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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 stories and have audio interviews on the biggest stories. E-mail David your questions at AskLocke@sonics-storm.com

Defense.
Posted on November 29 | permalink


Defense was the most impressive part of the Sonics win tonight over the Hawks. Atlanta has been playing well and with confidence. However, they are very young and if you make it hard them in all likelihood they will resort to taking the easy way out. That is exactly what the Sonics did tonight.

Joe Johnson had his 5th straight game over 30, but it took work and most importantly the Sonics corralled Johnson without allowing anyone else on the Hawks roster to get off.

Interior defense was strong all night. With Collison starting and the Sonics undersized it was fair to suspect that this would be an issue, but this evening the Sonics kept the paint contained. In addition, the Sonics controlled the dribble exchange game of the Hawks.

Otherwise, Rashard Lewis was impressive in his maturity playing without Ray tonight. He controlled the game from an offensive end and set the standard defensively.

Damien Wilkins played very well as a starter as he has throughout his career. Wilkins in 13 starts last year averaged 14 points a game and shot over 50%. Tonight he was 3 of 5 from the field with 10 points.

Chris Wilcox was guarded by young Josh Smith in the post and abused him on numerous opportunities. This is a good sign for the Sonics using Wilcox as a post option. Right now they are much more willing to go to Nick Collison rather than Wilcox in the post.

Two wins is a row at the Key. The Sonics have to start somewhere.

Sonics Snowed In
Posted on November 29 | permalink


Obviously this is a very disappointing start to the Sonics season. Rudy T used to say that each NBA season has three storms and how you deal with Stormís is how your season plays out. The Sonics are in the midst of their first storm and they are not dealing with very well.

Losing six of eight will rock the foundation of a club and this is when you find out how they will handle the bounce back.

The early schedule did no favors to the Sonics, but they have to find a way to survive this stretch. They will be able to make a run in the second half of the season. However, they have to stay in reach by the end of the year.

Tonightís game was particularly frustrating because they stayed with the Magic all night and then when the game was on the line the Sups withered. This is a game where you are supposed to use the home court advantage to make that final push and win the close home game. However, the Sonics have not found any rhythm or comfort on the home court.

The issue in the middle is significant. Guys are out of synch. Some it has to do with guys playing out of position. Some of it has to do with guys just not knowing their game yet and how to be effective. Others are simply not playing as well as anticipated.

I am off for the next two games and KC will be on the call. Letís hope they give the best in the business something great to call.

News From Furtado on Wilkins and More
Posted on November 28 | permalink


Today was a real practice. We havenít seen this in a long time. They went through drills and worked out systems and situations as well as shooting and conditioning. I canít recall the last time this team had a full practice. The schedule has been relentless.

Here are some notes from Practice:

  • The Sonics worked really hard offensively on how to react when team bring the extra player over to ball side to deny Ray and Rashardís drives. When Ray and Rod are getting the ball on the wing, opposing teams are bringing one of their bigs over and placing him on the free-throw line ball side to eliminate any drive. The Sonics were working on their spacing if teams do that to open up other players for easy looks.
  • The next area of focus was that when they go to Rashard in the post teams will double him and they will not leave Ray on the weak side which creates one man to guard both of the Sonics bigs and they need to space the floor correctly to get openings off the opponent's double teams.
  • Yesterday, Hill and Damien had a sit down meeting in Hillís office after practice. They talked for nearly an hour and a half. Damien said the conversation was really good. He and Bob have a long history with Bob coaching Damienís uncle and father. Damien said that because they have such depth to their relationship that sometimes the frustration levels can rise. Damien seemed great today. He is so intelligent and peaceful to be around. There is never any doubt that his intentions are the best.
  • Expectations of the season may be the issue for Damien right now. He had a brilliant preseason and my guess is that he thought he was really about to explode. In preseason the difference between Rashard and D-Wilk was slim. In retrospect, Rashard was just getting ready for the season and D-Wilk was trying to have a great camp. Once the season started, D-Wilk didnít start the way he anticipated and with Rod blowing up he hasnít gotten the minutes or the scoring opportunities. In turn, he is frustrated.
  • Gelabale linked together three special plays. He hit a nice baseline J over Rashard, then blocked Rashard and finished the fast break in nifty fashion. Hill insists that he is going to be very good. One coach said he reminded him of Doug Christie and thinks that is his future career path.
  • Wilkins has been wearing his jersey backwards everyday in practice. Today it is on forewards again. He is having a terrific practice.
  • Clay Bennett is in town and was at practice.
  • Danny Fortson participated in practice today.
  • NBA TV is doing a documentary-type feature with Ray Allen.

    Bench Thoughts
    Posted on November 27 | permalink


    Obviously the big talk at practice today was bench or lack thereof. After the loss to the Spurs Bob Hill mentioned the benchís inability to contribute offensively and the media then went into the locker room to get reaction from the bench players. Both Damien Wilkins and Earl Watson voiced frustration. Wilkins wants more leash and Watson wants different plays run for the bench as well as more time.

    There are a bunch of good debates inside this issue. I have always been a believer that bench players are bench players and they need to be held in a pretty tight box. If they give you a good jolt and a nice run the biggest mistake you can make is to leave them on the floor because it will eventually even out.

    Francis Williams of the Sonics broadcast team takes a different approach, saying if guys are hot you ride them. We debate this in the newest edition of the Sonics Locker Room program. (By the way, Francis is nice in the program and doesnít mention that Gordie Chiesa sided with him when we had the debate at practice.)

    Bob Hill had some interesting things to say at practice today. He said that some of the guys are playing angry and this is not a productive way to play. In addition, he talked about guys not bringing their usual level of energy when they come off the bench.

    Hill also pointed out again that guys donít like accountability. He said that, no matter what, it will always be the coaches fault and he understands that. However, he is not going to leave guys in the game to have them find themselves at the cost of losing games.

    In regards to the comments about the system and not being able to play in the system, Hill points out that nothing has changed since last year.

    Here is my take. Guys are struggling, mainly Watson, and they are trying to find reasons why they are having a tough stretch. It is easier to blame than to look inwards. Also, every player in the world feels as though if they had a few more minutes of run they would get into a better rhythm. There is some truth to how hard it is to play the game off the bench.

    The adjustment is not benching guys or trading guys. We are very early in the season for anything of that nature. Out of the preseason the belief was the bench as its own entity could carry their own and that has not proven to be the case. I would look for less time with both Ray and Rashard off the floor.

    This will allow the offense to play through Ray or Rod at all times and allow the struggling players to be compliments rather than the focus. It will allow them to get some easier looks and get out of their slumps.

    The bottom line is the bench has to shoot better. Wilkins is shooting 43%, Collison is hovering at 39% and Watson is now below 30% for the season. The reasons can be debated, but Hillís premise is accurate - the Sonics need more production off the bench.

    A Lesson From a Champion
    Posted on November 26 | permalink


    Tonight was a lesson in championship basketball. The Spurs stay on point for all 48 minutes of every night. They never lose focus and, as Damien Wilkins pointed out in the postgame, every guy on the team knows exactly what is expected of them and how they fit into the team.

    Tim Duncan is the core of all of this. He has established a culture that is unwavering. In his nine years with the Spurs they have won 62% of their games. That is awesome.

    Tonight the Spurs took control of the game from the opening moment and even when the Sonics cut the game to three in the early parts of the fourth quarter you had the feel that the Spurs could administer the pain the minute they needed to and that is exactly what they did.

    Tony Parker was insane in the fourth as he dropped 10 fourth-quarter points.

    Rashard Lewis was eliminated from this game by the Spurs defensive systems. The Spurs donít allow anything inside five feet or the 3-pointer. Instead, their defense forces teams to hit in a semi-circle from about 14 to 19 feet. This took Rashard out of his regular game. The Spurs committed to doubling and sending the stopper to him every time he got the ball.

    Ray Allen and Bruce Bowen was a highlighted matchup coming in and Allen had his usual day. Bowen was a non-factor.

    After the game, Ray talked about how impressive the Spurs attention to detail is on each and every possession. He commented that it started at the core with Duncan always being in the right place offensive and defensively. This allows the Spurs to build outward.

    Bottom line is for the last six years the Spurs have won 58, 58, 60, 57, 59 and 63 games. They are well on their way to doing it again.

    Is it Part of the Process?
    Posted on November 24 | permalink


    It was a tough night for the Sups against the Kings. The Kings dominated the second half in game where the Sonics simply didnít play well.

    So why? Defensively, the thought I have is that there is a process that takes place for a team to buy into playing team defense. The Sonics have put a team defensive system in place. If one or two guys donít buy in on a night it all falls apart.

    The last two nights the Sonics were brilliant defensively. Tonight, it seemed that they tried to trick themselves into trying to win without the defense again. It cost them tonight.

    The reality may be that this is a part of the evolution defensively. As much progress as they made the last two nights you have to have nights when you get the brutal reminder that if you donít play the hard way that there is price to pay.

    Offensively, Ray couldn't find the feel. After the game, he said again that he is having a hard time getting a feel for the ball. He is not using it as an excuse, but he says that it is a process for him to get used to the ball. He feels that it is a little lighter. Therefore, it sways a bit more than the old ball.

    As hard as the inconsistent play is to swallow as a fan it may be what we are going to experience for a while as the identity of the team evolves.

    Strong Outing in LA
    Posted on November 23 | permalink


    Happy Thanksgiving. If you are a Sonics fan, things taste better today after the nice win over the Clippers last night.

    Mental toughness has been an ongoing issue for this franchise. Against the Clippers, the Sonics showed great grit throughout the game. The Clippers walked the Sonics down on seven or eight different occasions to put the game within one or two possessions and each time the Sonics grabbed control of the game and took the lead back to eight to 10 points.

    Achieving that on the road is really impressive.

    The crowd was waiting to erupt and spur the Clippers on, but they never gained the lead and the crowd never got involved.

    This was the matchup of the NBA's third-best offensive team, the Sonics, and the third-best defensive team, the Clippers. The Clippers couldnít come up with an answer to the Rashard Lewis Show.

    In order to slow down Ray Allen, the Clippers put Quinton Ross on Allen to start the game. This left Cuttino Mobley, who is just 6-4 and a poor defender, on Lewis. Rashard scored nine first-quarter points. To open the second half, the Clips benched Mobley, which really limited their ability to stretch the floor. Instead, they started Tim Thomas, who at 6-10 was brought in with the intention of slowing down Lewis. Nope.

    At that point the Sonics had the Clippers. Lewis had an answer for everything the Clippers threw at him and in turn the Clippers had no answer to slow down the Sonics.

    Lewis' 13 rebounds, 11 on the defensive end, should not be overshadowed by his 35 points.

    This was an impressive performance by the Sonics. To control the entire 48 minutes in a playoff team's building and to have one of the top defensive teams scrambling without an answer is a really good sign.

    One statistical note: The Sonics held the Clippers to an Offensive Rating of 90 points per 100 possessions. This is the second straight game the Sonics have held their opponent to an Offensive Rating of 90. The best in the NBA for the season is the Spurs, who hover around 96 points allowed per 100 possessions.

    Glove Save
    Posted on November 21 | permalink


    Last night was Glove Save #1 of the season by the Sonics. I think an NBA season is collective bunch of glove saves. In translation, unless you are one of the teams that is so talented that you will win 60 games, the season is about avoiding the loss that sends you into a spiral.

    With the Clippers, the Kings and the Spurs on the horizon, it seemed like a pretty bad script if the Sonics fell to the Nets to lose their fourth in a row. Instead, they came from behind in the fourth quarter and impressively took the game. I use the word took on purpose. The thing that jumped out last night was the Sonics desire and will to win the game.

    One of the things we have talked about on Locked on Sonics came to fruition again last night. This time, however, it was in our favor. The NBA is a dance for 40 minutes and then in the final eight minutes teams find the one thing that has been most effective all night and they pound at it until the other team figures out how to stop it. We were on the wrong side of this against Portland and Miami.

    Last night, the Sonics played pick-and-roll on the left side of the floor with Luke and Rashard time and time again. Impressively, they played numerous options off the same set. They got Rashard deep in the post. When they doubled Rashard, Luke buried a huge 3. When they overplayed the left side they brought Ray off a curl into the lane to catch and shoot. The Nets never found the answer.

    Defensively, the Sonics had the answer. After allowing the Nets 55% shooting in the first half, they held New Jersey to 35% in the second half. Vince Carter was held without a field goal in the fourth quarter. Damien Wilkins had the assignment and deserves a lot of credit, but it was a team effort. It certainly helped that the Sonics hit him hard a few times as well.

    Francis Williams made a great point on the broadcast as well as on this week's edition of the Sonics Locker Room show. The Nets adjusted their entire defense to deal with Luke last night. That is the first time we have seen Luke receive that type of respect and it really alters a lot of what the Sonics are able to run if other teams have to do the same.

    My guess is the Clippers wonít do it because it didnít work for the Nets. Therefore, it is vital for Luke to have a good game when defenses donít adjust.

    Do you Believe?
    Posted on November 20 | permalink


    Happy Monday of Turkey Week. I hope you all have fun plans with family and friends for this week. I think we are all wondering how we ended up 4-7 after 11 games.

    I still believe so much of the NBA is about belief - belief in one's self, belief in ones teammates and most of all belief that you are good enough to win. That is what I think has happened to the Sonics and in contrast to what is taking place with the Jazz and Orlando.

    I am not convinced the Sonics think they can win or more aptly phrased have the ďbelief that they are going to win a game.Ē Had one of Rayís buzzer-beaters fallen in the opening games or Posey and Turkogluís shots rimmed out then this team might have gained that belief.

    Instead they are searching. You could hear it in the postgame quotes by Ray and Rashard that they team needs to find an identity. I translate that into these guys wondering what they have to do to win.

    The Jazz are very, very good, but I wonder if they hadnít pulled off the three-point win in Phoenix or had Michael Reddís buzzer-beater rim out in Milwaukee or if Rip Hamiltonís shot had gotten over Mehmet Okur and won the game for Detroit how they would be approaching games. Right now they donít believe they could lose and a lot of it is because their had three bounces go their direction while the Sonics didnít get or make a bounce in the opening week.

    With the confidence the Jazz gained in the opening week they now are playing at a higher level and are a legit contender.

    Orlando was 1-2 and held on to beat Washington when Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Etan Thomas missed shots in the final minute that would have tied the game. Then two nights later they beat the Sonics at the buzzer. Since then they are 4-1 and playing with belief. I would argue that had one of those last-second wins gone the other way, Orlando would be 2-3 in the last five instead of 4-1.

    Sonics fans donít need to go back very far in your memory bank for a similar story. This is exactly what happened with the 2004-05 Sonics who went on to win 52 games. They won early and believed they were good.

    The scary thing is once you lose the belief it is hard to find and harder to regain. It is a vicious circle. Once you are playing in doubt you donít win, therefore intensifying the doubt. In contrast to the Sonics, the Jazz and the Magic are doing the opposite.

    Six Games - Nine Nights - Six Cities
    Posted on November 16 | permalink


    For years I have heard coaches and players talk about the first game back from a long road trip being another road game. I bought it since I didnít know any better, but I wondered if it was really legitimate. Last night, I experienced it on an NBA level for the first time and it is legit.

    Nothing in your body or life normalizes right away after popping from city to city for eight days. It was obvious on the floor that the Sonics were just off by a fraction. They didnít have ďit.Ē

    There are three signs when a team isnít sharp: They are missing layups which the Sonics missed a ton of last night. They are missing free throws. Another checkmark. Both of those are signals that the focus isnít as sharp and the players' bodies arenít reacting quite the way they want. The final one is 3-point shooting. It is a sign that your legs arenít under you.

    With all that said, last nightís loss is a bummer. The 76ers arenít very good and no matter how much the schedule maker gets you, you have to beat bad teams in this league. There arenít many games on the schedule where the other team is inferior and the Sonics have lost two of those already on their home floor.

    The Sonics want to win 80% of their home games. If they are going to get back on pace to achieve that standard they have to win seven in a row at home. 80% is a lofty goal, but a really good team maintains a dominant home floor advantage.

    Inside the game there were two really good things that continued and two issues that continue to prop up.

    Earl Watson leads the concerns. Last night, he seemed to be visibly pressing. He broke out of the structure of the offense more than I have seen him do in the past. Obviously, he is trying to break out and he is trying to earn more minutes. However, there is a big difference in struggling inside the realm of the team and breaking the offense in order to get going. Shots that come out of the rhythm of the offense will bring the entire team down.

    After three great games in a row I was really surprised to see Nick Collison have an off night. He missed a bunch of layups in close. Two thoughts on why this might be. The reality of the NBA and fatigue would be my first thought. The other thing I am going to keep an eye on is how Nick plays against teams who play 7-footers. Nick is just 6-9 and the Sixers kept Dalembert and Hunter, both 7-footers, on the floor for most of the game. Nick looked small last night. Just some food for thought.

    Two continuing items that are great signs are the play of Luke and Rashard. Last night, Luke played 40 minutes without fatigue while defending Iverson most of the night. Defensively, he had a very good night on the superstar point guard. Offensively, he continues to control the game, hit controlled off-balance shots and even forced Mo Cheeks to call a timeout to adjust the defense game plan.

    Rashard is playing with a tenacity that makes him an All-Star. Last night, he had another big-time double-double, grabbing 15 rebounds. Moreover, he continues to play strong on the defensive end. Offensively, his back to the basket game is getting stronger and stronger. Most importantly, his energy and impact on the game is constant.

    Big game tomorrow as the Sonics match-up against a confident and strong division-leading Utah Jazz club. The tip-off is at 7:30 (), live music at the MGD Main Stage starts at 6 and DJ music will be playing from halftime on the FSN HD lounge.

    Getting (Stat) Geeky
    Posted on November 14 | permalink


    We are still in New Jersey. The team just finished practice and we are waiting to take the bus to the plane. With a little time to kill, I thought I would stat geek for everyone.

    Kevin Pelton will tell you some of these numbers arenít perfect, but they give you idea of where we stand 10% of the way through the season.

    Efficiency

  • #1 in the NBA in Offensive Rating by a good margin. Our next three opponents are also all top 10 offenses, so they should be fun games to watch. The top five is Seattle, Utah, Washington, Golden State and Houston.
  • Defensively the Sonics rank #28 in the NBA. Milwaukee and Dallas have a worse Defensive Rating. The top five are Sacramento, Chicago, LA Clippers, San Antonio and Houston. It's worth noting that Houston is top five in both offense and defense.
  • Efficiency Differential is the best predictor of future success and the best indicator of how a team is really playing. The Sonics are 12th in the NBA. In the Northwest Division only Utah is better. The Sonics are #6 in the West. Houston is #1 in the NBA, followed by the L.A. Clippers, Chicago, and Utah.

    Rebounding

  • The Sonics are the #2 offensive rebounding team in the NBA. They have grabbed 33% of potential offensive rebounds.
  • The Sonics are #22 in defensive rebounding at 69.9%. The Bulls are grabbing an incredible 82.8% of potential defensive rebounds. The Cavs are also at 82%.

    Turnovers

  • The Sonics are #5 in the NBA at taking care of the ball, only turning it over 14% of their possessions. Washington, the L.A. Clippers, Toronto and Milwaukee top the list.
  • The Sonics are #5 in the NBA at forcing turnovers. This may be due to the teams they have played as Charlotte, Orlando and the Lakers are the most turnover-prone teams in the NBA. Chicago, Denver, Memphis and Sacramento are the top four at forcing turnovers.

    Free Throws

  • The Sonics are 28th in the NBA in free throw attempts per game. Only Phoenix and Toronto are worse. Do you think style of play may be a part of this? Washington, Charlotte and Cleveland are the top 3 at FTA per game.
  • The Sonics are 26th in the NBA in free throw attempts allowed per game. The Sonics shoot 22.5 free throws per game and allow 31.1 attempts.

    Shooting

  • The Sonics are the ninth-best team in effective field-goal percentage. Effective field-goal percentage weighs 3-point shooting. Phoenix, Orlando, Golden State, Utah and Houston are the Top 5.
  • The Sonics are 29th in the NBA at defending the shot. Only Dallas allows a higher eFG%. I found this very interesting. The Sonics last three opponents are the best in the NBA against the shot and still the Sonics are #1 in the NBA offensively. Charlotte, Atlanta, New Jersey, Clippers and Indiana are the top 5 DeFG%.

    Hope you learned something. What I am not sure.

    An addendum from Kevin Pelton: In this week's Sonics Locker Room podcast, Locke and Kevin Calabro challenged me to look up the Sonics performance after timeouts. It turns out they scored eight times in their 12 possessions following a timeout, but their performance was particularly impressive through the first three quarters. In that span, they scored seven times in eight post-timeout possessions. Nice.

    As KC shared, the Sonics were the best team in the NBA after a timeout last season.

    Three-Game Win Streak
    Posted on November 13 | permalink


    Impressively, the Sonics end their trip on a three-game winning streak.

    The losses in Orlando and Miami were huge get check losses and this team has responded in impressive fashion.

    Tonight the Sonics grabbed the game early against a tired Nets team. The key was that the Sonics didnít let the opportunity pass. The Nets werenít ready to play. They played last night in Washington and the game went to overtime. The Sonics saw an opportunity and they grabbed it. At some point in every game the opponent will come to life, but by the time they did the Sonics had built a large enough lead that they were in control.

    There are a lot of exciting things that have taken place over the past three games. The Sonics move to 3-3 on the road, which is very impressive. Now they have to start owning the home floor with games Wednesday against Philly (7:00 p.m., FSN, KTTH 770 AM, ) and Friday against the Northwest Division-leading Utah Jazz ().

    Luke Ridnour is a completely different player than he was a year ago. He is playing with a confidence that we have never seen before. He was in complete control of the game. The Nets have a hard time defending point guards, as Anthony Johnson showed last year in the playoffs when he dropped 30 on the Nets. Regardless, Luke made shots. He has become a shot maker. He is currently averaging nearly 16 points and seven assists a game while shooting over 50% both from the field and the 3-point line. Think about that for a moment.

    Nick Collison has really solidified the defense with his help on the pick-and-roll. This is where the Sonics were being exploited every night and now they are finding a way to slow down the dribbler.

    Ray and Rashard canít be overlooked. At different times they are both unguardable depending on matchups. In Atlanta the Sonics went to Ray and tonight they took it to Rashard late in the game. Rashard was a monster on the glass tonight as well.

    Finally, Wilcox has averaged a double-double for the last three nights and is beginning to play with that unbridled confidence that has him flying to the rim like he did in the second half of last season.

    4-4 when you have played six of your first eight on the road is a really good start to the season. The Sonics need to own their home floor.

    See you at the Key on Wednesday and Friday.

    A Good Road Trip
    Posted on November 11 | permalink


    This just became a good road trip with a chance to very good if they win in New Jersey.

    If you win around 40% of the road games you are in good shape and the Supes just took two of the first five.

    Ray was unreal. He is really, really special. His ability to get open and slither to the basket or the spot where he can find his shot is nearly unparallel in the NBA.

    I thought Nick Collisonís defense tonight was terrific. He was fantastic helping on the high pick-and-roll and his anticipation to cut off numerous different drives was a key to the victory. On one play Nick cut off three different drives with help defense.

    Admit it - on the play when Nick and Rashard tipped the ball in for Atlanta to tie the game you thought we were going to be forever jinxed. Instead, they found a way to win one.

    Teams donít win the fourth road game in five nights in overtime very often.

    This team is two buzzer-beaters away from being 4-0 on this road trip and we would be going nuts.

    One more until we see you Wednesday at the Key for Iverson and the Sixers (). Fridayís game against Utah () is suddenly a big game with the way Utah has come out of the chute.

    Hope you had fun with KC on the call. I canít imagine how brilliant he was tonight.

    KC on the Mic
    Posted on November 11 | permalink


    Make sure you tune into the radio tonight. Kevin Calabro, the Voice of the Sonics, will be on the call on this radio-only broadcast.

    This should be vintage KC. Radio only without an analyst will give Kevin all sort of room to be Kevin.

    A win today changes the complexion of the entire start to the season. A coach once told me that the way to break up the season is to break it into five-game stretches at home and five-game stretches on the road. If a team wins 80% at home and 40% on the road they win 50 games. If the Sonics win tonight they will be 2-3 on the road to start the year, accomplishing the goal of two out of five on road games.

    Joe Johnson is playing brilliant basketball for the Hawks and will be a tough guard. Fatigue will be an issue. The Sonics are playing their fourth game in five nights and the Hawks played last night in Toronto.

    Bubba Cookers and Direction
    Posted on November 11 | permalink


    Let me share two funny road happenings.

    Yesterday, I went to Loweís speedway to see the Charlotte Motor Speedway. It was really cool to see where Nascar puts on their events. The size of the track was overwhelming, while the banks of the turns defied what makes logical sense on a turn.

    On our way to the Speedway, I saw a truck that was towing its BBQ. The guy we were with called it a Bubba Cooker. I guess it is for the Pig when they cook the entire pig. It was a 'You are in the South when you see a guy towing a BBQ' moment.

    Also, our bus driver got lost trying to find the airport last night. There is a team bus and a broadcaster bus for the trips to and from the airport. So we were telling the driver to call the other bus. Next thing we know he has grabbed this piece of paper with a ton of names listed on it and is trying to read it while driving. Nice. He is all over the place.

    So one of our guys says ďHey give me the sheet, Iíll get the number. What is his name?Ē The driver says, ďDuane,Ē Our guy says, "How about a last name?" "I got no idea," the driver answers in this great Southern drawl. Our guy responds with, "Since there are about two to three hundred names here I think we need a last name."

    We made it. I am in Atlanta, off to the King Center for the day. KC has the broadcast tonight so I am going to sit in the stands and cheer on our guys.

    Wins Make Everything Better
    Posted on November 11 | permalink


    It is amazing how a win makes everything feel a little bit better.

    The bus ride is easier, the plane is more pleasant and a huge level of tension is removed from everything around the team.

    For the third straight game, the Sonics defensively played very well. The Bobcats are very limited offensively and the Sonics didnít allow any of them to go off. In the NBA, some guys are too good to guard. That is why they average nearly 30 a night. To me good defense is when you prevent the middle-of-the-road scorers or non-offensive players from getting easy baskets.

    The Sonics have done that well the last three games.

    One person involved with the team said to me before the game, ďWe have to win tonight.Ē

    That explains why Bob Hill launched into a tirade at halftime and changed the rotation in the second half. Coaches have told me in the past you can only go to that card effectively three or four times in a season. On the sixth game of the year, Bob may have been right to use it already.

    Earl Watson was upset after the game that he was taken out of the rotation. The reality is Earl is shooting around 35% and the team is having a problem with turnovers. In addition, last night he turned the ball over and then didnít run back in transition and Brevin Knight trailed the play for a wide-open jumper. I wasnít shocked when Hill made the move in the third quarter.

    Nick Collison has linked back to back strong outings and looks much more like the player we thought he would be after his great preseason.

    Nice to see Chris Wilcox have a huge game in front of friends and family.

    Francis Goes One-on-One with the Bobcats Bombers
    Posted on November 10 | permalink


    The news out of Charlotte is that guard Raymond Felton will not play tonight because of a rib injury, meaning Gonzaga's Adam Morrison will make his first career start against the Sonics. While Felton is out briefly, he and Morrison are the future of the Bobcats on the perimeter and Francis Williams of the Sonics Radio team had a chance to talk with both of them this summer in extended interviews:

    Felton
    Morrison

    Thank You, Mr. Bradley
    Posted on November 10 | permalink


    I just wanted to take a moment and mention the passing of Ed Bradley. I am a reporter at heart because of great people like Ed Bradley.

    The media is a lightening rod for opinions on how things should be conducted compared to how they are conducted. Ed Bradley was free of that debate. He told stories. He searched for the truth of a story. He looked for the details that allowed you and I to understand the story.

    That is what reporters should be doing. The legacy and trail left by Ed Bradley is a truly wonderful life lived. Thanks, Mr. Bradley.

    Life on the Road
    Posted on November 10 | permalink


    We have hit the midway point of this trip and I am ready to get home to see my wife and children.

    My four year old is old enough to talk to me on the phone, which in one way makes it better, but on the other end he was telling me about his new Playmobile truck he got for being brave during his flu shot and I would just love to see it and play with it. My 20 month old can give me the, "Hi daddy, love you daddy, bye bye, daddy." We usually run through that about four times a call home.

    From those opening thoughts you can tell the reality of a week on the road has sunk in. I thought I would try to share what the road is like.

    Days on the road vary dramatically. I told you about Miami when we started the trip. Everything had a vibe and it was incredible to see the city. We toured Star Island and I had never seen houses like that in my lifetime. We stayed out late taking in the scene on South Beach, then lunched at the Beach the next day and had a blast.

    Then Orlando was the other type of day. We fly immediately after games to the next city. We arrived in Orlando at 1:30 a.m. and then most of us sat in bed watching the election results until later than we should have. Our bodies think it is West Coast time. The day in Orlando consisted of waking up around 10 (7 Pacific), reading the NBA news for an hour, walking across the street for lunch, prepping for the game and getting a brief workout. I was outside for a grand total of four minutes. I couldnít tell you a thing about Orlando.

    That night we landed in Charlotte. The weather has been terrific, while I hear you have been drenched and it isnít stopping. No complaining for sun and blue skies. Now when you hit a city and have a day off the trip suddenly the rhythm of the road grinds to a halt and I really start to miss my wife and kids.

    Yesterday in Charlotte, after putting together the Sonics Locker Room program I just walked and walked. Anne Donovan gave me the name of a hole in the wall soul food spot, Simmons. I had a wonderful time with the people who own and run Simmons while eating lunch. Great hometown people and home-cooked collared greens, chicken and cornbread. I try to get some sort of local feel and not eat at the same chains that every city has.

    Next was practice and then on the way home I just plopped myself in the middle of the city at some fountain and watched the dynamics of Charlotte.

    Today is dedicated to prepping for the broadcast. If I get all my work done, then I might head over to Loweís Speedway to see the race track.

    Not sure if you care about all this, but I thought I would try to paint the picture during my first year on the road of what the rhythm is and what is really taking place.

    Fourth Quarter Defense or Lack Thereof
    Posted on November 9 | permalink


    Just one possession each night going this way instead of that way and who knows? That keeps resonating in my head.

    Maybe it is deeper than the one possession. Maybe it is a belief in oneself. Maybe it is an understanding of how to not only play hard but to compete. Maybe it is players truly understanding winning at the NBA level. The clichť is having the ďkiller instinct.Ē

    I donít have the answers nor do I even have a hypothesis on which one is the answer.

    However, Kurt Fedders from the Sonics media relations staff and I have uncovered some interesting numbers.

    This season, opponents are shooting 49% from the field against the Sonics in quarters one through three. However, in the fourth quarter Sonics opponents are shooting 55% (39-71).

    In quarters one through three opponents have shot 97 free throws or 6.5 per quarter. In the five fourth quarters, they have shot 70 free throws or 14 per fourth quarter.

    How come?

    For this I do have two hypotheses. First, the Sonics are learning an entirely new defensive system and when it gets down to pressure time they revert back instinctually to what they have done in the past. It takes time for a team to learn and, more importantly, believe in a new system and new philosophies.

    It also is a process of learning that you can trust your teammates. The new system forces the Sonics to play five-man defensive systems. For example, if Ray cheats and cuts the corner when guarding an opponent running off baseline screens, then it leaves the other players out of position to help.

    Ray has to believe that if he trails the cutter that his teammates will help him get through the picks and that his teammates will step out and deny that passing lane allowing him time to recover.

    The other thought would be this is the reality of the NBA. The beauty of the NBA is that for 40 minutes team go back and forth trying to find the other teams weakness defensively. It is a hunt and peck search to find the area they can exploit.

    Then in the final eight minutes it is time to go to town. This is what Portland and Miami did running the high pick-and-roll time and time again. The Lakers altered their triangle late to go at the pressure point they wanted to abuse.

    That is how the NBA works. It is a stark reality for a team that is not built to be a stalwart defensive unit.

    These two issues roll together. If the Sonics begin to trust the defensive systems that have been implemented, this will minimize the weaknesses team are looking to exploit.

    Ouch
    Posted on November 8 | permalink


    How many of these ďpunch in the gutĒ losses do we have to endure?

  • Up nine with five minutes left on opening night and fall to the Blazers.
  • Lead with under five minutes left on Friday night to the Lakers and fall.
  • Up six with 4:07 left in Miami against the World Champs and fall.
  • Agrrrhhhh.

    You know you have reached the absurd when Ray Allen misses two free throws in the final two minutes after hitting 20 in a row. Either of his free throws would have altered the complexion of the game and forced Miami to consider fouling.

    The lesson here is the importance of each and every possession. These teams are going up and down the floor 190 times and when the night finally comes to its conclusion if you flip one or two possessions in your favor it changes the outcome of the game.

    Understanding that and playing with that in your mind often dictates whether you end in the W or the L column.

    The Sonics were sloppy with the ball all night. Committing 20-plus turnovers leaves a team limited margin for error. Most of the Sonics turnovers were unforced.

    Defensively, the Sonics played much better. They held the Heat to a franchise-record-low 10% shooting in the first quarter. They did a fairly good job defending the first dribble. However, when it came down the stretch they couldnít keep Dwyane Wade off the free throw line. He went to the line 12 times in the fourth quarter.

    Earl Watson said it best on our postgame show - Wade has an insane will and determination. I have never seen a player able to take an off-balance shot and then pogo stick back up and get his own rebound. He uses his body brilliantly to draw fouls on his way to the basket.

    There is no reason the Sups shouldnít be 3-1 at this moment rather than 1-3. Yet that is the essence of the NBA. I believe each year there are five great teams and five awful teams and the other 20 are rather even.

    What separates winning from losing is belief. If a team gets on a roll they start to believe. That is where Utah is in the early part of the season. It is what happened to Seattle two years ago. Look at Denver when George Karl took over, they suddenly believed. These teams convinced themselves they were good and that makes all the difference on those one or two possessions a night.

    Three losses like this to open the season and now the Sonics are on the verge of doubting themselves and that is when you slip the other way.

    Quick Notes Before Tip
    Posted on November 7 | permalink


    Shaq is still a game-time decision, but the Heat got good news today. Shaq's knee is just a bruise and doesnít have any damage.

    Dwyane Wade is still talking about how tired his body is from the long post-season and World Championships. He is deferring more to teammates and had seven assists in the first half versus Philadelphia.

    Jason Williams is out for tonightís game, leaving Gary Payton as the only real point guard on the roster. GP doesnít have the shot falling much yet. I got a quick chance to say hi to GP today. He will be sitting down with KC for an extended interview tonight for Fox NW.

    Be sure to get out and vote and do it correctly.

    Talk with you at 4:00 and remember that Fox is re-running the broadcast in its entirety at 7:30 tonight.

    Iíll update Shaqís status the minute I find out.

    80 Degrees in Miami
    Posted on November 7 | permalink


    Good Morning. We are currently at shootaround at American Airlines Arena. The Bus left the hotel at 9:30 a.m. Eastern which is 6:30 body clock time. It felt like it, but that may have had something to do with a late night on South Beach. It was 80 degrees as we sat by a pool well past midnight. How can you leave that weather?

    The bars and nightlife on South Beach are legendary. Monday night was pretty calm. A lot of the bars are hooked onto hotels, so the bars are all pool side and you can see how it would just get nutty on warm summer night with the party happening in the pool.

    We went to the hotel that either is or was Madonnaís place. It was amazing. The inside had great style. The outside bar had beds everywhere with people lounging on them. Some of the beds were set in sand. That is Miami.

    Miami the city has a great energy and vibe to it. So often you are in a U.S. city and there is nothing that differentiates it from the next one. I always ask myself, if I was dropped here, would I know where I am? In Miami, you would be able to tell.

    Yesterday, we flew out of rain-drenched Seattle for Miami. I canít think of any longer flight in the contiguous United States. We had to stop in St. Louis for fuel. It was raining just as hard in St. Louis as Seattle and it felt like we had just flown in circles and landed in the same spot.

    It was a weird day yesterday. We never saw daylight. You leave Seattle at 8:00 a.m. and then arrive in Miami as the sun is setting.

    For dinner last night a group of us went out to a Cuban place. Lenny Wilkens told stories for a while and it was priceless. The best was about the player who wouldnít shoot unless his wife in the crowd told him it was ok. Lenny wrote a book, Unguarded, a few years ago and it is a good read. Sonics fans and basketball fans will really enjoy the contents.

    It was great to get a win before this trip started. Defensively, the Sonics are making strides. They held the Lakers to 23 points in each of the last three quarters. KC talked about the defensive improvement as well as the Legends Weekend in the Sonics Locker Room Show.

    From shootaround, Bob Hillís favorite line is, ďRemember. Pay attention. That is what memory is - high levels of paying attention.Ē

    Shaq is probable for tonightís game.

    Damien Wilkins has taken to wearing his practice jersey backwards. He has now added that he wears a different number each day. Today is #29.

    Petro Sidelined
    Posted on November 3 | permalink


    Johan Petro will not play tonight. He experienced an irregular heartbeat on Thursday evening. It has returned to regular. He will undergo further tests tomorrow in Seattle.

    I rode the elevator with Johan today and he is feeling much better, but definitely was scared when it took place.

    Sene went through shootaround and will start. This puts an increased burden on Nick and Danny. The Lakers are down to one center as well with injuries to Chris Mihm and Kwame Brown. 19-year-old Andrew Bynum will start.

    Shootaround in LA
    Posted on November 3 | permalink


    I just got back from shootaround. In L.A. we donít go into the Staples Center because it is too far away and the L.A. traffic makes it impossible. Instead, we practiced at LA Southwest College. It is fun to see NBA players working out inside of a college gym with all the bleachers rolled up.

    As shootaround progressed the word had spread that the Sonics were in the gym and by the time we left the entire football team had come to see the guys.

    Shootaround is the morning walk-through the Sonics do on game days. Shootaround usually starts with a little refresher on offensive items, then the players get loose and it ends with a run through how the opponent plays offensively.

    In the case of the Lakers the focus is on the triangle offense.

    The Sonics went through shootaround assuming that Kobe will play. The Sonics have a specific defense they will use whenever they play a player of Kobeís ilk. his pertains to Kobe, Carmelo, LeBron and that type of player.

    Sene went through shootaround and seemed to be moving well. Danny Fortson is with the team and will play this evening.

    Lamar Odom has been out of this world for the Lakers in their opening two games and will be a tough matchup for the Sonics tonight. He is a dominant left handed player and the Sonics have to find a way to force him to his right hand.

    Running Through The Box Scores
    Posted on November 2 | permalink


    Here are a quick thought or two or more as I ran through the Box Scores from Wednesdayís action.

  • Indiana really is going to play small or skill ball this year. They are starting Al Harrington at the four. The problem is Jeff Foster is the guy they need on the floor to win. He does all the things that winners do.
  • Adam Morrison 5 of 13 and 4 turnovers. Only 3 free throws. If he doesnít go to the line he is going to struggle.
  • Emeka Okafor blocked 6 shots.
  • Orlando shot 59% against Chicago who evidentially was still relishing in their win at Miami.
  • 20 points and 10 assists for Chris Paul. That is awesome. With Desmond Mason and Tyson Chandler on the floor he is playing with a lot of non-scorers and still is able to create.
  • Paul Pierce grabbed 19 rebounds and notched 29 points.
  • Sebastian Telfair had only 1 assist. That is a playmaker.
  • Sene played more minutes than the #1 Andrea Bargnani.
  • If New Jersey is going to be great they will have to give Jason Kidd some rest. This will fall on rookie Marcus Williams. Williams notched 24 minutes. Most impressively, he grabbed 8 rebounds.
  • The worst offensive night may have been by Charlie Villanueva who took 21 shots and scored only 16 points. He did grab 12 boards.
  • Hello, Rasheed the season has started. Maybe not for you, 23 minutes and 0 points.
  • Quienten Richardson played 56 minutes. He had 31 points in only 13 shots. That is what happens when you go 5 for 5 from three. I like Isaiah playing Channing Frye and Eddy Curry together.
  • Deron Williams of the Jazz may be great. Word around the league has been that he has really come into his own. Opening night he had 18 points and 10 assists. The Jazz also think rookie Paul Milstap could be a Reggie Evans type.
  • Houston is going to have to get something off the bench is they are going to be upper Western Conference.
  • Congrats to Rony Turiaf who rang up a career high 23 points and 9 rebounds.
  • Baron Davis took 19 shots the most on the Warriors. I am convinced that when he leads the team in shot attempts they lose every time. We can monitor it. Monta Ellis may be on the rise. He was great in pre-season and put 22 on the board last night.
  • Pounding a Weakness
    Posted on November 2 | permalink


    The marathon has officially started. Opening Night has its own vibe and energy, but when you wake up the next morning it is time to flip the focus to the next one and then the next one and so on and so forth.

    The Sonics are practicing as I type this and then they are heading to L.A. to face the Lakers.

    An Opening Night loss to the Blazers was as unexpected as Ray Allen showing up with a Mohawk. Both happened. It is as shocking as losing a nine-point lead in the final 4:30.

    The Sonics defense collapsed in the second half of last nightís game. What was surprising is for most of the first half the Sups were in the passing lanes, denying the ball and suffocating the Blazers game plan.

    However, in the NBA if you have one weakness it will be milked until you figure out how to stop it and that is what the Blazers did. The Blazers went to the high pick-and-roll from the top of the circle with Brandon Roy time and time again. It got them back into the game.

    From there they were able to pound Zach Randolph in the post. With Nick having an off night the Blazers forced Chris Wilcox and Johan Petro to play a lot of post defense. The end result for Wilcox was being mired in foul trouble the entire game and Petro continues to really struggle.

    That is the essence of this league. Find a hole and pound it until the opponents has an answer. It is also why some teams match up well against others. Go back to how the Sonics used to pound the Lakers when Kobe and Shaq were at their best. The Sonics could exploit Shaq in the pick-and-roll and the Lakers never had the answer.

    The other essence of the league is winning games you are in control of. Last night the Supes were in control and needed to walk out with a win.

    Collison and Sonics Collide on Deal
    Posted on October 31 | permalink


    In two days the Seattle SuperSonics have solidified their on-court future. The Sonics and Nick Collison agreed to an extension tonight. .

    For most of the off-season, both sides had decided that they would play the season out and re-convene the conversation next summer. However on Friday, the Sonics contacted Nickís people and re-opened the conversations.

    Collison's off-season commitment and superlative play gave the Sonics confidence that Collison has a very bright future. His importance to the franchise was reaffirmed the day Robert Swift went out for the season with a knee injury, giving Collison a bigger role at center.

    Talking to Nick today, he said that a week ago he never thought there was a prayer, but as he left practice today he thought there was a real possibility and it has in fact come to fruition. Tonight, those conversations became an agreement and Collison is signed and delivered for the long term with the Sonics.

    This is an enormous statement from both sides. From the Sonics, they are showing that they are willing to spend the money to be a title contender when this group matures.

    Winning teams have a Nick Collison. He is the consummate professional. His teammates enjoy having him in the locker room and most of all on the floor. He makes the smart play. He makes the correct play. In the areas he lacks he has shown the ability to overcome with experience.

    This preseason, Collison no longer looks like a player that is thinking. Instead, he looks like a player that has relaxed and is playing - playing well, I might add.

    From Collison's perspective, he certainly could have played out this season to become a restricted free agent or the next to become an unrestricted free agent. At that point, Nick could have made the effort to break the bank. Instead, he has shown a commitment to the Sonics.

    I donít know the terms of the deal. However, speaking with Nick, he had asked for a five-year deal. For the deal to be worth signing the money had to be more than the mid-level exception. That was the starting point for the conversation and the Sonics obviously got close to the requests to get the deal done.

    Clay Bennettís ownership group has made their initial statement about how they plan to treat the franchise. They are rewarding those players that are going to be good to the franchise and they are interested in keeping their players happy with their surroundings.

    Last season, Sonics management made a mistake thinking that the players would be able to bounce back from a disappointing summer of negotiations and put their contract worries behind them. In two days, the new ownership has removed any of those worries from Collison and Ridnour.

    Clay Bennett and The Professional Basketball Club, LLC. will take ownership at midnight tonight with a roster firmly in place for the future.

    The point guards, shooting guards and power forwards are all signed for at least the next three years.

    A new era of Sonics basketball starts tomorrow night against the Blazers (7:00 p.m., , FSN, KTTH 770) in this 40th season. The real start, however, may have come the last two days.

    Another Strong Article
    Posted on October 30 | permalink


    I am a big admirer of people who do great work. Greg Johns, who writes for the King County Journal and its surrounding papers, always does a great job of perfectly summarizing the big picture that our local teams are confronting. Too often many of us, including me, get too deep and miss the big picture of a story.

    This is a good example of Gregís strong work. The article is about the emotions of a Sonics fan in this most important season.

    Blast From Blaine Signed Up
    Posted on October 30 | permalink


    Today the Seattle SuperSonics extended Luke Ridnourís contract three years.

    Ridnourís preseason has shown all the signs of returning to his form of two years ago. Under the tutelage of Assistant Coach Gordie Chiesa, Luke looks to have regained his confidence on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.

    Ridnour hit his stride last season under Bob Hill's open-floor system. Ironically, for all the talk of Luke having an off year last season, he was ninth in the NBA in assists. After Hill took over, Ridnour averaged 12.5 points and 7.4 assists per game.

    This summer Luke went to Las Vegas to train with the National team. According to people who saw those practices and scrimmages, Luke took a day or two to assimilate, but by the end was competing toe-to-toe with everyone on the roster.

    The combination of another year under Hill, the national team experience and the connection with Gordie Chiesa has Luke primed for a strong year.

    From a contractual standpoint, this deal secures the Sonics at the point guard position for the next few seasons. The combination of Watson and Ridnour is a very solid 48 minutes at the point guard position.

    Finically, when this team hits its apex it will be near the luxury-tax threshold and they have secured their point guard position at a market rate that allows them strong flexibility for their other positions.

    Moreover, point guards are hard to find - most of all point guards that are willing to put the team first. In this last off-season the point guards that were signed were Franklin High Schoolís Jason Terry, Speedy Claxton, Mike James and 36-year-old Sam Cassell. The Sonics signing of Luke today frees the Sonics from entering that overpriced market.

    Specifically to Lukeís evolution, he has been unfairly compared to Steve Nash and John Stockton for most of his career. Those are heights that no one can attain, Nash being a two time MVP and Stockton the all-time assist leader in the NBA. Obviously, that doesnít preclude Luke from success or the team from success. If Luke can increase the accuracy of his jumper and continue to develop his pick-and-roll offensive game he will be in the upper half of offensive point guards.

    Defensively, Luke is never going to be a strong powerful point guard, so picks are always going to be an issue for him. The Sonics have altered their defensive structure this season and it will work to Lukeís strength, which is his lateral quickness.

    Bottom line on Luke and the Sonics is he has started 159 out of a potential 164 the last two years. Many teams are struggling miserably to find a pass-first, get-his-teammates-involved point guard and the Sonics have one. Luke conducts the offense well and fills a great role on a team with Rashard and Ray.

    Furthermore, with his natural progression with time in the league Luke very easily could move into 14 point, 9 assist a night point guard and that is very strong.

    KISS from the Furtado Center
    Posted on October 30 | permalink


    K.I.S.S is a great acronym that many of us have heard before, Keep It Simple Stupid. Trust me I have heard a lot in my life.

    This translates to what the Sonics are going to do with Sene and what they are trying to do defensively. Rather than trying to be an expert in numerous different types of defenses and system the Sonics are working to keep it simple and be good at those items.

    We so often refer to defense as an effort issue. However, if you listen to Gordie in practice he talks about as though fundamentals supersede effort. Obviously, without effort none of it matters, but effort without defensive fundamentals is also useless.

    In practice today, the Sonics were working on the high pick and roll defense and Gordie went through a very detailed explanation and reminder of correct fundamentals to getting over the top of the screen. To simplify, too many players stay high when trying to get through that screen.

    Danny Fortson is sitting out with ice on his knee. I havenít seen the entire practice so I donít know how much time he put in.

    Kareem Rush is on the floor.

    The #1 thing heard in practice has been Coach Hill yelling, ďMo go get that, Mo go get that.Ē He is referring to shots by the opponent.

    Nick had the best move I have seen in practice. They were working on a post drill and he was being guarded by Rashard. Rashard denied the ball and Nick sealed and spun to the hoop where he got a lob. He caught it with one hand and then pushed it off the glass for two.

    Superlative Journalism
    Posted on October 30 | permalink


    This weekend I found three terrific articles about players in and around the NBA I wanted to share with you.

    New York Times Magazine profiled Sonics draft pick Yotam Halprin

    The Rocky Mountain News is doing a 4 part profile on Carmelo Anthony. The journey to Syracuse and his early struggles in the NBA are well documented.

    A good friend of mine and brilliant writer for the Washington Post, Mike Wise, is doing a 4 part series on Gilbert Arenas. The stories of Gilbertís childhood, being left in a crack house to his latest struggles will have you transfixed.

    The stories and journeys of these men are really remarkable. It is these stories and personalities that separate the NBA.

    If you have the time I strongly suggest reading these or at least saving the links for another time