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Trending Upward

Guest Columnist Joe Newell was nice enough to write this piece summarizing the start of Bob Hill's tenure:

Since taking over as head coach after the loss at Indiana, Bob Hill has had 13 games to put his stamp on this team, and its quest to right the ship. We have seen the expected ups and downs that come with this type of transition; a 5-8 record is the most visible yardstick. But the story behind the story of wins and losses is the direction the team is headed; the tenor and chemistry of the Supersonics going forward. My estimation of the team under Bob Hill is that it is “trending upward”.

Prior to, and shortly after the change of Coach there was regular finger pointing and silent and not so silent dissent; we all read of Vladimir’s griping and constant refrain from his agent over playing time. Robert Swift and the NBA D league were mentioned in the same breath. We heard of Reggie asking for a trade, as well as Vitale; grumbling and discontent from Rick Brunson and Danny Fortson. Ray and Rashard have been telling us that they cannot do it all.

I say “trending upward” not because Seattle has won 3 out of their last 4, but because the tenor, the general direction of the team seems “hopeful”, and positive with just about half of the season to go. Winning silences most of the dissent. Therefore Seattle needs to keep on the positive side of the win loss column. This latest stretch of positive games, and the new energy and attitude on the team looks like a godsend for a team that was a ship without a rudder.

Individual performances within the framework of the team system as a whole are the framework for success. Good teams need good players; and in the NBA, most all teams have good players; but good players and good individual performances don’t necessarily put wins in the win column. The system has to be a good one that plays to the player’s strengths, and mitigates the weaknesses. Prior to the coaching change, we still had some good players (or great players) making great plays and having great games, but the wins were not forthcoming. Reggie Evans was showing some great rebounding and scoring numbers; but we were losing at an alarming rate. Ray and Rashard were both putting up All-Star numbers, but we were 13-17.

Things have been different for the Supes as of late. Seattle has put a few good games together against quality teams, even on the road. But it seems to me that our Point Guard has been infused with a new lease on life since the change. Luke has played 12 games under our new coach, and the system seems to really match his skill set. Under Hill, Luke has averaged 37 minutes, 4 Rebs, 7.1 Assists and 15.7 points. This is a great improvement over his roughly 10 pts/6 Assists numbers of last year, and most of this year. True he is playing more minutes, but he is earning them with the stellar play. Over the last 13 games (of which he has played 12), he has been matched up against some of the leagues finest point guards (we are talking about hall of fame, and MVP) in Stephon Marbury, Allan Iverson, Steve Francis, Baron Davis, Steve Nash, Sam Cassell and Chauncey Billups. Throw in Jason Williams, Gary Payton, Mike James and Chris Duhon and you can’t find a stiff in the group. It was against these players that our “homegrown” point guard has excelled.

It would be remiss of me to not mention the maturation and the growth curve of our two young stud centers in Petro and Swifty, and how much of a key they have been; but we didn’t know what we had there. Their ability to contribute was nearly an unknown. Luke on the other hand was a starter on a playoff team last year. To see him step it up in this fashion shows how much the system needed to change to fit his strengths and weaknesses, and those of the team as a whole.

I for one like what I am seeing; so for me I would characterize the team as “trending upward”, just as Luke’s play has been.