Monday, April 14, 2008

NW Hoops Weekend: Maybe the Last Time in Seattle

It was a big NW hoops weekend for The Painted Area. On Saturday, we attended a Portland doubleheader.

On Sunday night, I went to the Sonics-Mavericks game at KeyArena, in what I hope was not the last NBA game I'll ever attend in Seattle. Here is what I saw and heard.

First and foremost, I thought one of the headlines of the night was the appearance of Gary Payton at the ballgame. Yes, other team legends like Slick Watts and Downtown Freddy Brown were there and deserve their respect, but they live in the Seattle area. GP, as far as I know, does not spend much time in Seattle these days, so I thought it was an utter show of respect to the fans, and just incredibly cool, that he made a special trip to attend what could be the last game ever in town.

The Glove was already the greatest Sonic of all time, yet he only enhanced his status as a Seattle sports legend tonight with the simple gesture of showing up, which I don't think fans will soon forget.

A friend of mine pointed out that the only thing that would have been cooler was if the Supes had signed Payton, who played 999 games in a Sonics uniform, to play game 1000 and retire officially in one fell swoop.

Given the circumstances, I don't think the game itself could have been scripted any better. The Sonics rallied from down six with 3:00 left, capped off when Kevin Durant hit yet another clutch jumper to put Seattle ahead 96-95 with :41 left. He got another bucket on a breakaway with :14 left.

Then Dallas missed a three and time appeared to run out. However, there had been a foul on the play, so the officials needed to confer to see how much should be put on the clock.

The dead time allowed for the perfect moment for the near-capacity crowd of 16,272 to erupt into a chant of "Save Our Sonics". I captured 30 seconds of it above (apologies for the shaky camerawork!). The Seattle Times reported that it lasted for 90 seconds all told.

I'll note that Durant was waving his arms to encourage the chant as it began, and was quoted as saying, "I almost cried, to be honest with you. It was phenomenal. The whole arena was into it. The ushers were clapping." Watch for yourself above.

Lots of folks were showing love with all manner of gear representing 41 years of SuperSonics basketball. I captured a couple homages to the 1979 NBA Champs (RIP DJ), and I'm kicking myself that I didn't get a similar photo of one of the many KEMP 40 jerseys in the house.

In lieu of my lapse, please enjoy Shawn Kemp over Alton Lister one more time, above.

And then there was... not so much love. Major hat tip to this guy for incorporating Wally's Folly with the exceptional use of the MCILVAINE 22.

These guys took the crown, in my eyes, for the most inspired get-up of the night.

The SCREW CLAY T-shirts were worn by several fans in the building, in addition to the many sporting Save Our Sonics tees.

That said, if I had to create my Power Rankings of the biggest villains in this whole sordid affair, Howard Schultz would be a clear No. 1. It has become clear over the last several weeks and months, with the emergence of the Ballmer-Stanton-Sinegal-Griffin group as well as rumblings from former minority members of the Schultz ownership group, that Howard Schultz did not have to sell to a group from outside the area. There were plenty of potential local owners who were willing to actually work toward an arena solution rather than just petulantly pick up their toys and go home when their demands were not met.

I think that this was the single most-decisive act in leading to the current predicament, decidedly more egregious than anything that even Clay Bennett and David Stern have done.

Maybe it's an empty, futile gesture, but I think that any NBA fan worth his or her salt should stop patronizing Starbucks posthaste. I doubt it will make a dent in the bottom line, but it's the right thing to do, and it's an act in which NBA fans around the world can participate. Their coffee's overrated, anyway. They burn their beans.

I thought that this sign, which was the work of the good folks from Save Our Sonics, was important as well. The people referred to are Governor Christine Gregoire and State Speaker Frank Chopp, who have contributed absolutely zero productive action toward finding a solution to this whole situation, even when presented with the eminently fair solution offered up by the Ballmer-Stanton-Sinegal-Griffin group -- which received words of tacit support even from the likes of City Councilman Nick Licata and activist Chris Van Dyk, who have been leaders in voicing virulent opposition to previous arena proposals.

I was frankly surprised that this sign was not confiscated, and was even allowed to be hung from the back of the lower bowl for the second half, largely without disruption.

One last look at the team's retired jerseys. Sadly, if things continue on their current course, there will be no PAYTON 20 or KEMP 40 or an extra microphone for the great Kevin CALABRO to join them.

And finally, just because, Slick Watts. Good night from Seattle.

Also see: NW Hoops Weekend: PDX Doubleheader (Nike Hoop Summit + Blazers-Mavs)


At 2:42 PM, Blogger kellydwyer said...

Thanks for recognizing enemy numero uno. It's the biggest reason I cringe when I see my girlfriend come home with one of those damned Starbucks cups.

Few people remember Schultz' introductory presser, where he mugged and hinted in the direction of spending "Mark Cuban money" on the Supes. Of course, they never even sniffed the luxury tax.

Great post, as always.

At 9:16 AM, Anonymous JG said...

So, what do you make of the lawsuit--representative of a change of heart or mere grandstanding?

At 3:22 PM, Blogger M. Haubs said...

Clearly, Howard was so concerned about the specter of a Painted Area-led boycott that he chose to act!

I think it's unmistakably a good thing that there's now another potential source of pressure on Bennett, Stern and the NBA B.O.G.

Time will tell if it's substantive or mere PR, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

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