available when they were in the game.

    This is superior to rebounds per game or rebounds per 48 minutes.

    The best in the NBA are David Lee of the Knicks, Dwight Howard of Orlando, Tyson Chandler of New Orleans, Carlos Boozer of the Jazz and the Al Jefferson of the Celtics.

    Andre Brown is the best for the Sonics. Here is the link to check the Sonics leaders and here for the NBA leaders.

    10 Minutes of Rock 'n Roll
    Posted on March 23 | permalink


    We snoozed for 38 minutes and then rocked and rolled for the final 10 and got an outcome everybody liked as they departed KeyArena.

    The Sonics couldnít find a rhythm. They couldnít make a shot and couldnít take control of the game until Rashard checked back into the game with 9:37 left. The Sonics trailed by nine. From that point on Rashard scored 13 points and the man he was guarding, Kevin Garnett, was held scoreless. Rashard hit a three that put Seattle ahead and they never looked back.

    Earl Watson was terrific with relentless aggressiveness. The Sonics tied a franchise record with just five turnovers. In the fourth quarter, Watson led the Sonics through high pick-and-roll after high pick-and-roll. He got into the paint time and time again. He even banked home a three that swung the momentum.

    Mickael Gelabale got extended action for the first time since Rashard returned from his injury in early February. He showed all the signs of being a strong basketball player. When he was on the floor tonight the Sonics outscored the Timberwolves by 17 points.

    On a side note, the Timberwolves are now 9-19 since they let Dwane Casey go. They were 20-20 beforehand.

    See you tomorrow at Touchdowns, 423 Airport Way in Renton for the Save our Sonics and Storm Rally, at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

    Have you e-mailed your legislator today? Go to EventsCenterFacts.com to find your legislator.

    Allen Update
    Posted on March 23 | permalink


    Ray Allen will not play tonight for the Sonics against Minnesota. Rick Sund told reporters at shootaround that Allen has traveled to Los Angeles to meet with Dr. Richard Ferkel, an ankle specialist, for further examination. Dr. Ferkel performed surgery on Allen's right ankle in October 2003, when he had a loose body removed from the ankle.

    We should know more about Allen's status and whether he will opt for surgery by this weekend or Monday at the latest. Stay tuned to SUPERSONICS.COM for updates.

    Wilcox Interview
    Posted on March 23 | permalink


    Yesterday's interview with Chris Wilcox was very good and revealing. I hope you heard it as part of the Sonics Locker Room show, but if not click here to hear it by itself.

    By the way, here's the Rebound Rate link I mentioned on the air.

    Close Games and Wilcox
    Posted on March 22 | permalink


    Sonics ran through some shooting and other drills today at practice. No word on Ray Allenís ankle yet. Ray was at practice, but didnít participate.

    You can ask Frank Hughes on his blog what the best line of the day at practice was. If he needs a hint, it involves Danny Fortson.

    There was some discussion in the papers that the Sonics were unaware of the Wizards being without a timeout. From everyone I talked to today that is not what took place. The coaches all mentioned to the players that the Wizards were without timeouts. Gordie Chiesa even specifically mentioned the Utah game and that the Wizards have a similar style late in games. So dismiss that conversation piece.

    Todayís Sonics Locker Room show focuses on two items, Chris Wilcox's great play and close games. The show includes sit-down interviews with Chris Wilcox and Bob Hill. I asked Coach Hill the question that is on every Sonics fan's mind: ďIf you had to zero in on one or two reasons why the Sonics were losing close games, what are they?Ē Here is his answer. For the entire interview with Bob and Chris go to the Sonics Locker Room show.

    Two weeks ago I interviewed Earl Watson for the Sonics Locker Room show and Earl was fantastic. I hope all of you got a chance to hear it. If not, click here.

    Arenas and Weezy
    Posted on March 21 | permalink


    Update the spreadsheet. The Sonics lost another close game. Tonight it was Gilbert Arenas driving to the basket for the game-winner. For the most part the Sonics played the stretch run really well.

    Rashard continued his terrific late-game play this season with two buckets at 1:30 and 1:03. Luke missed a three at :25.9 and Rashard missed with :14.6 left. But a missed free throw by Darius Songaila gave the Sonics a chance to tie and Rashard drove to the basket got two free throws and hit them both.

    Then it was Gilbert Arenas going to work for his third buzzer-beater of the season.

    Gilbert has amazing understanding of time. He got the shot off and it went through the net as the red light flashed. He plays the game so calm and collected.

    It was a terrifically entertaining night at the Key. The star making his one appearance, Gilbert Arenas, was worth the price of admission. The Sonics played very well and made most of the plays late.

    The biggest Sonics story of the night was the continued great play of Chris Wilcox. Tonight, Chris notched his second career 20-20 game, finishing with 27 points and 22 rebounds. Most impressive was the way Chris played the game. His energy was sustained. His confidence was obvious. He had patience on the offensive side of the ball.

    With the confidence he has garnered from the last few nights, Wilcox's athleticism shines even brighter. He made great effort plays that have been missing at times this season. On one dunk tonight he grabbed the ball at the outside of the glass, brought it back from below the rim and ripped it through the net for a vicious crowd-energizing show-stopping dunk.

    Looking back at what might have ignited Chris I would go back to the East Coast road trip and then the first game back against Detroit. Chris had a really poor two-game stretch in Philadelphia and Boston. He seemed to lose confidence and lose energy. But in Toronto he began to come around. For a stretch of two or three possessions, Chris went at the Raptors and scored. Then, against Detroit, the Sonics opened that game going to Wilcox at Rasheed Wallace. Wilcox hit his first seven field goals against one of the better defenders in the NBA. After a solid game against Golden State it all clicked in Portland.

    Weezy dominated Zach Randolph and the Blazers. He scored on Randolph. He scored on Magloire and he spun on the youngster Aldridge. He varied his moves. He came from different angels and most of all he played like he believed. Tonight he showed he believed again. He was the best player on the floor at times tonight. His confidence changed how he approached the game.

    If Chris can sustain this down the stretch against some tough matchups with Minnesota, Dallas and San Antonio, then he has really broken through to the other side.

    No Ray
    Posted on March 21 | permalink


    The Sonics will be without Ray Allen tonight. Though he was able to gut it out and hit a key three-pointer in the fourth quarter, it was clear Sunday in Portland that Allen was not moving well. He shot just 4-for-19 from the field in that game. Allen visited a doctor yesterday and will be day-to-day for the foreseeable future, depending on how his ankle feels.

    Damien Wilkins will replace Ray in the starting lineup tonight.

    Late Game Misery, Research Style
    Posted on March 20 | permalink


    Without question, this year will be defined and remembered for all of the late-game losses. It started on Opening Night and never stopped. The Sonics have lost 18 games by six or less. They have lost 11 games in which they had the lead in the final five minutes, and two of those were games where they lost leads in the final 5 minutes in both regulation and overtime.

    Why? That is beyond me and probably a combination of numerous factors rather than a single isolated factor.

    However, after the loss to the Warriors, where we once again lost at the buzzer, I had to find out what really has happened this year. Therefore, in Portland I decided to go through the play-by-play sheets of every close game this season and see what I discovered.

    Here is what I discovered.

  • Surprisingly, the Sonics are shooting 8-of-18 in the final 10 seconds of close games this year. I think 8-of-18 is pretty good. It doesnít feel like that, but that is the reality. I am not sure you can be much better than that. 82games.com did a study last year that found the league as a whole shoots 29.2% in the final 24 seconds. Personally, it is unrealistic to believe that you are making more than 44% of those shots. In other words, trying to win at the buzzer is a bad way to live in the NBA.

    We also had two turnovers in those circumstances.

  • Rashard has been remarkable in late-game moments. He is 3-for-3 in the final 10 seconds of games and is about 7-for-7 in clutch moments of games down the wire. (Give that stat a little leeway because it is hard to define what situations are clutch times.)

  • This has not been as good a year for Ray as last season in the final moments. He is just 4-of-11 in the final 10 seconds of games. Again, I would argue if he hits the open shot in Philly he is 5-of-11 and that is pretty darn good considering how tough some of the looks are late in a game.

    In late-game clutch moments, Ray is 7-of-22. This is surprisingly low for someone as good as Ray.

  • A surprise was how good and important Gelabale has been late in games. While he has played sparingly in those circumstances, he has hit three key shots as well as two big free throws. That is three of the 12 close game wins this season where the rookie has made a big play. As a reminder, Gelabale hit the game-winning three in the Spanish League finals a couple of years ago.

  • Of the 18 losses by six or less, on six of those occasions the Sonics never led in the fourth quarter. It is hard to play from behind the entire quarter.

    The most alarming to me is the 11 games that the team led in the final five minutes and lost. The biggest blow-ups of the season were Opening Night, when the Sonics lost a seven-point lead with 3:54 left and then two recent close losses when they blew a six-point lead with 4:23 left in Toronto and a seven-point lead with 4:02 left against the Warriors.

    I am not sure what I discovered, but the spreedsheet is here for you to look over and see what you discover. Bottom line, as Kevin Pelton's story reiterates, I am certain this team isnít losing 18 games by six or less next year. It has been a wild year. Maybe we are paying off the debt this year and we get the dividends next year.

    To the Mailbag - Rashard, Arena, Fourth Quarters and More
    Posted on March 19 | permalink


    Thanks to everyone who has sent in questions to Sonics Access. We are rewarding anyone who has their question used on air or on SUPERSONICS.COM to tickets an up coming game. A bunch of you will be at the game Wednesday with the Sonics and Gilbert Arenas. Enjoy the game.

    Here are some of the most recent questions. As I have said I will make a concerted effort to try to respond to questions more frequently, be it weekly or biweekly.

    David, Thank you for taking the time to read my e-mail. My name is Steve, I'm 27 years old and I have cerebral palsy. The Sonics have always had a special place in my heart. In my youth the teams people were talking about were Husky football and Sonics basketball. It's hard for me to fathom Seattle without the Sonics. In your short time doing play-by-play with the Sonics, are you getting positive vibes from ownership about staying here? Is Mr. Bennett getting frustrated with the politics?
    Your friend, Steve.

    First off Steve thank you for sharing the place the Sonics have in your life. I agree. I canít fathom the area without the Sonics. These stories need to be relayed to our legislators so they understand the importance of the teams to our youth.

    I have a close friend who lives down the street whose child was struck with very serious cancer to the brain. He has fully recovered and is an inspiration to all us. The Sonics have played a major part of his recovery. These stories are too powerful to be forgotten.

    On the simplest level I have a 4 year old and 2 year old and the experience of going to games, following teams and having fun outings with their parents is something that should be a part of their upbringing.

    Directly to your question, I have been very impressed with Mr. Bennett when I have spent time with him. This is universal in our office. I owe him the decency of keeping some in-house things private, but I can assure you this is a fair and decent man who is a straight shooter. There is no doubt he wants to get the deal done.

    It is a great question if he is frustrated. I can only answer this way. Last time he and I talked, he said to me, ďIt needs to be more than just me, it is time for people to act, it canít be only me wanting an arena.Ē

    I guess that is our call to action. So letís get going.

    From Carol J - Where's the two-man game in the fourth quarter? My nephew pointed this out when we attended a game in November. I remember the good year under Nate and we were very successful having Rashard and Allen use the two-man game to close out games. Having Allen dribble, dribble and try to create his own shot doesn't work often enough. Yeah, I'm frustrated and we desperately need to win out to get people excited.

    I did a ton of research about the late-game struggles. We will be publishing it tomorrow at SUPERSONICS.COM. We have lost 18 games by six or less. Surprisingly, we have shot 8-of-18 in the final 10 seconds of games, which is really pretty good.

    I talked to Nate the other night and asked him where he went with the ball in late games when he was the coach of the Sonics. He said that he ran the initial play through Rashard and then let it develop out of that. Some scouts believe Ray is a better shooter than scorer. Therefore, if you can get him the shot out of the offense you are better off than getting him a shot off his own dribble.

    Also, our research shows Rashard has not missed a shot in a key late-game circumstance this season.

    Check it out at SUPERSONICS.COM.

    From Kelsi in Hoquiam, and others: What is going to happen with Rashard?

    It looks as though Rashard is going to opt out of contract and become a free agent. Donít misunderstand this and go nuts. Recall back when the Sonics and Rashard were negotiating his current contract five years ago. It was a long process with Rashardís side saying, 'I am on the road to being an All-Star,' and the Sonics saying, 'Maybe, but you arenít right now.' Therefore, they compromised and wrote a contract where when Rashard made the All-Star team he got a nice bonus and if, after five years he was felt he was playing better than his contract, he could opt out to get his market value.

    That is where we are. It is truly one of the most fair circumstances I have been around.

    I believe Rashard will return to Seattle. Seattle has become his second home. He made the comment early this season, ďSeattle is the mother and I am its child.Ē The Sonics also will be able to match any offer and add another year.

    My only concern is that in the recent Sports Illustrated piece Rashard had a note of bitterness left over from the last negotiation. That needs to be dealt with by the new ownership and leadership before anything else in the negotiation.

    We have watched Rashard become a star and I believe we will watch him take the next step to being a leader and the man on a team in the upcoming years in Green and Gold.

    From Fred: Kobe is better than Dirk, Wade and Nash

    I have to admit, it is pretty hard to argue with that comment at this point. When the dude drops 115 points in two games, who is going to quibble? He is also the most talented defender in the game.

    At the same time, look back at Wade last year in the Finals. Think about what Nash has done for the Suns franchise and how they all need him to be the players they are and that Dirk has the Mavericks playing at a level really close to MJís Bulls.

    Those four are a larger statement to how insanely talented the league is right now. By the way, by the time the playoffs are over, Tim Duncan may be in this group as well.

    From #1 Sonics Fan, Joey - Hey David. Since Al Jefferson was named Player of the Week, it has made me think about whether the Sonics picked the right guy in the 2004 draft. In their first two years they had similar numbers and both had huge upside, but this year Al Has taken his game to a new level and it looks like he is on his way to being an all-star in the next 2-3 years, but then again he is also playing for Boston. Although Robert had a fairly good training camp, Iím not sure if he is going to get to the level it appears Jefferson is headed for. Thanks Locke.

    It is a great question and totally fair. I think two things come to mind. Look at both Jefferson and Andris Biedrins, of the Warriors. Both of them went from 6 points 4 rebound players to double-double players in their third season. I have always believed in the third-year explosion. Kevin Pelton did some unreal research on this a few years back and we will have to bring it back at SUPERSONICS.COM in the near future.

    I am not sure that I saw Swift exploding the way Jefferson and Biedrins did this season, but I didnít see either of these guys making the strides they did either. It is a good reminder of how big an injury that really was for the Sonics this season.

    The other thing on that draft is the Sonics werenít as interested in Jefferson because they already had Collison. Nick has been very good for the Sonics, but I do think this is a good reminder of why you should never pass on a good player because you think you have that position solidified. Nick has become a center and I think Jefferson and Collison could have played together.

    Hey David, First off. I am a HUGE Sonic fan and a big Luke Ridnour fan. I grew up playing against him in high school and root for him every game. But last night seemed to confirm some suspicions I have. When Mike Wilks and Earl were in the game the Bobcats had very little penetration. As good as Luke is running the show he seems to be a huge liability on defense and lately he is shooting the ball like he did last year. Do you think he is the long term answer as our PG.
    Thanks for your time......GO SUPES!!!! -Greg

    This is the number one issue confronting the Sonics. Do they have a 35-minute-a-night point guard on their roster? Unfortunately, this season the point guard play has been below par and led to a lot of the team's struggles.

    The point guard position is the hardest to learn in the NBA. I would argue the two best in the NBA right now are Steve Nash and Chauncey Billups. Neither of them hit their stride until their sixth year in the NBA. This means Luke still has time and we have seen great progress at times this season.

    On a side note, according to 82games.com the Sonics allow 0.1 more pts per 100 possessions with Luke on the floor then when he is on the bench and 3.3 pts more when Watson is on the floor than on the bench. Those numbers would say Luke is having a better defensive year than Earl.

    David - Just a quick note to let you know I heaved a great sigh of relief when I saw your NCAA picks. I've used your numbers the last two years to win my pool, (even though you only had one team right last year, it was still enough since no #1 seeds made the Final Four and your one correct team was Florida). I was afraid you wouldn't be doing it this year with your new job and station. THANKS SO MUCH for continuing the tradition and hopefully you will do so again next year!
    A Grateful Listener, Love you on the broadcasts - you've done a great job - Eric and Lori

    Thanks. I am not sure we are going to go 3 for 3 for you. We will need some big breaks on Thursday and Friday to get seven of the Elite 8 and then more to get all four of the Final Four.

    Thanks for all the questions. Keep them coming and I will do a better job of posting the responses. For all of you who won the tickets, have a good time Wednesday watching the Sonics and Agent Zero.

    Luck Doesn't Last
    Posted on March 18 | permalink


    Ouch. How one day changes the feel on your brackets. Nothing went as the numbers expected today.

    USC didnít come out as a team that was going to be able to beat Texas or be a Sweet 16 team. Yet they were dominating. The magic of Winthrop never materialized. Oregon looked fantastic in a blow out win on their way to the 16.

    The Pac-10 could have had four of the 16 if WSU had held on. If you look back over the last four to five years, the Pac-10 always shows very well in the tournament. Maybe their commissioner should promote them.

    Wisconsin looked very strong numerically. However, UNLV controlled the Badgers for most of that game.

    So a day after a lucky eight for eight today was a big fall. The only good news is that the numbers still have seven of their eight Elite Eight teams alive and all four Final Four teams.

    In the battle with 950,KJRís Mitch Levy the numbers still lead ,36 correct to 32 correct.

    Luck means Eight for Eight
    Posted on March 18 | permalink


    The numbers had a good day with the brackets yesterday as we had all eight teams advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. However, letís take a moment for humility. Yes, rare, but needed. When every game is going to the wire and overtime and when every game is being decided by a free throw here or there the numbers are just getting lucky.

    The only thing I think the numbers proved is that Xavier was good enough to battle Ohio State and VCU was good enough to battle Pitt or that Vandy was in the same class as WSU. The fact that we got lucky on all eight games is purely that luck.

    Lucky isnít a bad thing since I am in first place in any pool I have entered. Just donít live by luck or expect it to last.

    Today wonít be as good a day since I have Long Beach State going to the Sweet Sixteen and they are back on campus. Winthrop has been the numbers team the whole time so keep an eye on how they do against Oregon.

    Todayís picks are Florida, Texas, Vrigina Tech, Nevada, Kansas and Wisconsin. Also Winthrop will take down the Ducks to continue the Pac-10ís misery. If I had to choose Iíll take Virginia over Tenn, but I hate both of those teams statistically.

    Also, in the battle with 950, KJRís Mitch Levy the numbers lead 34 correct to 29 correct, points 41 to 34.

    Broken Record
    Posted on March 17 | permalink


    Somebody move the needle off the record because it is skipping. Same song, same verse, same chorus, different night.

    Sonics lead by seven with four minutes left and lose to the Golden State Warriors. This is the 18th loss by the Sonics by six or less.

    As this season has progressed we have begun to focus on when in the game are we losing all these close games. The easy route is to focus in on the final four minutes and that is probably legitimate as well. However, these games are being lost somewhere else in the game. During the broadcast tonight we highlighted a stretch in the third quarter where, as the Sonics were making their run, they turned the ball over three straight times and on five of seven possessions.

    This is the lack of focus and carelessness that comes back to haunt you in the end. These possessions meant that the margin for error was nonexistent.

    When you watch a game looking for a play or three that is costing you the game it is too easy to find them and too hard to really figure which are the reality of an NBA game.

    The other issue is why this team is incapable of holding leads in the final minutes of games. The Sonics led by seven with four minutes left. Offensively, the Sonics scored three points in the final four minutes of the game. They missed four three-point attempts, committed two turnovers, missed two shots from 10 to 15 feet and hit one of two free throws.

    What jumps out is in the final nine possessions of the game we took four three-pointers. One of them came with 19 on the shot clock. If one of those threes goes, you win. You would think this team makes one. However, I was taught a lot of the game from Jerry Sloan and he fiercely believes that late in games with the nerves, the fatigue and the pressure, those shots donít go in. Also, you arenít going to the free throw line from 25 feet and that is where you win games late.

    Off to Portland with hopes of winning a close one and ending the losing streak.

    After Round 1
    Posted on March 17 | permalink


    Through the first round of the NCAAs the numbers have gotten 27 of the 32 games correct. The killer was the Winthrop vs. Notre Dame matchup. If you recall, the numbers show Winthrop as a potential Final Four team. They had no fatal flaws and qualified in eight of the nine categories.

    In my bracket I made a mistake and took Notre Dame over Winthrop because they had a better offense, but Winthrop had a better differential and I should have weighed that more. Look for Winthrop to go Elite Eight if not make it all the way to the Final Four. They are real according to the numbers.

    Quite frankly, I blew it. Winthrop was a better numbers pick then Notre Dame. I hope you followed the early blogs and took Winthrop.

    Look for Butler today and Vandy over the Cougs - according to the numbers, at least.

    In my battle with 950 KJRís Mitch Levy, the numbers are up by three after the first round.

    12 for 12
    Posted on March 15 | permalink


    I hope you followed the NCAA by the numbers method of picking the tourney. With the VCU upset of Duke we are 12 of 12 so far on the opening day. It can all change in a hurry, but so far, so good.

    Luke Ready to Go
    Posted on March 15 | permalink


    A few notes from today:

  • Luke Ridnour practiced and is ready to go for the next two games against Golden State and Portland. He had missed the last five Sonics games with a herniated cervical disc in his neck.

    "I can run and shoot and everything," he said after practice, "so Saturday hopefully is a go date."

    Luke continues to undergo treatment to keep the disc from going back into spasm, but aggravating the injury by taking a hit to the neck isn't a concern.

  • Ray Allen and Nick Collison were rested for much of practice to help them recover from the wear and tear of the season. Nickís hip is giving him significant pain.

  • After practice, Francis Williams and I talked to the Sonics players about their March Madness memories and that is all part of todayís Sonics Locker Room show.

  • I hope you watched the Dallas vs. Phoenix game last night. It was fantastic. When it ended I was thinking, ďNo, donít end. I want more.Ē I even went back and watched the regulation for a second time.

  • Congrats to the Washington State Cougars for their tournament victory today. I think the Cougars' Kyle Weaver is going to play in the NBA. He has a nice compliment of skills and really can defend.

  • Enjoy March Madness. I have placed a wager with a good friend, KJR 950 AM's Mitch Levy, on our brackets. He is a great college basketball fan and knows the college game really well. It will be his knowledge against my computer numbers. Last year the numbers beat the expert.

    Locke Analysis: Picking the Early Rounds
    Posted on March 14 | permalink


    Over the past two seasons I have tried to find the statistical indicators that tell you which categories win and which lose. One indicator in 2005, forcing turnovers, fell flat on its face in 2006. However, some others carried through from one year to the next.

    Indicator #1 - Offensive teams win
    In 2005, nine of the top 13 offensive teams made the Sweet Sixteen. This held true in 2006. The top offensive teams are Florida, Texas A&M, Xavier, Butler, Notre Dame, Nevada, UNC, Gonzaga, BYU, Georgetown, Ohio State, Texas, VCU and Vanderbilt.

    Almost the only time these teams lose is when they play themselves.

    Indicator #2 Ė Flip it around, bad offenses lose
    Only two of the bottom 20 offensive teams have made it to the Sweet Sixteen. Note that one was LSU who went to the Final Four.

    The ten worst offensive teams are: Illinois, Holy Cross, Marquette, Stanford, Miami Ohio, Michigan State, Southern Illinois, Louisville, Arkansas, Duke and George Washington. Tennessee is #11.

    Louisville and Stanford play in the first round, as do Marquette and Michigan State.

    Indicator #3 Ė Teams with the best efficiency differential advance the farthest
    In 2005, 10 of the top 14 efficiency differential teams made the Sweet Sixteen. In 2006, seven of the top 10 made the Sweet Sixteen and eight of the top 14 (but three of the six that didnít lost to teams that made it). Overall, 18 of the top 28 efficiency differnetial teams made the Sweet Sixteen and three would had they not lost to other teams that qualified.

    The top 15 teams in terms of efficiency differential are Texas A&M, Florida, Kansas, UNC, Memphis, Wisconsin, Winthrop, Ohio State, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Butler, UCLA, Xavier, Maryland and Nevada.

    Winthrop and Notre Dame play in the first round, which is too bad because both are great upset picks.

    Indicator #4 Ė Canít shoot, canít win
    Only two of the bottom 15 teams in eFG% made the Sweet Sixteen and only one of the bottom 15 made it in 2006.

    The bad shooting teams are Marquette, Holy Cross, Villanova, Illinois, Louisville, Stanford, Old Dominion, Virginia, Creighton, George Washington, Miami Ohio, Texas Tech, Tennessee, Virginia Tech and UNLV.

    Questionable Indicator #5 Ė Forcing Turnovers
    This worked brilliantly in 2005 but busted in 2006.

    This may be because many of these teams are in the "canít shoot" category. Those teams that are in the top 15 of forcing turnovers are Holy Cross, Southern Illinois, Tennessee, Marquette, Memphis, George Washington, VCU, Georgia Tech, Purdue, Villanova, UCLA, Kansas, Illinois and Louisville.

    Have fun with all of this and good luck on the brackets.

    Locke Analysis: The Final Four
    Posted on March 13 | permalink


    I have created a system that projects the Final Four teams. In 2005, it got all four Final Four teams correct. In 2006 it got just one. You can decide if you want to use it.

    I have run the numbers of the past 10 years of Final Four participants, 40 teams. In nine statistical categories I have created thresholds that define a Final Four team and threshold that eliminate you from being a Final Four Team.

    Below are this yearís projections. If you donít feel like reading, my projection this year for the Final Four is North Carolina, Florida, Texas A&M and Kansas. But keep an eye on some of the others, including the team that may be this yearís George Mason.

    By the way, George Mason last year had no fatal flaws and qualified as a Final Four Team in seven of the nine categories. If I had only believed my numbers, the money I could have made!

    Definitions
    Efficiency Differential Ė Best indicator of quality of team
    Fatal Flaw - Falls below the threshold of what 95% of Final Four Teams Accomplish
    Bucking Trend - Falls below the level that 85% of Final Four Teams Accomplish
    Qualify - Fulfills what 70% of all Final Four Teams Accomplish

    EAST REGION
    Team
    Efficiency Differential
    Fatal Flaws
    Bucking Trends
    Qualify
    North Carolina
    21.0
    0
    0
    8
    Georgetown
    16.7
    1
    0
    7
    Washington State
    11.4
    2
    0
    4
    Texas
    12.7
    1
    2
    3
    USC
    9.3
    3
    0
    4
    Vanderbilt
    6.9
    4
    1
    3
    Boston College
    6.1
    4
    2
    2
    Marquette
    9.7
    3
    1
    2
    Michigan State
    11.6
    2
    0
    5
    Texas Tech
    4.8
    5
    0
    3
    George Washington
    8.8
    1
    4
    2
    Arkansas
    7.2
    3
    1
    1
    New Mexico State
    7.2
    4
    1
    2
    Oral Roberts
    9.7
    3
    0
    2

    Summary: North Carolina is statistically perfect. Georgetownís flaw is they turn the ball over too much. UCLA had the same flaw last year and they played on Monday. Texas is not good enough defensively to advance to the Final Four.

    MIDWEST REGION
    Team
    Efficiency Differential
    Fatal Flaws
    Bucking Trends
    Qualify
    Florida
    22.6
    0
    1
    7
    Wisconsin
    18.6
    0
    0
    7
    Oregon
    12.3
    3
    0
    3
    Maryland
    13.9
    0
    1
    6
    Butler
    16.5
    0
    1
    6
    Notre Dame
    16.7
    0
    2
    6
    UNLV
    11.0
    2
    2
    3
    Arizona
    7.3
    5
    0
    4
    Purdue
    9.0
    1
    5
    1
    Georgia Tech
    11.3
    1
    3
    4
    Winthrop
    18.3
    0
    0
    8
    Old Dominion
    10.4
    1
    1
    3
    Miami (Ohio)
    3.2
    5
    0
    1

    Summary: Florida and Wisconsin are the class. Floridaís efficiency differential gives them the edge. Check out Winthrop. The easy answer is they donít play anyone. However, none of the other schools of that level have as good a resume, statistically speaking, as Winthrop. Also, Maryland and Notre Dame have very good resumes without a fatal flaw. This bracket is loaded.

    SOUTH REGION
    Team
    Efficiency Differential
    Fatal Flaws
    Bucking Trends
    Qualify
    Ohio State
    17.5
    0
    0
    8
    Memphis
    20.1
    0
    0
    7
    Texas A&M
    23.2
    0
    0
    9
    Virginia
    6.9
    2
    2
    2
    Tennessee
    6.0
    5
    1
    2
    Louisville
    11.2
    1
    2
    4
    Nevada
    13.7
    2
    0
    7
    BYU
    12.3
    1
    1
    6
    Xavier
    15.3
    1
    1
    6
    Creighton
    9.3
    2
    2
    1
    Stanford
    4.0
    4
    3
    1
    Long Beach State
    7.6
    5
    0
    2
    Albany
    5.1
    4
    1
    1

    Summary: The top 3 in this bracket are unreal. The rest is awful. Texas A&M is statistically the best team in this region. Ohio State is without flaw and Memphis is totally capable of winning it as well.

    WEST REGION
    Team
    Efficiency Differential
    Fatal Flaws
    Bucking Trends
    Qualify
    Kansas
    21.6
    0
    0
    9
    UCLA
    15.6
    0
    1
    6
    Pittsburgh
    13.0
    0
    1
    6
    Southern Illinois
    9.5
    3
    2
    1
    Virginia Tech
    10.5
    2
    2
    3
    Duke
    11.2
    1
    1
    5
    Indiana
    11.6
    0
    1
    3
    Kentucky
    7.8
    2
    2
    2
    Villanova
    11.1
    1
    3
    2
    Gonzaga
    11.2
    1
    0
    5
    VCU
    13.0
    3
    0
    4
    Illinois
    9.8
    2
    2
    2
    Holy Cross
    9.3
    4
    2
    2

    Summary: Kansas is flawless. UCLA could do it again. Last year, Kansas was flawless and a statistically Final Four pick and lost in the opening weekend. Truly, they are the class of this bracket by a long shot.

    17 Not So Sweet
    Posted on March 13 | permalink


    Tonight was the 17th loss of the season by the Sonics in games decided by six or less. Seventeen. It is almost unfathomable. Just take five or six of them and the Sonics are in the playoffs.

    Tonight the Pistons controlled most of the game, but the Sonics hung around well enough to have a shot late. Turnovers were the killer. Playing the best team in the NBA at taking care of the ball, you canít afford to give up 20 miscues.

    Ray Allen hit miraculous shot after miraculous shot to keep Seattle in the game. However, on the final few plays he couldnít find the range. Ray said after the game he would be up 'till 3 a.m. wondering what has happened in all of these games.

    Bob Hill also said that Chris Wilcox didnít run the final play correctly, leaving Ray only have one way to go.

    The bright spot of the night was Johan Petro, who played another very strong game. Petro did this in late December and January and then really struggled. He has now linked some good outings together. Both of the last two games he was very active and his offensive game is flat-out good.

    The big shot for the Pistons came from Big Shot Billups as he hit a three late that was a real dagger. Billups is just big time. He makes every big shot you can imagine.

    Chris Webber had his fourth straight game of nearly 20-10 for the Pistons. They ran a huge amount of the game through him in the post. He alters who they are dramatically and opens up a great deal for the other players. I was surprised how much they run through him rather than have him as a complementary piece.

    All But the Win in Toronto
    Posted on March 12 | permalink


    It is awfully nice to be back in Seattle. I donít care how hard it rains or how windy it might be, it is home and I missed it.

    You could see which players and announcers had kids waiting for them at the airport last night when we arrived, because we all had a little extra hop in our step. Next to my car was Nickís and his baby girl had the biggest grin when she saw daddy.

    Sundayís game was terrific. I am sure the early start meant a lot of people missed the game and for that I am sorry. It was great entertainment. Most importantly, the Sonics played really hard and really well the entire game.

    I was concerned after the layup Party in Boston that the team had cashed it in for the trip or longer and I was glad to see that pride prevailed. Donít ever doubt how competitive these guys are and how badly they want to win.

    Most pleasing to me was there were two times in the game when the Raptors grabbed momentum and could have easily run away and hid. It happened once in the third quarter and another time early in the fourth. However, the Sonics came out of each timeout and reasserted themselves on the game.

    The fourth quarter was an awesome display of Chris Bosh and Ray Allen going, "Can you match this?" In the overtime, when Nick Collison fouled out, the Sonics could no longer keep T.J. Ford down. That tells you how much defense is a team effort.

    Johan Petro had his best game of the year. He played with great energy. He grabbed a career-high 13 boards and continued to make his shots. Offensively, he really has become pretty good. If he can rebound with the same energy he will be really solid. Toronto was a good matchup. They are the 30th-best offensive rebounding team in the NBA and Petro struggles when it gets physical underneath.

    One play I thought was huge was when the Raptors got an easy open-floor layup late in the fourth quarter for Anthony Parker. What I liked was they didnít settle to get into a half-court set. Even as the game was winding down and every possession is intensified they were willing to push the ball and see if they could get something. They did, we lost focus getting back and gave up an easy look. Too often teams at about the six-minute mark start making everything a set play and never probe for that easy early look.

    Great effort. Great Game. Great Entertainment. Not the outcome we wanted.

    Draft Prospect - Greg Oden
    Posted on March 11 | permalink


    Throughout March I will be watching the NCAA games with a focus on the NBA. The Sonics could have a top-10 pick and two picks in the early second round, including Memphis' pick. These are my thoughts on the players after a short look.

    Greg Oden, Ohio State, Freshman, 7-0, 280
    DraftExpress Projection: 1

    Greg Oden is the best college big man I have seen since Patrick Ewing. Ewingís rookie year he averaged 20 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks. I will be surprised if Oden doesnít surpass that.

    Oden impacts the game. The games changes entirely based on if he is on the floor or off the floor. He is powerful inside. He rebounds with aggression. His offensive game is not refined, but it is good. Oden isnít flashy, he is solid. He moves very well for his size. He sees the ball well defensively and moves with instinct.

    His movements are fluid and almost effortless.

    Ewing is one of the greats of all time; he averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds for 13 years. I donít throw that name around loosely.

    Draft Prospect - Aaron Brooks
    Posted on March 11 | permalink


    Throughout March I will be watching the NCAA games with a focus on the NBA. The Sonics could have a top-10 pick and two picks in the early second round, including Memphis' pick. These are my thoughts on the players after a short look.

    Aaron Brooks, Oregon, Senior, 6-1, 160
    DraftExpress Projection: 40ís

    Brooks has a flair. The guy can play. For long stretches of the games this weekend he was the best player on the floor. The list of things he does well is long. He shoots it, defends, sees the floor, and plays really hard.

    Brooks comes off the high pick-and-roll fantastically. He is a shoot-first and pass-second guard and I am not sure that is going to hold in the NBA. Right now he has incredible freedom and freelances a good deal of the game. However, in the NBA all the other players on the floor will be just as good, so Brooks will need to rein that in and I am not clear if that is in his game.

    He is only 6-0, maybe. What he measures at the workouts will be dig. Size is a real deterrent to his game.

    However, Brooks has it. He wins basketball games. Considering the amount of guards in the league that have a hard time shooting, his ability to shoot should land him in the NBA. If he alters his game a little he will be in for a long time.

    Probably never more than a guy coming off the bench, but nor was Bobby Jackson and Brooks could develop like Jackson. If he doesnít alter his game, he could be Flip Murray.

    Draft Prospect - Alando Tucker
    Posted on March 11 | permalink


    Throughout March I will be watching the NCAA games with a focus on the NBA. The Sonics could have a top 10 pick and two early second picks, including Memphis pick. These are my thoughts on the players after a short look.

    Alando Tucker, Wisconsin, Senior, 6-5, 210
    DraftExpress Projection: 19

    This is the Big 10 Player of the Year. In my too-small sample size, I didnít see how he projects to the NBA. At 6-5 he needs to be a shooting guard.

    I didnít see a strong dribble-drive game. I didnít see huge energy or a flair. Tucker was a regular player on the floor. In fairness, the games were really slow placed and one was against Ohio State with Oden.

    Tucker is not a natural shooter. He is well below average from the free-throw line. In the Wisconsin system they ask him to play a lot of back to the basket, which wonít translate at all.

    Defensively, he stood very tall. He was not imposing.

    This is a guy I am going to put a close eye on in the tournament, because I didnít see it.

    Is it the Offense?
    Posted on March 8 | pe rmalink


    How did the Sonics find themselves 10 games below .500? What would you say if I told you the issue for the Sonics is they have slipped offensively? Would you buy it if I told you the Sonics are one of the most improved defensive teams in the NBA?

    Injuries, close losses - you know the list. They are all probably part of the issue, but for the sake of discussion, letís go with the notion that the Sonics slippage on offense is the problem for this team.

    Last season the Sonics ranked fourth in the NBA in Offensive Rating, scoring 111.9 points per 100 possessions. Only Phoenix, Dallas and Detroit were better offensively.

    This season the Sonics rank 12th in the NBA in Offensive Rating, scoring 108.1 points per 100 possessions. The Sonics have dropped off more than three points per 100 possessions.

    The flipside is the Sonics are the second most-improved defensive team in the NBA. Only Toronto has made a bigger improvement than the Sonics. The Sonics are allowing 5.5 less points per 100 possessions than they did a year ago. In fairness, this has a lot to do with the starting point. Last season, the Sonics were arguably the worst defensive team in NBA history. Toronto was the second-worst in the NBA.

    Back in training camp, the conversation was if the Sonics could become just decent defensively they would really prosper. I personally believed the Sonics would have a good season for exactly that reason. If they could get back in the zip code defensively, the thinking went, they would always be great offensively.

    Unfortunately, the Sonics have been closer to average than great on offense.

    A very good way to evaluate a team is to take their Offensive Rating and subtract their Defensive Rating. Last season, the Sonics were -5.4 points per 100 possessions. This year they are -2.4. Despite all the injuries, this team is an improvement on last year's squad.

    (Off the topic for a second: Numbers analysis treats a one-point loss and one-point win as virtually the same performance. Therefore, a team like this yearís Sonics team that has struggled to win close games will show far better in the numbers than in the standings.)

    Letís go hypothetical. Had the Sonics stayed at the same offensive level as they played last season, 111.9 pts per 100 possessions and coupled that with this seasonís improved defense, how good would they have been?

    The Sonics defense this year is allowing 110.5 points per 100 possessions. This would give the Sonics a differential of +1.4.

    That differential would place the Sonics as the NBA's 10th-best team and sixth in the Western Conference.

    The preseason hypothesis that if the defense could get into the ballpark of the rest of the league the Sonics would have a vastly improved season would have been accurate. Surprisingly, the Sonics offense didnít play along.

    How much have the injuries been an impact in the offensive slide? The Sonics on average have been 2.3 points per 100 possessions better offensively when they have both Ray and Rashard on the floor.

    They would be better had they been healthy, but there still would have been some slippage from the offensive rate of a season before.

    So the argument can be made the Sonics slippage offensively is the biggest issue for this team. Do you buy it? Let me know and send me your thoughts at AskLocke@sonics-storm.com.

    Draft Prospect - DJ Strawberry
    Posted on March 8 | permalink


    Throughout March I will be watching the NCAA games with a focus on the NBA. The Sonics could have a top-10 pick and two picks in the early second round, including Memphis' pick. These are my thoughts on the players after a short look.

    DJ Strawberry, Maryland, Senior, 6 foot 5 inches 205 pounds
    NBA DraftExpress Projection: Mid 40ís
    Strawberry had an unimpressive performance against Miami in the ACC Tournament. He floated throughout the game. His team was uninspired and he was right with them. Was a 75% player. He did 75% of what was needed. He was late on a lot of plays. Reached in rather than moving his feet.

    His strength as a defensive player. He is very athletic and has great defensive feet. However, he gambles a lot and rarely did he make the play.

    Offensively, his game was limited. He showed no jumper. He was solely a penetration and kick player, where he penetrates and kicks, but never finishes. He made two very bad offensive decisions late in the game that cost his team the game.

    He plays within the team rather than driving the team. If he makes the NBA he will be comfortable being a complimentary player.

    Ray Allen Wide Open for Three - What it Missed
    Posted on March 8 | permalink


    I am still shocked Ray missed the three to tie the game. After the game, Ray told me he just rushed it a little. He goes into that play assuming that he will be tightly guarded and is just trying to get his feet set to get enough lift on the shot. He had no idea he would be that open, nor did anyone in the building.

    Ray is usually flawless late in games, but last night was not his. He missed a free throw to give the Sonics the lead and didnít convert on either three attempt late in the game.

    The key to the entire game was the bottleneck that the Sixers put on Rashard Lewis. With Iguodala guarding Ray for most of the night, it seemed as though Rashard would be able to have his way with Willie Green and Kyle Korver.

    However, Rod was just 5-of-15. He looked visibly frustrated and at times it seemed to zap his effort.

    The bummer in the loss is that the Sonics got a strong effort from their usually punchless bench. Damien Wilkins was fantastic. Johan came off and gave a really strong first half.

    This is another one of those games where you wonder what possession it was that got away that could have changed the game.

    This team still does not play a strong time and score game. I would zero in on two key parts of the game. When the Sonics took the lead and had some confidence, Andre Miller simply took over for about three possessions to give the lead back to the Sixers. On the flipside, the Sonics got a nice defensive stop down four in the early fourth quarter and instead of really focusing on the possession they rushed it and let the Sixers get a good look on the other end to put the game back to six.

    Those little swing possessions need to be better managed for this team to be successful.

    The Sixers have a nice group. Andre Miller is a winning point guard and Andre Iguodala is big time. He is averaging 20 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists since Feb. 1 and looked every bit the go-to player last night.

    If he has more development left in his game he is really going to soar.

    We are in Boston. It is still cold. I am not sure we have seen a temperature over 20 on this trip.

    Draft Prospect - Spencer Hawes
    Posted on March 8 | permalink


    Throughout March I will be watching the NCAA games with a focus on the NBA. The Sonics could have a top-10 pick and two picks in the early second round, including Memphis' pick. These are my thoughts on the players after a short look.

    Spencer Hawes, Washington, Freshman, 7 feet 250 pounds
    NBA DraftExpress Projection: #11
    You all know his game as well as I do and maybe better since you have seen him more. However, here are my thoughts.

    I want him to impact the game more. I should be able to watch the game and have no doubt he is the best player on the floor. That doesnít happen very often.

    He has amazing vision. Good offensive touch around the basket. I wonder if some of his moves will translate to the NBA. His running push shot and some of the things he does on the move have a low release point and he will be getting bumped in the NBA where he is not getting contact at the collegiate level.

    He gets in trouble when he puts it on the floor. He rebounds but not dominantly. Defensively he moves very well. He is not imposing. He does a good job when stuck out on the floor at 15 to 18 feet guarding a ball handler.

    I believe in the special skill as the sign a player will advance at the next level. He has height. He had great vision and super touch with the basketball.

    A top 7 pick. If I was making that pick I would want to see more. If he goes back for another year, he is the #1 or #2 pick the next season. A good reason to return to Montlake.

    Draft Prospect - Hasheem Thabeet
    Posted on March 8 | permalink


    Throughout March I will be watching the NCAA games with a focus on the NBA. The Sonics could have a top-10 pick and two picks in the early second round, including Memphis' pick. These are my thoughts on the players after a short look.

    Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut, Freshman, 7-3, 255
    NBA DraftExpress Projection: #9
    A 7-foot-plus project. But he is projected near the top 10 of the draft. I didnít see very much of him in the game against Syracuse and from what I did see I was underwhelmed.

    Thabeet runs stiff. His natural movement is fine and he has a decent feel on using his height to affect the game. One terrific play showed why he is a top-10 prospect. He slid over to the block to stop a drive and then was quick enough to spin and block the shot on the dish off.

    That play was really remarkable.

    Offensively, Thabeet didnít have the athleticism or power to score in traffic. Numerous times he got the ball either off a pass or a rebound down low but couldnít muster getting the shot off in traffic.

    The body is great. The natural gifts are rare. The game is unrefined. Another year in college would benefit, but he is a top-10 pick. Hard to imagine he bypasses that.

    Draft Prospect - Demetris Nichols
    Posted on March 8 | permalink


    Throughout March I will be watching the NCAA games with a focus on the NBA. The Sonics could have a top-10 pick and two picks in the early second round, including Memphis' pick. These are my thoughts on the players after a short look.

    Demetris Nichols, Syracuse, Senior, 6-8, 212
    NBA DraftExpress Projection: Late 30's
    A terrific catch-and-shoot shooter. NBA-level catch and shoot. He works off the ball terrifically. He understands angles and how to get open. Quick enough release to get the shot off at the next level.

    Nichols was awesome for the Cuse against UConn, hitting seven threes. I like that he lit up UConn for the third time this season. It means he can handle a defensive gameplan.

    Has a poor handle. Rarely makes progress when he puts it on the floor. Too often overdribbles trying to create an opportunity. Not sure about his defense since he sits in the Syracuse zone most of the game.

    He averages 19 points a game while shooting over 40% from three point range.

    Nichols could be on the board for the Sonics in the early second round. Has a solid NBA game and a good NBA body. Downside is he reminds me of Jarvis Hayes out of Georgia, who has never panned out in the NBA.

    Draft Prospect - Curtis Sumpter
    Posted on March 7 | permalink


    Throughout March I will be watching the NCAA games with a focus on the NBA. The Sonics could have a top-10 pick and two picks in the early second round, including Memphis' pick. These are my thoughts on the players after a short look.

    Curtis Sumpter, F, Villanova, Senior, 6-7, 225 NBA DraftExpress Projection: Not Drafted
    I would never have watched this guy expect for the success of Paul Millsap and Craig Smith. Sumpter is not on many draft boards. He is 20 pounds smaller than both Millsap and Smith.

    However, he was impressive in todayís Villanova win over DePaul. He is stronger inside and understanding angles. He is a good rebounder, pulling down 7 a game. He is a good scorer at 17 points per game and has the ability to really score going over 25 four times this season.

    He is the classic non-position college player when you project him to the NBA, but he plays the game well. His handle is not good enough to play the three. His shot is good enough to stretch the floor if he plays the four.

    He is a second-round pick at best. But keep an eye on these type of players. The game seems to be evolving toward these undersized position-less players who know how to play the game.

    Villanova plays Georgetown tomorrow. Check out Sumpter. Georgetown has a nice player as well in Jeff Green.

    Talking with JJ
    Posted on March 7 | permalink


    I had an interesting conversation with Jerome James yesterday in the Knicks locker room. As always it was fun to see JJ and his energy continues to be infectious. He doesnít sound as happy as he might be, but he is still JJ and full of life.

    We talked about his signing with the Knicks. Jerome said his two choices were the Sonics and the Knicks. He told me that Seattle was honest with him and told him that they planned on moving Robert Swift into the starting role in the near future. The Knicks told him that he would be their starting center.

    That might have been the truth at the time, but shortly thereafter the Knicks dealt for Eddy Curry and James has almost never played. Had JJ stayed in Seattle and stayed healthy he probably would have started every game over the last two years.

    What is to be learned from this story? The first lesson is that players are easily persuadable and will act upon what they want to hear.

    From a Sonics perspective, are the Sonics doing themselves any good by being honest in a dishonest game? Or that you can never tell the future so who is to say who is going to be the starter in the upcoming years? JJ should have been aware of Swiftís presence and the Sonics should have just told him the better player would start.

    Let me put this caveat on this conversation - you never know with JJ what part of what he says is revisionist history.

    Of course, the Sonics should have never paid JJ the money the Knicks did, so this really all may be a conversation about money. But the underlying conversation was still at least worth sharing.

    Winning is Nice
    Posted on March 6 | permalink


    Close game wins are so sweet after all the struggles this season. They are even better when Isiah Thomas is on the other end.

    What a finish tonight. In case you missed it, let me take you through the final few moments of the game and all the plays the Sonics made to win the ballgame.

    The Sonics jumped out early and led by 13 at the end of one. They crossed over the Don Nelson threshold. Nellie believes any team that hits five threes in the first quarter will go on to lose because they will become too outside-oriented. Since the Sonics only shot one free throw in the second half, maybe he was right.

    The Sonics lead bubbled to 18 in the early parts of the third quarter, but the Knicks worked their way back. The Sonics lead by seven going to the fourth. However, with 1:13 left Richardson tied the game at 95 on an 11-foot jumper on the right wing.

    The Sonics possession stalled and Bob Hill called timeout with :04 left on the shot clock. Earl inbounded from halfcourt across from the Sonics bench. He threw a pass from midcourt out of bounds to the far side of the basket where Rashard was tightly guarded but went up for the ball and won the battle. Rashard came down with and missed the shot, but got his own rebound and put it back in for the two-point lead with 50 seconds left.

    Stephon Marbury, who had 13 points in the fourth quarter, got isolated on the left side of the floor. He took the dribble to the right, getting by Earl, and Petro came over late and unsure of what to do. Marbury took the contact for the foul and hit the hoop for his 38th point of the game. With the free throw he had 39 and the lead 98-97 with 42.8 seconds left.

    The Sonics tried to get a quick opportunity in order to leave enough time for a defensive stop and a bucket if they failed to convert. That is exactly what happened with 35.9 seconds left when Ray missed the three.

    The Knicks rebounded and Marbury calmly brought it up to the frontcourt. With six seconds left on the shot clock and leading by one, Marbury elected to bomb a three. Why not? He was 8-of-10 from behind the arc at that point. He missed and the rebound got punched out to Ray Allen.

    Allen got it with 10 seconds left. He brought it to the frontcourt. The Sonics were out of timeouts. Collison sprinted the middle of the floor, bringing the defense with him. Allen jumped into the air. Did he know where he was going with the ball? Would this be another late-game mistake? Collison had men around him; Allen couldnít possibly try to wedge it into Nick. The shot wasnít a good look. What was Ray doing?

    In the air, he spun and swung the ball to Rashard who was open on the left side of the floor right at the three-point line. Rashard, who said after the game that he never felt comfortable all night, let the triple fly and he knew it was on the mark. Sonics lead 100-98.

    Still, 4.8 seconds were left on the clock and Marbury was ready to go. Out of a timeout he drove into the lane and got the foul call with 0.9 seconds left.

    First free throw: good. Second free throw: no good. Sonics win and you can paint it Green and Gold.

    Wow.

    This was a clutch win for the Sonics. Earl Watson was fantastic tonight. He tied his career high with 23 points, but most importantly he took care of the ball, committing only one turnover. He also was terrifically consistent all the entire night.

    Ray and Rod were studs. Johan wasnít perfect, but with Wilcox out with four stitches from where Petro hit him, Johan was good enough for the Sonics.

    After the game, I asked Rashard if this was the beginning of a playoff push. He said, "Letís see what we do in Philly." He is right, but a close game win on the road against a team that had won seven straight at home is a nice place to start.

    And of course a nice win means another chance to write or e-mail your legislator.

    SwiftPetro Missing the Swift
    Posted on March 5 | permalink


    I vowed that I would no longer talk about the Robert Swift injury. I lied. As the season has progressed how his injury hurt the team has become more and more evident.

    I will admit that many times I have wondered how losing a guy that was averaging about 6 points and 4 rebounds can really be that big a deal. At times during training camp, Swift really struggled with his timing and his game.

    The easy answer is to say that he wouldnít have made that big deal since he is still developing. However, that misses how Robert and Johan Petro were a combo deal for the Sonics.

    In the simplest terms, the Sonics were looking for about 70 games of good solid contributions from Swift and Petro. As I talked about all preseason, the game is going smaller so Rashard would fill some of the minutes at the power forward. In addition, Nick and Chris were going to be the primary post players. Therefore, what the Sonics needed was a solid third big each night to compliment Nick and Chris.

    This is where the Sonics needed 70 nights of SwiftPetro. Envision them as a one player. Each of these guys opened the year at 20 years old and neither had played more than 985 minutes in a season. Understanding where they were in their development it is unfair to assume consistency out of either of them. That is why you have to envision them as one player, SwiftPetro.

    A fair goal was 70 nights of solid performance. In all likelihood it was going to be 45 nights from Swift and 25 from Petro. If either of them took a large developmental step, which Robert may have, then they would have blown these numbers out of the water.

    Now, without Robert, the Sonics start with Nick and Chris and when one of them goes out you have about a 25% chance that Petro will be able to have a solid contribution.

    This isnít a hit on Petro. People seem to have forgotten he was a raw, late first-round draft pick when he was picked two seasons ago. He had a fearless training camp and all of sudden his progression got accelerated unnaturally.

    History shows that late first-round 7-footers take time to develop. If a 7-footer is ready he would never last to the late first round. The 7-footer is such a rare commodity that if he is ready he will go earlier in the draft. Heck, considering the reaches that have been made on top 10 picks for 7-footers they donít even have to be ready.

    Johan is developing nicely on the offensive side of the floor and deserves great credit.

    If Robert were healthy he would start. Some nights he wouldnít have it. The matchup, the schedule, whatever would have prevented him from having a good night. Then the Sonics would be back where they start tonight and then give a shot to Petro and see if he could give the solid contribution. Some nights the two youngsters wouldnít have been able to bring it. However, with the two of them more often than not one of them would have given a solid performance. This would have made a world of difference.

    This can be shown statistically as well. Look at how the Sonics play when a player is on the floor compared to when he is off the floor and the team's lack of depth up front become evident.

    According to 82games.com, when the Chris Wilcox is on the floor the Sonics are outscored by 0.4 points per 48 minutes. When he is on the bench they are outscored by 5.3 points. The numbers for Nick are similar. When he is on the floor the Sonics are outscored by just 0.7 points, but when he is on the bench they are outscored by 4.0 points. When Petro is on the floor the Sonics are outscored by 5.5 points per 48 minutes and when he is on the bench the Sonics play just about even.

    If Swift was available this would have lessened the burden on Petro, giving the Sonics more consistent performances.

    Hey Coach, Put Me In
    Posted on March 4 | permalink


    Ray Allen took the bone spur out back and whooped its bac side. Allen exploded for 21 points in the first half and finished with a game-high 34 points. After the game he said he will not be seeing the foot specialist and instead will be hitting the Big Apple with all of us on a 8:00 a.m. flight.

    Ray has been in serious pain. There have been numerous times this season when we have arrived at the hotel after a game and Ray is limping really badly as he makes his way into the hotel. Just the other night when we arrived after playing in L.A., Ray was really struggling as we left the plane. I put it so eloquently and said, ďDude, you donít look good.Ē He responded with, ďNo, I am not.Ē

    This man is gaming it.

    Back to the game, five in a row at home is worth a fist pump. The Sonics fiddled around too much with the Bobcats, but the signature of a Bernie Bickerstaff team has been that it plays very hard. This was just the fourth time this season the Sonics won when trailing going to the fourth quarter.

    Mike Wilks was huge part of the victory. Luke Ridnour was out with a severely stiff neck that will be looked at by a specialist on Monday. He will then join the team on the road trip.

    Wilks gave great energy off the bench in place of Ridnour and sparked the run in the second quarter that put Seattle up 12. The diminutive one also had a tip-in and blocked shot during the game. Wilks is the ultimate professional. I loved the story he told after the game. Every time Bob Hill looks down the bench, Wilks said, he tries to make eye contact with Hill to say, ďHey, I am right here and could go in.Ē

    What a great dude.

    Good win - every win is a good win. Talk to you from New York.

    By the way, have you mailed your legislator? Do it !!!

    From My Perspective
    Posted on March 4 | permalink


    I have a quick note before the game since if I mention it after the game it sounds like a cheap excuse.

    This is my first year traveling to virtually every game. Two things have jumped out to me as much harder than I ever realized when I covered the league, but didnít travel.

    First is the get away game. Tonight is the ultimate get-away game. We leave tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. for New York and are gone for a week. I have spent the entire day doing family things knowing I wonít have that opportunity until a week from Monday. My free thoughts are all about packing and what I need for the road trip. Honestly, the farthest thing from my mind is the Charlotte Bobcats and todayís game.

    I always thought that get-away game was garbage. I am here to tell you it is real.

    The other one that is a 1,000 times tougher than I realized is the first game back from a long road trip. This is an old axiom, but again I didnít really buy it until I lived it. When you are on the road you are on a schedule and into a routine and there are no distractions.

    I donít need my legs to call a game so I canít comment on the physical aspect of travel. From my standpoint, the road has not been fatiguing. In fact, I find I am far better focused on each game since there is nothing else.

    That first game back from a trip the whole routine has been blown apart and now you are scuffling to regain hold at home while still working.

    Just one personís point of view from the travel standpoint and it is better said before tonightís game than after. I guess this is fair warning that from a mental standpoint this game seems much tougher to me on the Sonics than the Bobcats, who have been in Seattle since Friday night.

    I am Tennessee-Martin
    Posted on March 1 | permalink


    I am Tennessee-Martin. I am Alabama A&M. I am the 16th seed in the NCAA Tournament that doesnít have a chance. I am the team that has such little chance that when the players fill out their brackets they pick the opponent because even they know they donít have a chance.

    SUPERSONICS.COM has launched Sonics Showdown, a March Madness-inspired bracket that covers 40 years of Sonics history. It includes match-ups of great teams, jersey numbers, dance team members and franchise icons, including old logos, on-court personalities and announcers.

    The "play-in" round matches are taking place as I type and I am Wintrop. They have me going head-to-head in the icon department with KC. I voted for KC, who are you kidding.

    This is why they have the mercy rule in Little League, because people shouldnít have to lose the way I am going to. I should lose, but this could get silly ugly.

    Maybe after you are done voting for KC two or three times you could just out of sympathy slip one in by accident on the Locke Box. Then at least I wonít get shut out and I can talk after the match-up about the great ďMarchĒ experience of being in the bracket.

    My goodness, in the time I have been typing this I dropped from 15% of the vote to 9%. At this rate I could have an approval rating of Ö wait, never mind.

    Hopefully, KC will pull out of the full-court press and not run up the score too much.

    With all kidding aside, have fun with the Sonics Showdown. And yes, I voted for KC also. He is simply the best and you can catch him tonight on the radio-only call on Sonics basketball.