Posts Tagged ‘Seattle SuperSonics’

‘Big Smooth’ didn’t gripe about 82

Sam Perkins ranks 19th all time in games played (1,286) and 55th in minutes (36,598). The sleepy-eyed, sweet-shooting forward/center known as “Big Smooth” played at least 80 games in nine different seasons and played all 82 three times.

He’s been retired for more than 13 years, finishing with Indiana in 2000-01 after divvying up his 17 seasons between Dallas, the L.A. Lakers, Seattle and the Pacers. At 53, he’s not especially prone to “back in my day” crankiness, but he does wonder why a workload of 82 games seems too much for NBA players and their coaches in recent seasons.

Cleveland’s LeBron James talked last month about the benefits of playing fewer games, if the NBA would ever curtail its schedule. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich has made it part of his calling card – along with taciturn quarter-break interviews – to rest his veteran stars numerous times during the regular season. But Perkins hasn’t been persuaded.

“Huh. I didn’t really have a problem with 82 games,” Perkins said during a Google+ Hangout with SportsBlog.com. “I thought once you got the format and they rolled it out for you, that’s what you had to do. And on top of that, we had to practice three hours a day, two times for two weeks [in training camp]. So I don’t know how much [more] grueling it is now.”

One gripe with which Perkins does agree: The heavy slate of back-to-back games, which grind on the players and may lead to shabbier basketball on those second nights. Or in the Spurs’ case, multiple absences from the lineup.


VIDEO: Perkins talks to SportsBlog.com

“Back-to-backs take a lot out of you, whether you’re a veteran or a young cat. That will tend to mess with you a little bit with injuries,” Perkins said.

Perkins, a teammate of Michael Jordan‘s at North Carolina who was drafted immediately after him in the 1984 Draft, spends time traveling as an NBA ambassador these days. He went to China with the Brooklyn Nets and spent part of the summer “hanging out” with Team USA at the FIBA World Cup in Spain. Perkins serves on the board of Special Olympics and has been preparing for the Games in L.A. next summer.

Last week he and former NBA player Cedric Ceballos traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa, for the Beyond Sport global summit and awards. One of that organization’s initiatives, Perkins said, was a program in Cambodia to eradicate land mines, making fields safe for kids to play.

But he seemed happy to spend time Friday answering questions via his iPad about his NBA career on a variety of topics:

On his notoriety as an ahead-of-the-curve, perimeter-shooting big man: “I know coaches did acknowledge the reason why they hate me so much is because all their players now try to shoot the three instead of staying inside. … Back then, Coach [George] Karl, Coach [Mike] Dunleavy and all these guys, they wanted to open up the game. So they said, you might need to work on your shot after practice. I didn’t even think about it, but shooting 3s with Byron Scott and all the guards, it just got better. … Guys, when I see them from different teams now, that’s all they know, that I shot 3s.”

On the 1984 U.S. Olympic experience: “It was grueling. Bobby Knight had us down in Indiana … and we went three times a day. I had never seen anything like it. Guys you had heard about finally meeting, and everybody was wondering ‘Who are you? What are you going to do?’ It was our first time meeting if you didn’t play then in college. Charles Barkley, Chuck Person, Antoine Carr, Xavier McDaniel. We just had an all-star crew there. … Bobby Knight was a different coach from Coach [Dean] Smith and what I was accustomed to. You had to pay attention because, as you know, Bobby Knight wasn’t one to play with.”

A player he modeled his game after, growing up in New York: “I saw the Knicks a lot. Willis Reed. Dean Meminger. Walt Frazier. Earl Monroe. These are the guys that I always wanted to be like. Because they played hard, they played together.” Perkins also mentioned ABA legends Artis Gilmore, George Gervin and Connie Hawkins – whom he actually saw play on the playgrounds in Brooklyn – as influences.

The NBA players with the best hair and best nickname: “I would have to say [Anderson] Varejao. No, no, I take that back. Joakim Noah. And favorite nickname? It’s got to be Kobe [Bryant]. ‘Black Mamba.’ “

Favorite teammate: “Chris Mullin, Detlef Schrempf and James Worthy. They were solid.”

His advice to current players about life after basketball: Line up internships in fields that interest them in the offseason. And network. “You definitely have to prepare while you’re playing. They tell you when you come into the league to try to meet as many people as you can – open doors to different avenues. It helped a great deal. And trying to have a positive persona for people to [be attracted to].”

The prospect of NBA franchises in international markets: “The new spot everybody’s thinking about is New Delhi, India. India has the potential of having the NBA there. They have the money, they have the infrastructure. And even though we may not think of India as an NBA country, it is probably one that can sponsor the NBA. It’s fascinating to see the hype for NBA basketball. … The place I would have liked to play would definitely be Spain. It’s a place where I hear a lot of guys go over there, they practice a lot but they don’t play as many games.”

Perkins also participated in a lightning round of word association:

Kobe? “Shooter.”

Knight? “Angry.”

SuperSonics? “Best team I ever played on.”

Michael? “Good teammate.”

Big Smooth? “I think of Byron Scott. He gave me that name.”

‘Free agent’ coaches seek work in ever-shifting job market

One by one, in something approximating inverse order of desirability, the names of NBA free agents have come off the proverbial big board. What began with the likes of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Pau Gasol has dwindled now to fellows such as Andray Blatche, Dante Cunningham and Ekpe Udoh.

This game of offseason musical chairs is played for even more blood among coaches. There are fewer jobs to be had in the first place (five or six per team vs. 15 player positions), and it’s not nearly the meritocracy that it is for players. Abilities, work ethic and results matter less than connections or change for its own sake.

There are a lot of coaching free agents still on the board, both former head coaches and notable assistants. Among the former, we have George Karl, Jeff Van Gundy, Scott Skiles, Mike Woodson, Doug Collins, Vinny Del Negro, Mike Brown, Mike D’Antoni, Keith Smart, Avery Johnson, P.J. Carlesimo, Lawrence Frank and Maurice Cheeks.

The latter group, even bigger, includes Jack Sikma, Mario Elie, Terry Porter, T.R. Dunn, Igor Kokoskov, Scott Williams, Bill Peterson, Bernie Bickerstaff, Brian Hill, Bob Ociepka  and, hey, Rasheed Wallace. Actually, you could go dozens deep with solid coaching pros who once were in but now are out, the one place few of them want to be.

“There’s an old expression in the NBA, ‘Never get off the bus. Stay on the bus!’ ” said Jim Boylan, an NBA assistant for most of his 22 years in the league who survived a coaching change in Cleveland this offseason. “We all realize it too — it’s a privilege for us to be involved in the NBA and to coach athletes at this level.”

But it’s fleeting. Coaches face more scrutiny and grab more headlines when they’re fired, but their landings are often cushioned by seven-figure paychecks. Assistant coaches get flushed, and that six-figure salary — while comfy by most folks’ standards — doesn’t go quite so far when you account for the costs of multiple residences or constant moves.

Ociepka, who entered the league in the 1980s as a part-time volunteer scout after a storied career as a high school coach in the Chicago area, scrambled through five NBA teams in five years in the ’90s. Boylan and his wife, Jane, counted recently and realized they have owned or lived in 25 homes during his basketball career.

“It’s not a surprise when you’re an assistant coach in the NBA,” Sikma, the former Seattle and Milwaukee center, said recently. “You look at the number of staffs that have turned over in the last few years — it’s more of a constant than not. You know you’re probably going to have to bounce around a little bit.”

There are a multitude of factors for the turnover, most obvious the turnover at the top. When a coach gets fired, some or all of his staff typically gets shown the door with him. And there has been a LOT of turnover lately — nine new NBA coaches this summer, 13 such changes a year ago. Going back just five years, to the start of the 2009-10 season, only San Antonio (Gregg Popovich), Miami (Erik Spoelstra) and Dallas (Rick Carlisle) now have the same coaches. And both the Spurs’ and Mavericks’ staffs have changed considerably.

“Most people who are making the decisions probably have a narrow list going on, from relationships or what they’re looking for,” Sikma said. “It’s a transient line of work for sure. So you have to be quick on your feet.”

Here are glimpses of three assistant coaches whose dance cards are filled to varying degrees. Sikma would like very much to get back in after spending the past seven seasons working with now-retired Rick Adelman. Boylan beat the odds by surviving a coaching change in Cleveland, then beat them again when LeBron James’ yearning for home rocked the Cavaliers’ landscape. And Ociepka is at the point, after so many hirings and firings, where he might prefer more stable options. (more…)

Sikma Gets Wish, ’79 Sonics Get Company

No champagne. No schadenfreude.

Members of the 1979 SuperSonics did not huddle up Sunday

Jack Sikma

Jack Sikma played nine of his 14 seasons in Seattle.
Photo courtesy of Seattle Seahawks

evening, rooting against the NFL Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII in the hope of retaining their Seattle specialness. As Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and the rest of them dominated the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium, 43-8, the Sonics’ 35-year reign as the city’s only major sports championship was over.

And at least one of them was fine with that.

“That sounds like the [1972] Miami Dolphins and the undefeated thing,” Jack Sikma said this weekend. “No, that’s something different.”

Sikma, an assistant coach for the Minnesota Timberwolves on Rick Adelman‘s staff, played nine of his 14 NBA seasons in Seattle. He was a seven-time All-Star for the Sonics, a 6-foot-11 center who anchored the ’79 team that ranked first among the market’s sports franchises in terms of ultimate achievement. Until Sunday.

“First of all, I like football and I like the Seahawks team,” Sikma said, “and I like how they conducted their business this year. They deserved to be where they’re at, having a shot at it.”

Unlike the legend of the ’72 Dolphins, whose alumni are said to pop corks each NFL season when the last unbeaten team loses (thereby preserving Miami’s distinctive claim), rooting against the Seahawks would be a Seattle-on-Seattle crime. Sikma makes his permanent home in that city, so he has a close-up, supportive view of the football team, which failed in its only previous Super Bowl bid (XL).

Jack Sikma

Photo courtesy of Seattle Seahawks

“The organization has shown they have good people making good decisions with their draft picks and free agents,” he said. “The whole story of Russell Wilson – they sign Matt Flynn at quarterback but the third round [of the 2012 draft] comes around and [GM] John Schneider says, ‘Hey, this guy is just too good of a football player. We’ve got to take him. We’ll figure it out.’

“It’s a different animal than NBA basketball, but how they’ve gone about their business, I think would bode well in our league too.”

Sikma learned what it meant to deliver a championship to Seattle’s passionate sports fans, and shared that with NBA.com. Now it’s the Seahawks’ turn, with the Sonics sharing their lofty status.

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.

Bucks Put On The Clock For New Arena

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The good news, Milwaukee, is the BMO Harris Bradley Center will unveil a new home court this season designed in the spirit of Robert Indiana’s awesome MECCA floor at the Bucks’ old home.

The bad news is neither their old home nor the current BMO Harris Bradley Center is fit for an NBA team. Incoming NBA commissioner Adam Silver made that much clear Wednesday in speaking to a gathering of Bucks corporate sponsors at a reception called the “Bucks Partner Summit.” It essentially started the clock on the 25-year-old arena and, quite literally, on the franchise’s future in Milwaukee.

“One obvious issue we all have to deal with is we need a new arena in Milwaukee,” Silver said. “At the end of the day, compared to other modern arenas in the league, this arena is a few hundred thousand square feet too small. It doesn’t have the sort of back-of-house space you need, doesn’t have the kinds of amenities we need. It doesn’t have the right sort of upper bowl-lower bowl (seating) configuration for the teams frankly that Milwaukee wants to compete against.”

Silver is the deputy commissioner to David Stern, who has announced plans to step down on Feb. 1, 2014. Silver told the Milwaukee crowd that the league’s collective bargaining agreement ratified in December 2011 positions all 30 teams, regardless of market size, to prosper. A prerequisite is a modern-day arena. Silver also made it clear that cities such as Seattle — which lost an eleventh-hour bid on seizing the Sacramento Kings — Las Vegas and Kansas City are planning NBA-quality arenas to attract teams. Expansion, Silver said, is not on the table, leaving relocation as the only way for a non-NBA city to gain a team.

The Seattle SuperSonics were the last team to relocate in 2008. The franchise was purchased by Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett, and when efforts failed in Seattle to secure public funding to match private funding to renovate the aging Key Arena, Bennett got the green light to leave.

The Bucks remain under the control of one of the NBA’s all-time great owners, Herb Kohl. At the meeting, Kohl described the difficulty he faced just last year in getting the league’s owners to approve the Bucks’ lease extension at Bradley Center through September 2017:

“Getting an extension was not an easy thing. There was some opposition there. None of it was personal — it was all a matter of good business in terms of what’s good for the NBA.”

Milwaukee’s other professional sports team, MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers, moved into Miller Park in 2001, the $392-million stadium that was largely paid for by taxpayers in the five-county region through a 0.1 percent sales tax, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. (The in-state NFL team, the Green Bay Packers, are in a unique situation as the only community-owned professional sports franchise.)

The estimated cost for the new downtown arena in Sacramento is $448 million.

The NBA has no interest in seeing the Bucks and their rich history leave Milwaukee, the franchise’s only home since it joined the league in 1968.

The franchise outgrew the MECCA and the Bradley Center too. A similar version of the old MECCA floor will be great to see this season at Bradley Center, but it’s ultimately plans for a new building the NBA will need to see.

Silver: NBA Won’t Hold Hansen’s Sacramento Acts Against Seattle

Deputy commissioner Adam Silver says Chris Hansen's recent tactics won't haunt him.

Deputy commissioner Adam Silver says Chris Hansen’s recent tactics won’t haunt him.

Sure it seems a little sleazy, writing a fat check under cover of darkness in an attempt to sabotage your competition. Billionaire Chris Hansen’s secret contribution to a group trying to thwart the construction of a new Sacramento arena – even after Hansen had lost his bid to buy and move the Kings to Seattle – smacked of gutter tactics, like Alex Rodriguez allegedly throwing other PED users under the MLB bus or the old Committee to Re-Elect The President [CREEP] of Watergate and Woodward-Bernstein fame.

But just because something isn’t sporting, old chaps, doesn’t mean that it’s going to get in the way of smart business.

A proper sense of perspective figures to prevail if and when Hansen, on behalf of Seattle, attempts again to return the NBA to that city. That perspective looks something like this:

  • $80,000 < $509 billion.

Every day of the week and twice on Sunday, as a matter of fact.

Adam Silver, NBA deputy commissioner and the man who will slide over one spot when David Stern retires Feb. 1 after 30 years in the job, assured Seattle reporters that Hansen’s bit of chicanery likely would not be a deal breaker if he were to make another bid for an NBA team, via either relocation or expansion.

Hansen and two political consultants agreed Monday to pay a $50,000 fine for failing to disclose the donation for a petition effort on behalf of arena opponents. Its goal: Force a citywide vote on Sacramento’s $258 million in public subsidy to the project. Hansen’s bid of $625 million was rejected by the NBA Board of Governors, who chose as Kings buyers a group led by Vivek Ranadive for $535 million.

The anti-arena donation, which violated California campaign-disclosure laws, raised some eyebrows over Hansen’s tactics but probably won’t place hurdles in front of a renewed Seattle effort, should Hansen still be involved, reported Percy Allen of the Seattle Times:

“I would say it won’t affect Seattle’s chances,” Silver said Sunday in Springfield, Mass., before the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony. “I haven’t talked to Chris since those allegations came out. I think as he said, he got caught up in the moment.”

Silver also said:

“We have a lot of competitive owners in the league,” he said “I’m sure all of that will be put behind us.”

To put it another way: NBA owners didn’t get to be multi-millionaires and billionaires by letting little ethical hiccups get in the way of megadeals. Hansen’s ploy was bad form, embarrassing and worthy of some tsk-tsking in the mahogany-paneled inner sanctum. But a hastily stroked, pull-no-punches check for $80,000 isn’t about to scuttle a deal that could deliver a half billion dollar (or more) windfall as an expansion fee to be divvied up among the current 30 teams (that is the Forbes 2013 average franchise value, which was how Charlotte was valued when it entered in 2004). Or an even bigger payday for one of the league’s poorer sisters, moving the revenue-sharing NBA back into the USA’s No. 12 TV market.

The NBA, through Stern and the Governors, has been known to drive home political, financial and even ethical points before. It took a stand, some would say, choosing the lower bid so the Kings could stay in Sacramento. (And it did not, Seattle fans might allege, in allowing Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett to abscond with SuperSonics in the first place.)

But if Hansen remains the most viable option as a deep-pocketed Seattle owner, and the best candidate to land the $200 million subsidies for a new $490 million arena, there’s no way the NBA and its owners snub him. A Sonics redux would be good for business, with a lot more zeroes involved than the regrettable check Hansen cut.

Payton: Stockton’s Game Spoke Loudest

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Any list of the NBA’s most notorious trash-talkers would be incomplete – wait, no, it would be an absolute, bleepin’ waste of time – if Gary Payton’s name weren’t atop it. In his Hall of Fame career with the Seattle SuperSonics (and four other clubs), white-hot and often profane on-court chatter was to Payton what long hair was to Samson, as much the source of his greatness as it was the soundtrack of his game.

But there’s more than one way to rattle an opponent. As Payton reflected on his NBA achievements and fast-approaching enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame — he’ll join the Class of 2013 Sunday (2 p.m. ET, NBA TV) at the ceremony in Springfield, Mass. — he saved his highest praise for a stone-faced rival who never engaged in much hardwood banter.

In 19 seasons with the Utah Jazz, point guard John Stockton didn’t need to move his lips when he read, whether situations, openings or opportunities.

“Never,” Payton said of Stockton in a Q&A interview with Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports. “That is the reason I really respected him because you never could get in his head. He’s the hardest person I ever had to guard. I tried to talk to him, try to do something and he’d just look at me, set a pick and cause me [to get mad and] get a tech. And then all of the sudden it was over.”

Payton reiterated in an interview with NBA TV’s Kevin Calabro that no matter how much he would talk to Stockton during games, the Utah point guard would go about his business as if nothing happened.

Payton said Stockton’s no-nonsense approach taught him a lot. It also prompted Payton to seek out the Hall of Famer as one of his two presenters for Sunday’s event — new inductees are presented by previously enshrined players or coaches, and Payton will be ushered in by Stockton and legendary NBA/ABA scorer George “Iceman” Gervin.

Payton made them sound like easy choices, telling Spears:

“George Gervin was my childhood idol since I was little. In Oakland I had all his posters on my wall. The Iceman poster where he was on ice blocks in that silver suit. He presented to all my other Hall of Fame stuff for retired jerseys at Oregon State and my high school. John Stockton is because I liked him when I was playing basketball. Everyone said he was dirty. He wasn’t as athletic as us. But he was smarter than us. We knew what he was going to do. We knew he was going to set [tough] picks. We had all the videos on Utah. We were so dumb. We would get caught up with the picks and get mad at him. He would shoot eight times and make nine. Shoot eight free throws and make seven. He’d have 15 assists and four steals. A complete game. That’s just the way he was and I idolized him…”

Payton idolized Stockton in his own way, of course, jabbering as if it was a natural part of inhaling and exhaling while building his reputation as one of the greatest two-way backcourt players in league history. HTB denizen Scott Howard-Cooper talked with Payton recently, too, and got the goods on how close the NBA and its fans came to missing out on his skills and his feistiness.

Spears touched on other topics, including this notion that, for Payton, guarding Stockton was tougher than facing Michael Jordan. (When Jordan reads this, he might ask to edit and re-give his famously competitive Springfield speech, to put Payton in his place):

“Those battles were a little easier. I would have Jordan get mad at me and go back at me. He knew he was really talented and could do whatever he wanted to. But [Stockton] was more of a challenge to me than guarding someone that would talk back to me. When you talk back to me and say something to me it made my game go to another level. John was one who wouldn’t say nothing and you couldn’t figure him out. He’d keep going in the pick and rolls and he and Karl Malone would score a big bucket. At times I would guard Jordan and get him mad and into other things.”

Payton, 45, shared other opinions, including his appreciation of Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams (“same mentality as me”) and Boston’s Rajon Rondo. “He can’t score like I did but he does everything else like I did,” said the nine-time All-Star and No. 2 pick in the 1990 draft.

He talked about Dwight Howard leaving the Los Angeles Lakers and about the Sonics leaving for Oklahoma City, where Payton isn’t interested in having his No. 20 jersey retired to the rafters. That, he believes, should and will happen in Seattle.

“It will be there sooner or later,” Payton said. “It could be years. If I’m 70 and they get a team, hey, so be it. It will be great just as long as it will go up in Seattle.”

And the pesky, pain-in-the-rump playmaker known defensively as “The Glove” talked about his own induction speech. Too bad he won’t be making it as performance art — just imagine the entire speech given in trash-talk cadence and (ahem) vocabulary, challenging as that might be for the NBA TV producers.

Fact is, the guy whose patter could move some opponents nearly to tears might find himself on the other end of things, in that stage-light moment of memories, accomplishments and appreciative faces smiling back at him.

“Everybody wants to know if I’m going to cry,” Payton told Yahoo Sports. “You know what? I’m going to be real with you. I don’t think I’m going to cry. But I got to stay away from watching my mom because if she starts tearing up … That’s the hardest mama in the world to make cry. If she tears up and cries?

“I know Pops ain’t gonna tear up. If he does it, it’s just a bad thing. I’m just going to stay focused and look forward and try not to look anybody in their face.”

Should he need to, Payton can always glance across the stage. That’s where the guy with the stone face will be standing, a source of the edge with which Payton played and that he might need again to speechify.

Team-less In Seattle: Durant Returns

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Seattle is starved. Starved for basketball.

Their beloved Super Sonics were taken away five years ago and just last May it must have felt as if the table cloth had been swiped from under all the place-settings just as dinner was ready to be served. Yes, they would have been stealing another city’s team, and there was an element of filth attached to it, but them’s the breaks as Seattleites can confirm.

And then the Sacramento Kings weren’t coming to Seattle to be reborn the Sonics.

On Sunday, Seattle got an up-close peek at what they’ve been missing since Clay Bennett bought the Sonics and whisked the franchise with a young, rising star named Kevin Durant to Oklahoma City. Durant made his return to the Emerald City, his first visit since playing his rookie season in green-and-gold and then was left with no choice but to say goodbye. In the five seasons since, Durant has become an All-NBA performer, his prowess second only to LeBron James, collecting three scoring titles and a trip to the NBA Finals, too.

The 24-year-old has become the face of the Thunder and he’s embraced his most-recent adopted hometown just as he had his last. He’s grown from a polite and skinny one-and-done at Texas into a full-fledged man. He’s a bona fide role model, as admired for his determination and desire on the floor as his accessibility and compassion off it. Durant was the first to step forward with a donation after the horrific tornado that leveled nearby Moore, Okla. — a donation of $1 million. He followed that up by personally visiting the devastated area and bringing teammates with him.

So on Sunday, fans in Seattle came out in force to catch what they’ve been missing.

From the Seattle Times:

There he was Sunday, in the city where his professional career began, and the 24-year-old looked just like he did when he played his last game in Seattle five years ago.

However, instead of his old green and gold No. 35 jersey, Durant wore a red No. 7. And instead of an NBA contest at KeyArena, he turned a summer-league game at the Jamal Crawford Pro-Am into a must-see event that drew manic fans to Seattle Pacific University.

The crowd overflowed out of Royal Brougham Pavilion and snaked around the corner onto Nickerson Street.

When Durant walked through a side door, the place went bonkers. And when he stepped on the court, the crowd of 3,000 greeted him with a standing ovation that lasted several minutes.

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” said former Washington standout guard Will Conroy, who teamed with Durant during the game. “Only Kevin Durant could do something like this in Seattle. Seriously.

“People wouldn’t come out like this and show this type of love for LeBron or Kobe. Not here. This just shows what he meant and what he still means to this city.”

With cameras and smartphones held high, fans lined the floor snapping pictures as the announcer said, “Welcome home, Kevin Durant” over the loudspeakers.

The NBA will never live down the manner in which the Sonics bolted Seattle, the 14th largest television market in the country, and make a new home in the 45th. A uniquely beautiful corner of the country, where three NBA teams once called home (including Vancouver), is represented solely by the Portland Trail Blazers.

Belief in an NBA return to Seattle has flat-lined. The league has no plans to expand beyond its current 30 teams and prying another team from its roots doesn’t appear to be in the forecast.

The NFL has survived and thrived without a team in Los Angeles, the second-largest market in the U.S., for two decades even as plan after plan has been formulated to build a stadium and woo a franchise. The NBA will also continue to march on without Seattle, as shameful as it might be, as a gaping, palpable hole in the city’s sports scene grows.

From a fan:

“To see him back in Seattle playing and fighting for our Sonics is pretty special,” 20-year-old Brandon Lee of Everett, Wash., told the Seattle Times. “We want basketball back in Seattle and to see the original guy back here was pretty awesome.”

From Kevin Durant, who after the game stood outside of the SUV that brought him surrounded by kids and signed autograph after autograph:

“I’ve had a fun time here in Seattle. I miss you guys. Thank you for the warm welcome, man. I can’t wait to come back. Thank you. I appreciate it.”

Blogtable: Bobcats Looking For Buzz




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.


Week 30: Dwight and D’Antoni | What do the Knicks need? | Bobcats back to Hornets


The Bobcats are changing their names back to the Hornets. Good, bad, odd, something else?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Good. Bobcats is a bad nickname anyway, ill-conceived as a vanity thing for the original owner. Beyond that, teams that relocate never should be permitted to abscond with the nicknames – or the record books – of the franchises they used to be. Too late, of course, for the goofily named Utah Jazz or L.A. Lakers. But by all rights, the expansion team in Minneapolis should have revived the Lakers name there. When George Shinn moved his Charlotte club, it should have become the new Jazz. Same thing if Seattle gets back into the NBA – they’re the SuperSonics. At which point, why should Oklahoma City have any claim on Spencer Haywood, Gus Williams, Slick Watts or Gary Payton? Records, banners and history should stay put (or, retroactively, revert back). Fans in Charlotte surely care about Larry Johnson, Muggsy Bogues and Alonzo Mourning more than those cheering for Pelicans in New Orleans.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comGee, and here I thought Michael Jordan should have changed his own name so everyone might forget that he’s the one who built the Bobcats.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Something else: Yawn. My only prerequisite is that the new Charlotte Hornets retain the NOLA Mardi Gras uniforms. 

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Eh. If they’re happy, I’m happy. Not a big deal either way.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I had some teal-and-purple Charlotte Hornets gear back in the early 1990s, and “Bobcats” already has a pretty dreadful history, so I’m in favor of the name change. With two different franchises being named the Hornets at one time or another, my historical spreadsheets might get a little confused, though.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Good! Anything to get away from the Bobcats era.

Philipp Dornhegge, NBA.com/germanyWhat’s not to love? The Hornets’ name and logo need to stick in the NBA, and the home of the Hornets apparently wants the name back. I have a good friend from around Charlotte and he told me that most people were never and aren’t to this day able to connect with the Bobcats. The franchise just doesn’t appeal to them. They are in rebuilding mode now, and what better way to start afresh and excite more people than to bring back the Hornets?

Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA.com/greece: Okayyyyyy…. right. So, we had the Charlotte Hornets. Then they moved to New Orleans. Then another team appeared in Charlotte and was named “the Bobcats.” And now they want to change again to “the Hornets.” And we are back in the 90′s. Are Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson coming back, too? Life goes in circles, after all. As bad as the “Bobcats” sounds like (a really bad choice I ‘m afraid), the real problem is the way the team plays and the fact that they have a 28-120 record over the last two years. “Bad”, whatever you call it, is still “bad.”

Board Of Governors Vote To Keep Kings In Sacramento

From staff and wire reports

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The Sacramento Kings aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The saga of the Kings’ future began back in January with an agreement between the Maloof family and Seattle-based investors Chris Hansen and Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer that would have sold the team to them. They would then have brought the Seattle SuperSonics back to the NBA after they were relocated to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season.

But the Hansen/Ballmer group is coming away empty-handed in its attempt to bring the NBA back to the Emerald City, as the NBA’s Board of Governors voted 22-8 to deny relocation of the franchise, keeping it Sacramento for now.

The NBA’s relocation committee voted 7-0 on April 29 to recommend rejecting the relocation of the team to Seattle, but Hansen’s group tried to sweeten the pot by increasing the franchise’s valuation and offering a record relocation fee as well.

Sacramento’s efforts have been led by software magnate Vivek Ranadive as well as Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who have worked tirelessly to local and regional businesses and leaders to establish the framework for a new arena for the Kings.

The Ranadive group has a competing deal on the table based on the original franchise valuation of $525 million that Hansen and the Maloofs reached in January.

The Ranadive group has agreed to match the 65 percent price of $341 million for the Kings in that deal, and has put at least 50 percent of that $341 million into escrow. NBA Commissioner David Stern said last month that while the Sacramento bid to keep the Kings at the time was slightly lower than the Seattle bid, the league considered the Sacramento bid binding.

Although there has been substantial buzz in Seattle that there are potential antitrust issues that could be the basis for a lawsuit against the NBA if and when Hansen’s bid is rejected, Hansen’s group apparently remains uninterested in legal remedies upon rejection, according to the source.

Hansen believes that this may be the last time in the foreseeable future that political and business interests in Seattle will be aligned to give support for an NBA bid. The city of Seattle has committed up to $200 million toward construction of a $490 million arena in the city’s SoDo area, next to Safeco Field, where baseball’s Mariners play. Hansen, who has already purchased the land on which he wants to build the arena, would pay the rest.

Sacramento has committed $250 million toward construction of a $447 million arena that would be the centerpiece of a development plan at the current Downtown Plaza mall site.

Ranadive’s group, which includes 24-Hour Fitness founder Mark Mastrov and the Jacobs Family, billionaire owners and managers of the Qualcomm company, has pledged to the NBA that it will not be a revenue sharing recipient if the Kings remain in Sacramento, citing the expected increased revenues the team will be able to get from a new building.

The Sacramento Bee reported this week that the NBA has encouraged the Ranadive group to put the remaining half of the $341 million into escrow as well to alleviate concerns of the Maloofs that the group has the financial wherewithal to complete the transaction.

Information from TNT analyst David Aldridge was used in this report.