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Sweet and Sour

Have you ever tried POG? If, like many a Seattle local, you have ever tried to escape the seven months of misty drizzle and oppressive, low hanging clouds that return to embrace our home each October, than I am sure this is a concoction with which you are familiar. If the long plane ride, expensive hotels and annoying time share salespeople have kept you away from this oddity, let me introduce you. POG is a sickeningly sweet blend of the juices of the Passion fruit, the Orange and the Guava. The only thing more aggressive to your taste buds than a fresh, vacuum sealed, 1 ounce, plastic cup of POG as served on Hawaiian Airlines is a batch of POG gone bad. Here the juices have been allowed to sit a bit too long and have begun to sour and ferment. The bubbly feeling along the sides of your tongue is chased by a sudden pinch of your eyes, nose and mouth as the sour flavor hits the back of your tongue and the roof of your mouth. Somehow, the local Hawaiians find enough pleasure in the consumption of POG (what can I say, they seem to like the bland pastiness of poi quite a bit as well, at least they have a zen sort of balance about them) that a game was created by local kids using the caps of POG bottles back in the 1920’s/1930’s. Like everything else Hawaiian, some advertising/marketing whiz then exported this game to the rest of the world in the 1990’s. Essentially you take stacks of small discs with colorful designs on one side, and you slam them with your “slammer.” You win all the POGs which land face up. The kid with the most POG’s wins the game. Strangely, most of the kids I know prefer a grim faced, dedicated focus on using computer animated characters carrying large, destructive weaponry to eviscerate and obliterate other computer animated characters and objects. The kid with the most blood and least friends remaining wins.

What this has to do with the Sonics, you may ask. Go ahead ask. I don’t have a clue. In an effort to produce more content for Sonicscentral.com and also to give me something to do in between televised NBA League Pass games, or while on excruciatingly long domestic and international flights, I have volunteered to tackle a Player Of the Game column.

As my wife will quickly tell you, I love to talk, and while most of the time I have absolutely no idea what I am saying, I will argue my point until I wear you down, simply to enjoy the sound of my own voice. Writing a semi-regular piece is a perfect forum for me, since it offers me the opportunity to ramble on about basketball with absolutely no expertise or actual experience or data to justify my opinion and I don’t even have to pretend to listen to anyone’s response.

This is not an award, an honor, or even something to be greatly desired by a player. I don’t intend to pick the best player in every game; in fact, I may choose to profile whatever idiot blows a game for us if I feel so inclined at the time. I will combine some statistics with my entirely subjective gut feel to look at just a single player for each game. I was tempted to talk about more than one, but as you can already see, I am easily distracted, and will need some tight boundaries or this could wind up as travel guide.

Now that we have the background out of the way, let’s talk about the Sonics third win of the 06-07 season which we got to enjoy via the pleasant tones of Mr. Kevin Callabro via the elitist, ultra-conservative and generally worthless KTTH AM radio. I will first admit that it is hard for me to have a subjective feel about a game that I can’t see (I am not much when it comes to visualization) and don’t have the ability to pause or rewind. I am a Tivo and DVR junkie. If I can’t pause, rewind and fast forward every few minutes I get the shakes. The Sonics have blown four games so far this season that they have led in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter. The only wins, up to this point, have come with double digit leads in the waning moments. Saturday afternoon they were playing the Atlanta Hawks, who haven’t played NBA basketball since back before Steve Smith and Dikembe Mutumbo became card carrying members of the AARP and got the extra discount at Denny’s. Of course, the Hawks have decided to start the season on a tear and scare the gang of three or four sub .500, eastern conference teams that vie each season for the eighth and final playoff spot.

Despite my growing certainty that the Sonics were simply not capable of winning a game entering the last two minutes with less than a double digit lead, they managed to tie the game up and then were able to steal a win in OT when Joe Johnson finally missed a shot. It apparently took two small forwards to stop one shooting guard, but you have to love this Joe Johnson quote via Frank Hughes at The News Tribune, “I really didn’t want to take the 3. But it was the closest shot I could get.” I don’t think we heard much of that last season.

Because the Sonics won, and because they give the optimistic fan the burst of hope that they are “turning the corner,” I am selecting a positive contributor for my first POG. As a dedicated Sonics fan with by far too much emotion and personal self worth tied up in the performance of this team, however, be forewarned that my latent fears of another nightmare season and my deeply suppressed panic over any potential team relocation to the Midwest may cause my mood to ferment and turn sour at any time.

Ray Allen hit the game winner for this game and that gives him some subjective bonus points that carry him over the edge to become today’s sickeningly sweet beverage of choice.

Ray led the team in scoring by a sizeable margin (10) and led the game with 33 with Joe Johnson chasing him at 28. He also led the team with 2 steals. In addition Ray tied for second in both assists and rebounds. He shot 47% from the field, was 4-4 from the stripe, but he shot an atrocious 1-6 from deep. We are all very glad that Ray chose to drive for the game winning shot, particularly after he missed his last two attempts to win from long range against the Blazers and the Lakers. Ray had the third best +/- on the team with +8 and the third best help value with an 11. Ray’s +/- was really hurt by the poor play of Johan Petro at the the start of the third quarter, and Earl Watson/Damien Wilkens at the close of the third quarter.

David Locke on Ray’s performance “Ray was unreal. He is really, really special. His ability to get open and slither to the basket or the spot where he can find his shot is nearly unparallel in the NBA.”

Coach Woodsen on Ray (via Kevin Pelton)
“It was a big shot. We had so many breakdowns defensively tonight. We couldn’t keep the ball in front of us. There were a couple big plays. I thought the Ridnour play when (Tyronn) Lue missed the layup, we let him get behind our defense, and he gets an easy bank-in shot. It’s just little plays like that that hurt you in a close ballgame like this.”

Josh Smith on Ray (also via Kevin Pelton)
“Me and Chill ( Josh Childress) played great defense. He penetrated and I stepped up and I thought I had a good shot at blocking it, but he went to the left hand. It was a tremendous shot. That’s all I can say about it.”

Once upon a time you COULD see the nifty set of moves and the sweet floater that won the game over at NBA.com, however the highlight clips have DISAPPEARED. Also in that highlight reel are some amazing leaps by Josh Smith, a beautiful shot by Luke at the buzzer and the craziest thing of all…Rashard Lewis with great defense on Joe Johnson for the last shot of the game.