I can't think of a time I have ever been more disinterested or disgusted with a Sonics' season than I was just prior to Bob Weiss being fired. So it seems odd to sit here today, 10 games back in a weak division, feeling great about the direction of this basketball team.
At the start of the season I don't think anyone would have predicted this team would be 25-38 heading into tonight's game against the Phoenix Suns, but that goes without saying at this point. We have entered the twilight of the 2005-2006 season and fans are resigned to how far below expectations this team has landed.
There are two people who deserve credit for changing this season from a total loss to a huge step towards long term success for this franchise. The first is Bob Hill. Bob Hill has somehow infused Johan Petro and Robert Swift with enough confidence to play beyond their age. Consistently, these guys' combined stats are really impressive. The value of their rapid developement should not be overlooked. I don't know if Bob Hill is the right coach for this team long term, but I hope he's retained for a couple more years so he can continue working with Johan and Petro.
The second person who deserves a big share of the credit is Rick Sund. Who is this guy? I have spent years lamenting the Sonics inability to find midseason deals to improve the team, I can't do that anymore.
Since joining the Sonics, Sund has acquired Ray Allen, Luke Ridnour (with the Buck's pick), Chris Wilcox and Earl Watson in deadline deals. The trades that he pulled off this year by acquiring Wilcox and Earl Watson will be seen as the key factor in Seattle having a 45+ win team next year.
I don't forgive Rick Sund for this horrible season. Clearly, entering the season with 3 disgruntled players during their contract year didn't work out. Rick Brunson barely played a minute. Pot, Fortson, Collison and Moore didn't make up a serviceable NBA front court. His head coaching choice was a flop. The product on the court has been lousy for most the year.
Despite all that has gone wrong, and all the decisions or circumstances that have not gone the Sonics way this year, they have managed to retool the roster midseason. They eliminated nearly every major weakness on their depth chart and did it without giving up any core players or any first round draft picks. Watson and Wilcox aren't necessarily great players but they don't have to be.
In Watson, we get the third guard we have desperately needed. Someone that can bring defense and energy off the bench. In Wilcox, we found a true power forward to split time with Collison. Wilcox doesn't have the character flaws of Fortson or the offensive weaknesses that Reggie had. And best of all, both players are extremely happy with their roles on the team.
It's been one lousy season so far, but thanks to some mentoring by Hill and a midseason deal by Sund, it's not a lost season. The last two months of the season can now be a prolonged training camp for a future of renewed and sustainable success for this team.