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Two Great Games...No Big Deal

While the folks at SonicsCentral.com may be homers we are not biased enough to deny that Ray Allen’s last minute heroics against Memphis earlier this week likely included a blatant shot clock violation. Earlier in the game an absolutely brutal pick by rookie Johan Petro included a fair bit of leaning and could just as easily been called as an offensive foul.

Frankly we don’t care.

In the National Basketball Association the tone a team sets is as important to the game as anything else. Over the last two nights the SuperSonics came out with aggressive play and a demeanor that earned the respect of the officials. Whereas in past games this demeanor was likely to fade with substitutions of Flip Murray, Vladi Radmanovic, or Reggie Evans last night there was no letdown. This primarily had to do with the exceptionally strong play of Earl Watson and Johan Petro. Watson pushed the ball at a pace that clearly through the Grizzlies off balance and ignited his team offensively. Petro played well above his season averages both in terms of minutes and production. In the fourth quarter he looked like a seasoned veteran, calmly knocking down jumpers to keep the Sonics in the game.

The Sonics earned the calls they received and ended up winning their second consecutive game against a playoff team. In addition the wrapped up perhaps the most exciting and interesting stretch of basketball since last year’s playoffs. In the end I could barely contain myself and wound up calling both Scott and Steve to discuss the game late at night.

So why is it that I came into the office the next morning to find the Seattle Post-Intelligencer featuring a one-third page picture of a Portland Trailblazer?

Granted the Sonics did make the front page of the sports section with their win against Memphis despite the feature on Washington native Martell Webster. The day before their remarkable win against the league champion San Antonio Spurs was enough to earn them a spot on page C-4 in the same paper.

This city has always featured a reputation for fair weather fans. When a team is hot they dominate the news, when they struggle then they get no coverage. The matter does however always seem to be a little more lopsided when it comes to the Sonics. Much of the problem may have to do with the NBA, which is struggling to bolster declining interest and an image problem that never seems to be improving. However part of it likely is due to the teams management inability to establish a report with large portions of the fan base.

Despite having one of the top overall records in the league during a decade long run, many fans cannot seem get over their animosity towards team president Wally Walker. Walker drew the ire of fans for his replacement of popular general manager Bob Whittsett and coach George Karl. Since that time he has been a lightning rod for criticism. Fans focus on the lack of playoff success and compare records to the high standards set in the late 90’s. Some supposed fans have allowed their anger towards Walker to become so great that they have begun rooting for failure in an effort to depose Walker.

“The Sonics damage control at the trade deadline kind of shot us in the foot.” claims a message board poster at www.seattle-pi.com. This poster, under the name “Heavy!” claims credit along with an group called Sonics fans united for flying an anti-walker banner at a game last year. “…beating the Spurs,& posting a record above .500 isn't exactly condusive to generating a big following at the moment.” He continues.

While Sonics Fans United may be longing for losses like the one the one suffered in Houston I do not. Aggressive play won respect of the officials against Memphis and it is what they need in order to get off page C4 and win back fans in a competitive sports market. The team must be both competitive and exciting to watch in order to succeed. For two nights they were.

It didn’t seem to matter much.