Today I got a chance to talk with Craig Ehlo about the new radio deal and Robert Swift about his improved play...
Don't let the door hit you on your way out KJR...
Sonics shoot around today went very long as I assume that tonightâ€™s game against Portland is one they want quite badly. After nearly 2 hours of preparation the team retired to the film room for about 30 minutes during which time I got to shoot around with Craig Ehlo and his two sons. Say what you want about Ehlo as a broadcaster but Iâ€™ll tell you first and foremost that heâ€™s a nice guy, and secondly that itâ€™s awfully cool to get shooting pointers from a guy who played against Michael Jordon.
I was able to talk to Craig a bit about the new radio deal and address some of the fan concerns. While Ehlo claimed to have no real knowledge I felt that I came away with a much better understanding of what next yearâ€™s broadcast will be like.
Iâ€™m in a hurry so this will be summarized in disorderly fashion:
Kevin Calaboro has, to this point been an employee of the Sonics who is essentially leased to FSNW while Ehlo is an employee of Fox Sports who is approved by the team. FSNW kept this format along with the simulcast for the first two years to provide continuity with Kevin but has never intended to do so beyond this current contract.
Going forward Kevin will be the official voice of the Sonics and as such will broadcast radio only games. He will however work for FSNW and is excited because all of the money is in TV.
Ehlo, as an employee of FSNW will have nothing to do with the radio broadcast at all. He is in fact at the end of his contract and has not heard whether he will be back. The person who hired him initially has left to the LA Market and the impression I was left with was that he does not expect to return next season.
The Sonics deal with 770 is one which allows them total control over their airtime. Many radio deals the station pays the team a flat fee for the broadcast, then sells the commercials, etc. In this deal the Sonics control the entire broadcast and receive revenue for their own commercials which they sell and produce. Essentially this is good news for the people concerned about the political affiliations of the station. From the beginning of the pre-game show to the end of the post all the adds will be Sonics sponsors and not station advertisements. Creative control was one of the largest factors in the negotiations.
Kevin Calaboro met with the new station management and came away very impressed last week. Their intention is to move away from all political talk radio and become more involved in Sports and broadcast events.
I will not go into much detail but will say that I continue to get a vibe of bad blood between KJR and the Sonics. There was no way that relationship was going to continue.
Swift describes the difference between Play's and Sets
Robert Swift is not your typical NBA star. Heâ€™ll never be a media favorite because he answers questions in a simple and to the point fashion. Heâ€™s such a vanilla interview that Itâ€™s tough to get any great sound bites from him and despite his great play recently I was the only media member to sit down with him today as most other reporters were covering Blazer shoot around at the Key Arena.
In discussing the changes under Bob Hill Swift refers to the addition of a more structured offense. While Bob Weiss wanted a free flowing offense it is clear that Swift and teammate Luke Ridnour have benefited from more structure.
â€œItâ€™s helped everybody really.â€ Swift said. â€œInstead of sets he puts in plays. He puts in reads. If this happens then you do this, if that happens you do that.â€
The same theme was repeated when I asked Robert why the two coaches were seeing such different results when it came to a faster tempo game. Weiss entered the season promising a run and gun squad but got nowhere with it while Hillâ€™s team seems to run exceedingly well.
â€œItâ€™s more Coach Hill has put in breaks. Weâ€™ve got fast break plays on a make, fast break on a miss. Before, in the beginning of the year youâ€™d just run down and the PG would just try to call a set on the way.â€
Clearly the sense of knowing what and where to do has dramatically improved Swiftâ€™s game, but heâ€™s not comfortable with the praise quite yet.
â€œI know Iâ€™m young. Iâ€™ve still got a long way to go. You know 4 good games out of 82 it really doesnâ€™t mean much.â€
In fact Swift does not see a substantial difference in the way he is playing.
â€œItâ€™s just that heâ€™s given me playing time, thatâ€™s all. Itâ€™s not even really playing better. Itâ€™s just that Iâ€™m more comfortable. Thatâ€™s more experience.â€ He said.
As a longtime Sonics fan I am thrilled to death about having a big man display this much potential, and already worried about losing him. For his part Swift grew uncomfortable when talking about the large contract bestowed upon centers like Samuel Delambert and Tyson Chandler. Clearly money will be a factor but he made a nice effort to be politically correct when asked about money in the game.
â€œMy biggest thing is that I love to play basketball. Iâ€™m playing with the best in the world. Thereâ€™s nothing better than that.â€
So will Seattle have a shot at signing him when his contract expires in two years?
â€œI like the city. I like everything about it. Itâ€™s great being up here and Iâ€™d like to continue to be here long term.â€