I revisit my post earlier talking about what would make a good road trip. I said a 4-2 or 3-3 would be nice. Obviously, that was basing success on games won and lost.
So 2-4 with three straight major blowouts to start is a bad trip, right?
I donâ€™t think soâ€”hereâ€™s why.
I figured it would be mid-December before Bob would start Nick. Those three straight blowouts were caused by teams walking unhindered into the middle of our â€œdefenseâ€ and shooting point blank shots. The only way to stop that is our best defender (Nick) and size (Petro).
Amazingly, with Nick in the starting lineup, you donâ€™t have to figure out when youâ€™re going to get your best defender in thereâ€”heâ€™s already there! Plus, Luke trusts Nick a ton and plays better with him in there (or is it just that Nickâ€™s such a smart player that he makes others look good?).
Another thing that made this a great road trip was Vladi complaining about playing time, role on the team, locker room snacks, etc. to a point where Weiss took it personal. I think that forced Weiss to go from â€œnice guy assistant coach that gets along with everyoneâ€ to the guy that has to set the rotation and know guys are going to not like it. True to his professionalism, Ray pulled Vladi aside and said, â€œplay basketball and quit whining.â€ Thanks Ray. We saw last night how valuable Vladi is to this team. If he has his head on straight, he really helps the Sonics as an upper level team rather than an also-ran.
The 2-4 road trip also told this team that last year if officially over. The talk all summer of continuity sent a bad message that they started at 52 wins this year and would try to improve from there. Again, Ray in his wisdom said, essentially, no one is giving us anything. The slow start has reminded this team why they won last year.
They hit people, they took loose balls personalâ€”like they belonged only to the Sonicsâ€”they rebounded, they hit people some more, Ray and Rashard shot sweet from the outside, and Luke picked and rolled with anyone that would hit someone and then roll or pop.
It was pretty simple basketball. They knew they werenâ€™t a great defensive team, but because they kept hitting the other teamsâ€™ shooters chasing our shooters through screens all night, by the fourth quarter their legs were shot and so was their shot.
Also on this trip, Damienâ€™s role got defined. Heâ€™s an offensive player in training, not an all-star. Defend first and shoot last, Damien; we love your pressure defense.
So this trip wasnâ€™t successful in terms of wins and loses, but it was successful in this team gaining this yearâ€™s identity and finding out first who they are not (running team that beats other teams with fancy one-on-one play) and then they found out who they are (lunch bucket guys that have to work hard for EVERYTHING and think nothing will come easy).
Seattle now embarks on a nice home stand playing a bunch of teams at or under .500. This simply means nothing to this team. They cannot look at the other teamâ€™s record and think theyâ€™ll have any success. They have to play the way that they are successful and beat the other team up while setting screens, getting rebounds and making shots.
Good road trip, welcome home.