Posts Tagged ‘Paul Silas’

Sikma Wants Seahawks To Join ’79 Sonics

Jack Sigma revs up the crowd in the Seahawks' "12th man ceremony."

Jack Sikma revs up the crowd in the Seahawks’ “12th man ceremony.” — photo courtesy of Seattle Seahawks

Seattle will always have its Sonics — even though it no longer has its Sonics.

Between the two sports markets emotionally involved in Super Bowl XLVIII this evening in New Jersey, Denver has given its fans more of a payoff through the years. A pair of Lombardi Trophies (XXXII and XXXIII) for the Broncos as led by John Elway. A couple of laps around the ice (1996, 2001) by the Colorado Avalanche, with the NHL’s Stanley Cup held high by goaltender Patrick Roy. At least an appearance in the 2007 World Series by the Colorado Rockies before Boston’s sweep that fall.

But Seattle? Folks in that market have to go back to the 1979 SuperSonics to find the city’s lone championship (Big Four, North-American team category).

The Larry O’Brien trophy wasn’t even called that then. The NBA commissionership wasn’t even a glimmer in David Stern‘s eye. Michael Jordan? Heck, Larry and Magic weren’t even in the league yet.

Thirty-five years is a long time. How many Seattle sports fans are too young to remember that special spring? How many who lived it aren’t around anymore?

But Jack Sikma was front and center, making it happen, recalling it fondly ever since and basking a little in the glow and nostalgia during this Seahawks team’s push to the Bowl.

Sikma was the 6-foot-11 center on that Sonics title team, a sleeper out of Illinois Wesleyan in the 1977 draft widely remembered for his blond locks and signature “reverse pivot” move. As an obvious link to the city’s crowning sports achievement and a resident who makes his permanent home there, Sikma was a natural to be invited to participate in the Seahawks’ traditional “12th Man” ceremony earlier this NFL season.

“My niece works for the Seahawks,” said Sikma by phone Friday, taking a break from his NBA day job as an assistant coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves. “They asked if I’d be interested and I told ‘em, ‘Of course.’ My only qualifier was that it had to happen really early in the season, because we were going to start ours up.”

So on Sept. 22, with Jacksonville in town, Sikma made the trek up to the upper rim of CenturyLink Field as guest hoister of the team’s “12th Man” flag honoring the fans. “You’re at one end of the stadium, way up top,” he said. “The whole stadium is turned toward the flag pole just before kickoff, and the crescendo starts. You’re waving the flag and whipping up the crowd, and that goes right through the kickoff. It was pretty cool.”

Seattle Seahawks vs San Francisco 49ers;

The 1978-79 Sonics qualified as cool, too, getting all the way back to The Finals after a seventh-game loss to Washington the year before and then beating that same Bullets team in five games. Seattle had all  its pieces in place that season: Sikma in the middle, a dynamic backcourt led by Gus Williams, Dennis Johnson and (Downtown) Freddie Brown, Lonnie Shelton and John Johnson up front, a rotation that included Paul Silas, Wally Walker and Tom LaGarde and head coach Lenny Wilkens.

The biggest change from the previous squad was Shelton, arriving as compensation from New York after the Knicks signed free-agent center Marvin (Human Eraser) Webster. Sikma had played power forward as a rookie but shifted over, with the burly Shelton slotting alongside him.

The Sonics had the NBA’s top defense (100.1 rating) and ranked 14th of the 22 teams offensively (102.7). They won the Pacific Division with a 52-30 record, beat the pre-Magic Lakers in five games and came back from a 3-2 deficit to get past Phoenix. Williams (19.2 ppg) led them in scoring, John Johnson (4.4) in assists, Dennis Johnson chipped in 15.9 ppg and Shelton, Silas and LaGarde combined for 30.1 points and 21.5 rebounds a night. Brown was the deep threat and instant offense off the bench, while Sikma averaged 15.6 points and 12.4 rebounds.

“The pressure was really to give ourselves another chance at The Finals,” Sikma recalled, “especially since we were so close and lost the seventh game at home – it wore on you. We got there and we actually played our best basketball probably all year long. We got up and down [the floor]. Defensively we really closed down the paint. It happened, and the town went nuts. And I’m sure if the Seahawks win, it will be bedlam.”

Seattle’s small-town feel, particularly 35 years ago, meant that many of the team’s sports stars cross-pollinated, attending each others’ games. The Seahawks were an expansion team in 1976, the Mariners began the following spring – and Sikma was pretty young himself. He was single, with time on his hands, and mingled with fans constantly, security far less prevalent than now.

He also learned that team success wouldn’t always come so readily. Sikma played 12 more NBA seasons (another seven with the Sonics, then five with Milwaukee) but never made it back to The Finals.

“I wouldn’t say I didn’t appreciate how lucky I was and try to understand how hard it was to do what we did,” he said. “But the guys who had been there – Fred Brown had been in Seattle [since 1971] and really didn’t have a team that ever challenged. John Johnson hadn’t had that opportunity or Dennis Awtrey. They were later-on in their careers. I’m sure it meant a little more to them.”

While not getting back stung, getting there early actually helped him, Sikma said. “I got my money’s worth in those two years,” he said. “My experience under the pressure of it, and just the focus and the preparation, boded well for me for the rest of my career. The confidence that came from that, I couldn’t imagine any other way to gain it.”

Sikma was a seven-time All-Star. He retired having averaged 15.6 points and 9.8 rebounds, and ranks 30th in rebounds (10,816). In fact, as one of just nine players to have at least 17,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 1,000 blocks and 1,000 steals (since blocks and steals began being tracked in 1973), Sikma has a decent case for Hall of Fame consideration. Seven are in (Abdul-Jabbar, K. Malone, M. Malone, Olajuwon, Ewing, Parish, D. Robinson) and one (Kevin Garnett) is active.

Sikma, however, always will have that 1979 championship. He’s rooting for the Seahawks to join the Sonics as ring-bearers – rooting so hard, he’ll watch the game at home alone, he said, to avoid the distractions of a party. “I really respect that organization,” Sikma said. “[Owner] Paul Allen has built a great stadium. They have a rabid fan base and they have solid people like John Schneider running their organization. When you put those things together, usually, you have a high level of success.”

Sikma also would like to see another NBA contender in Seattle some day. The league’s power brokers know all about demographics, disposable incomes and TV market size; Sikma knows the people there.

“It’s a crime there’s not a basketball team there anymore,” he said. “People come out and they root. They’re participating in the game as a fan. There are a lot of young professionals that kind of fit the NBA’s fan mold who live in Seattle. It’s become a very urban city, both Seattle and across the way in Bellevue.

“I sure hope it happens and, if it does, it would be great.”

Funny, but he said exactly the same thing about Seahawks vs. Broncos.

Najera Busts Barriers From Bench Now

FRISCO, Texas – During the first round of the 2010 playoffs, in his second stint with the Dallas Mavericks — the team and the city he always called home no matter where roamed in the NBA — Eduardo Najera decided to shake things up.

The Spurs were doing a number on the Mavs in Dallas and the muscular, 6-foot-8, 240-pound power forward had seen enough of the slap-and-hack defense on Dirk Nowitzki. So when Manu Ginobili drove the lane, Najera collared him and Ginobili crashed to the floor. The foul deserved to be and was called a flagrant 2, garnering an automatic ejection. But Najera had grabbed everyone’s attention.

“It was kind of frustrating to watch some of them hit Dirk in the face,” Najera would say. “So I just came in and tried to prove a point that we’re going to fight back. And that’s what’s going to happen.”

As a player, Najera, still the only Mexican-born player ever drafted in the NBA, never had to search for an identity. He simply was physical, intense, hard-nosed and unrelenting. Don’t mistake the Ginobili foul; Najera wasn’t a dirty player, but he wasn’t afraid to take the fight to the opponent.

These days those attributes don’t translate so well wearing a suit. As a rookie coach of the NBA D-League’s Texas Legends, developing an identity, a sideline demeanor, just doesn’t come as naturally.

“I am pretty intense,” Najera said. “I really believe that my identity as a player has carried on to this level as a coach. Yes, I call it the way I see it. I don’t treat players differently, they are all the same to me and I go off on one through 15, and that includes my assistant coaches.” (more…)

Trade Chatter: Orlando’s ‘Dwight Howard Watch’ Continues





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The countdown clock is ticking … and on the Orlando Sentinel‘s Dwight Howard Watch page, it’s literally ticking … down to next Thursday’s trade deadline with no guarantees as to what’s going to happen to the Magic’s superstar center and the city and franchise that don’t want to lose him.

A week away from what could be doomsday for Magic fans if Howard is dealt and no one is quite sure what’s going to change in Orlando.

There is a strong belief that the Magic will call Howard’s trade request bluff and keep him on the roster with no chance of getting anything for him if he leaves via free agency this summer, as ESPN.com’s Marc Stein makes clear here:

I’m sure some of the “Magic resolve” chatter that’s been gaining traction in recent days about how increasingly determined they are to keep him beyond the deadline is at least partly designed as a means of trying to improve the offers that come in before the deadline. Yet it seems evident that the stronger belief in the Magic Kingdom is that it’s better to keep Dwight and face the worst-case-scenario consequences of losing him for nothing if there’s so much as a 10 percent chance of him changing his mind.

The vibe coming from the Magic is that owner Rich DeVos prefers that scenario, frightening as it is, to what Orlando can get for Dwight in a trade today. Fortunately we have only about a week more to wait to find out whether Orlando’s bravery has staying power … or whether the claim that it’ll take its chances with mere salary-cap space should Dwight bolt was just posturing.

It’s strange, with all of the wild and crazy rumors that were flying around a week ago this time you’d expect we’d have more of the same. But instead, rumors are being shot down with increasing frequency.

Take a spin around the league and see all of the guys who were supposed to be on the block who are no longer considered to be in that mix, and that includes the likes of Rajon Rondo, Pau Gasol and a few of our other trade rumor faves:

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Something To Prove

Nothing in the NBA is guaranteed except contracts. So at least Tyrus Thomas has that in his favor. The Bobcats gave him five years at $8 million per, with the hopes that he’d stop teasing everyone and someday produce like a high lottery pick should.

But as Rick Bonnell mentioned in the Charlotte Observer, Thomas cold be in jeopardy of losing precious minutes to DJ White, a big, hungry bruiser who wasn’t blessed — cursed? — with a big contract.

White had just scored a career-high 21 points with 10-of-12 shooting. He was the one shining thing in an otherwise awful performance.
(Paul) Silas was asked if it would be a “problem” finding minutes for White once Thomas returns from a sprained ankle, hopefully this week. Silas replied that if this defines a problem, it’s certainly not his problem.
“He’s going to play now,” Silas said of White. “Tyrus is going to have to show that he can play better.”
At 68, Silas is an old-school guy expecting players to earn their minutes. The clear message was White deserves better than to just be a place-holder for Thomas.

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Adelman, Rubio … A Perfect Pairing

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – For all the magic Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love or Rubio and Michael Beasley or even Rubio and Derrick Williams might make on the court, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ true dynamic duo this season should be Rubio and his new mentor.

Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman holds the keys to Rubio’s rookie season, and his career to some extent, and so far is driving flawlessly so far. Much like Paul Silas did with LeBron James so many years ago, Adelman has to press all the right buttons early on with a player that is dealing with pressures, internal and external, that not every top draft pick has to deal with.

Rubio is only four games his journey and raised the stakes already with masterful performances in a loss to the Heat on Friday and Sunday’s win over the Mavericks, the two teams that played for the NBA title last season.

Did you see him work against the Mavericks? (If not, check the video above.) His 14-point, seven-assist, four-rebound showcase  included five consecutive points scored after the Mavs shredded a 15-point lead to just one.

It’s clearly a matter of time for Rubio to overtake Luke Ridnour as the starting point guard for the Timberwolves. But it’s up to Adelman to decide when to push that button. Adelman’s work with young point guards in the past — namely Jason Williams and also Mike Bibby in Sacramento — suggests that he is following a revised script that only he is privy to.

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Blogtable: Coach With Most Pressure?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Of the coaches starting the season with a new team, who has the hardest gig?

Steve Aschburner: Any coach new to his team this season has his hands full. Mike Brown, with the heat of the L.A. spotlight, the expectations, the egos and the end of the triangle offense will earn every penny. Others are near the end of their contracts. But Monty Williams won 46 games with New Orleans last season. If Chris Paul stays put with David West gone and limited help arriving, he and the Hornets will be hard-pressed to get 19 (half the pace of last season, based on 66 games).

Fran Blinebury: Mike Brown. He’s following perhaps the greatest coach in NBA history by taking over the helm of an aging ship that just had a gaping hole blown in its hull with the loss of Lamar Odom in a city where anything less than a championship is considered a failure.  Good luck with that.

Scott Howard-Cooper: Mike Brown. Rick Adelman will have to do a lot of heavy lifting in Minnesota and Kevin McHale steps into Houston at a particularly challenging time, but try being the guy who can get his team to a conference final and be part of a failed mission. That’s life as coach of the Lakers.

Shaun Powell: We don’t know the final makeup of the Lakers just yet, so we’ll put an asterisk next to Mike Brown‘s name. And assuming Paul Silas doesn’t count in this, his first full season with the talent-starved Bobcats (he took over for Larry Brown during last season), the guess would be Lawrence Frank in Detroit. Yes, he does have new ownership, which will refreshingly allow Joe Dumars to do what’s necessary. But the Pistons are coming off a poor season, attendance is lacking and there are odd-fitting pieces on the roster. Frank may need to take a few blows to the chin this season until the cap opens up and a lottery pick arrives next summer.

John Schuhmann: Dwane Casey, who’s taking over the team that has ranked last defensively for two straight seasons. The Raptors are young, but none of their young guys looks to be a franchise cornerstone, at least until they bring Jonas Valanciunas over next year. Casey’s patience will be tested and hopefully, the team’s new owners give him ample time (he only got a season and a half in Minnesota) to turn that team around.

Bobcats Walker, Biyombo Ready To Rock

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We have no idea what kind of pros Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo are going to be for the Charlotte Bobcats.

There are legitimate questions surrounding both players, though we have a feeling Walker will answer many of those the minute he hits the floor under a veteran coach like Paul Silas and Biyombo will do the same with a little time and seasoning.

We do not, however, have any questions about their ability to entertain and connect with fans. Both of these young men possess all the personality needed to fit in on any NBA team (and they’ve got moves, too. Check them out six minutes in):

Cho The Right Step For Bobcats

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Michael Jordan gave up his dream of playing baseball after one year and gave up his fantasy comeback with the Wizards after two seasons.

So now is the great one now permanently giving up his role as talent evaluator to focus on the larger role as NBA owner of the foundering Charlotte franchise?

The Bobcats have taken a significant step forward with the hiring of Rich Cho to be the club’s new general manager. In an interview with Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, Rod Higgins said the decision to hire his replacement as G.M. was a simple one:
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Wallace Still Sore About Trade

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We suspect the standing ovation Gerald Wallace will receive at Time Warner Arena tonight in Charlotte will be as long and thunderous as any heard in Bobcats’ history.

After all, it’s not every day that the very first face of the franchise walks through the door with an opposing team. Yet that’s exactly what Wallace and his new team, the Portland Trail Blazers, will do this evening.

And it’s far from the happy homecoming you might have imagined. Wallace is more than happy to be toiling on a Blazers team steaming toward the playoffs with a renewed energy, due in large part to their last-minute acquisition of Wallace at the Feb. 24 trade deadline. And few players have exhibited the sort of no-nonsense approach to their work that Wallace does on a daily basis.

His description of the way he was shipped out of Charlotte, though, doesn’t sound like the sort of treatment the only All-Star in Bobcats history deserved. Wallace used phrases like “stab in the back” and “slap in the face” to capture his feelings about the trade, a move he insists Bobcats coach Paul Silas told him would not happen just hours before it did.

“Basically, he told me before the practice that I was good, that no trades were going to go down and I was OK and I didn’t have anything to worry about,” Wallace told reporters in Charlotte Thursday, his first day back in town since the trade. “Then I get home and bam, I’m traded.”

In this era of players dictating the terms of their own careers, the one that has some people crowing about a ruinous takeover of the league by star players demanding to play with their All-Star friends, Wallace is a victim of the age-old flip side practice of teams making moves in their own financial best interest with little regard to what that means to the player or players involved.

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Blogtable: Second half stories

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Which under-the-radar story will you be looking out for in the second half of the season?


Steve Aschburner:Wish it weren’t so, but the labor talks between the owners and the players – or the lack of such talks – will pound louder and louder and dominate most NBA-insider conversations as this season goes on. April, May and June are the happiest times of the year in the NBA – except when July looms so ominously.

Fran Blinebury: Despite the fact that they used a coordinated push from the business community to draw two large crowds against San Antonio and Oklahoma City to reach the attendance goal specified in their lease, it will be important to watch the support the Hornets receive at home the rest of the way.  If the team stays in the thick of the Western Conference playoff and attendance doesn’t increase without artificial stimulus, then the future of the NBA in New Orleans will remain an issue bubbling beneath the surface.

Art Garcia: I’m wondering if this season just drives George Karl out of his mind and he either retires or resigns. He’s been honest yet reserved when asked about all the turmoil surrounding his Nuggets, at least on the record. Not sure if any other coach out there can deal with a circus better than George, though he has contributed to the craziness in the past. In this case, he’s been around too long and is too good to basically have to babysit this group. (more…)