SBNation.com: All Posts by Paul Flannery http://cdn1.vox-cdn.com/community_logos/46737/sbn-fave.png 2014-04-17T11:52:47-04:00 http://www.sbnation.com/authors/paul-flannery/rss 2014-04-17T11:52:47-04:00 2014-04-17T11:52:47-04:00 The Celtics' necessary business of losing <img alt="" src="http://cdn0.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/31762861/20140121_ads_bm1_005.0_standard_400.0.jpg" /> <p>The Boston Celtics lost a lot of games this season. That was the tough part of the rebuilding effort. The better part starts now. </p> <p>The <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba/teams/boston-celtics" class="sbn-auto-link">Boston Celtics</a> were 12-14 once. Through roughly one third of the season, they had put together the kind of respectable record that puts teams in playoff contention in the Eastern Conference.</p> <p>In other words, the Celtics lost 43 of their next 56 games.</p> <p>This was the third-worst season in franchise history behind only the obvious tank job of 1996-97 and the 2006-07 team that sat <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba/players/4345/paul-pierce" class="sbn-auto-link">Paul Pierce</a> for almost half the season. If you take away that half-decent start to the season, this Celtics team would have threatened M.L. Carr's juggernaut for all-time honors and challenged the <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba/teams/milwaukee-bucks" class="sbn-auto-link">Bucks</a> and Sixers for ping pong ball supremacy.</p> <p></p> <p> <style> @media only screen and (max-width: 400px) { .sidebar { display: none; } } </style></p> <div class="sidebar"> <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba-playoffs"> <h5>Get ready for the playoffs</h5> </a> <img src="http://cdn0.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/31756919/20130428_lbm_sh5_028.0.jpg"><span> <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2014/4/17/5622684/2014-nba-playoff-schedule">&bull; Complete schedule for the first round</a> <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2014/4/16/5619434/toronto-raptors-playoffs-started-from-the-bottom">&bull; The Raptors revival</a> <a href="http://www.raptorshq.com/2014/4/15/5616626/raptors-set-new-franchise-high-for-wins-but-playoffs-ultimate-test">&bull; Playoffs are the ultimate test for Toronto</a> <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba-playoffs-team-previews">&bull; Get to know every playoff team </a> <a href="http://www.bulletsforever.com/2014/4/16/5619992/nba-playoffs-2014-wizards-opponent-schedule">&bull; The Wizards return to the playoffs</a> <a href="http://www.mavsmoneyball.com/2014/4/15/5606656/the-good-bad-dallas-mavericks-playoffs">&bull; The good/bad of the Mavericks' season</a> <a href="http://www.blazersedge.com/2014/4/14/5615148/preparing-for-the-rockets-series">&bull; Preparing for the Houston Rockets</a> </span> </div> <p>The 2013-14 Celtics were really bad. They finished 25th in points per possession and lacked a basic identity offensively, even when <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba/players/4352/rajon-rondo" class="sbn-auto-link">Rajon Rondo</a> returned. <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba/players/24284/jeff-green" class="sbn-auto-link">Jeff Green</a> was not the answer as a No. 1, not that many people were even suggesting he should play the part. They were outmanned on the boards, lacked outside shooting and one-on-one shot creation.</p> <p>They were game defensively, but overmatched. For most of the season the Celtics hung around the top half of the league in defensive rankings before coasting home with a below-average unit on that end of the floor. Lacking rim protection, rebounding and much of a defensive presence beyond <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba/players/111899/avery-bradley" class="sbn-auto-link">Avery Bradley</a>, they developed a habit of blowing fourth quarter leads and mastered the art of losing with some semblance of honor.</p> <p>This was all part of the plan. This was a painful, albeit necessary, step in Danny Ainge's quest to rebuild the franchise. The goal, contrary to popular local sentiment, was not necessarily lottery combinations or draft positioning. It was acquiring flexibility.</p> <p>If they wind up with a top-three pick: great. That's another asset for Ainge to throw into the pile of proposals he'll go through in the next few months. He's been on record as suggesting the draft is overrated and lacks a clear franchise game-changer at the top.</p> <p>Maybe he's bluffing or maybe he's tempering expectations, but the likelier outcome is that Ainge will try to replicate his 2007 blueprint when he traded seven players and three first-round draft picks for <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba/players/4344/ray-allen" class="sbn-auto-link">Ray Allen</a> and Kevin Garnett. Of those seven, four were developed by the Celtics and a fifth -- <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba/players/4356/sebastian-telfair" class="sbn-auto-link">Sebastian Telfair</a> -- was a recent lottery pick.</p> <p>Co-owner Wyc Grousbeck, who is not one to hide his competitive instincts, suggested that there will be "fireworks" this offseason. Ainge, who prefers to play coy, only offered that he would look into everything.</p> <p></p> <div class="m-nba-newsletter floated"> <h2>SIGN UP FOR OUR NBA NEWSLETTER</h2> <p>Get news, links and Ziller's #hottakes in your inbox every weekday morning.</p> <form action="http://s.sbnation.com/s/NBA+National+Newsletter" method="post"> <label for="email">Email</label> <input type="text" name="email"><input type="submit" value="Subscribe"><input type="hidden" name="redirect" value="http://s.sbnation.com/page/zh/awesome"> </form> </div> <p>Ainge has several of those kinds of trade chips already in place. Thanks to the KG/Pierce trade to the <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba/teams/brooklyn-nets" class="sbn-auto-link">Nets</a>, he has three first rounders coming from Brooklyn (this year's pick plus 2016 and 2018 picks that are unprotected) along with the right to swap picks in 2017. Ainge also has an unprotected 2015 pick from the <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba/teams/los-angeles-clippers" class="sbn-auto-link">Clippers</a> on the way and an unknown windfall coming from the Sixers. It's complicated, but if Philly doesn't make the playoffs next year it will be on the hook for a pair of second rounders.</p> <p>The Celtics have a small collection of homegrown talent that could be enticing to a team looking to unload a veteran star. ("Hey Flip, it's Danny. Wait, don't hang up yet.") The best is <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba/players/157880/jared-sullinger" class="sbn-auto-link">Jared Sullinger</a>, who averaged 13 points and 8 rebounds in his first season of extended playing time. Rookie Kelly Olynyk closed strong, averaging 12 and 6 while shooting 45 percent from behind the arc over the final 23 games.</p> <p>The rest of the roster is split between veterans on decent contracts like <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba/players/21664/brandon-bass" class="sbn-auto-link">Brandon Bass</a>, who put together a solid campaign and has one year left on his contract, and young players like <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba/players/172509/chris-johnson" class="sbn-auto-link">Chris Johnson</a> and <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba/players/199635/phil-pressey" class="sbn-auto-link">Phil Pressey</a> who are on unguaranteed deals. The $5.2 million of unguaranteed money on <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba/players/21601/keith-bogans" class="sbn-auto-link">Keith Bogans</a>' contract may also come into play. All told, Ainge has almost $8 million worth of non-guaranteed deals to work into trade pitches. The only truly onerous deal belongs to <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba/players/21536/gerald-wallace" class="sbn-auto-link">Gerald Wallace</a>, who has two years left on his contract.</p> <p>Thanks to a midseason trade that sent <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba/players/35061/courtney-lee" class="sbn-auto-link">Courtney Lee</a> to Memphis for pending free agent <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba/players/35077/jerryd-bayless" class="sbn-auto-link">Jerryd Bayless</a>, the Celtics have a little more than $56 million in salary commitments next season, per Sham Sports. That includes a $3.5 million qualifying offer for Bradley, who can be a restricted free agent and will be looking for a raise. That's not a ton of cap space, but every little bit helps and the Celtics successfully stayed under the luxury tax threshold, which opens up more maneuverability.</p> <p>Then there's Rondo, who is entering the final year of a deal that will pay him a little more than $12 million next season. His return in mid-January from a torn ACL was met with some consternation that he would muck up the whole thing by winning a couple of games by force of will and talent, but that's not what happened. Rondo had his moments, but the Celtics rested him on back-to-backs and he posted middling numbers.</p> <p>The likelihood is that if Ainge can pull of a blockbuster or two, then Rondo will be part of the long-term plan. If he starts thinking about 2015 and beyond, then dealing Rondo would seem to be an obvious part of the equation. Again, there are options.</p> <p>That's what this season was all about. Not tanking or ping pong balls or lottery picks. Ainge maneuvered the Celtics from a team with high-priced veterans at the end of their careers and few options into a younger team with a whole bunch of them. The 2013-14 season was the cost of doing business and really, that was the hard part. The fun part starts now.</p> http://www.sbnation.com/2014/4/17/5624534/boston-celtics-nba-draft-2014-losing-danny-ainge-future Paul Flannery 2014-04-06T10:00:03-04:00 2014-04-06T10:00:03-04:00 Sunday Shootaround: A season worth celebrating <div data-top="position:fixed;" data-start="position:absolute;" class="menu" id="to-the-top"> <div class="burger"><a>&#9776;</a></div> <ul> <li> <a href="http://www.sbnation.com"></a> </li> <span class="drop"> <li> <a href="#ot">Overtime</a> </li> <li> <a href="#vg">Viewers Guide</a> </li> <li> <a href="#tl">The List</a> </li> <li> <a href="#icymi">ICYMI</a> </li> <li> <a href="#sw">Say What</a> </li> <li> <a href="#twig">This Week In GIFs</a> </li> </span> <!-- START SOCIAL --> <!-- BEFORE PUBLISH, MAKE SURE TO REPLACE THE URLS BELOW WITH THE PUBLISHED URL. 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This is a floated element, so place before the paragraph you'd like it to float beside --> <div class="sidebar"> <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/sunday-shootaround"> <h2>Best of Sunday Shootaround</h2> <!-- Optional Image, Remove if you'd like --> <!-- End image --></a><span><a href="http://www.sbnation.com/2014/3/30/5563322/amir-johnson-raptors-feature-sunday-shootaround">*...</a></span> </div> </div> <p> <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/2014/4/6/5586752/nba-season-celebration-sunday-shootaround">Continue reading&hellip;</a> </p> http://www.sbnation.com/2014/4/6/5586752/nba-season-celebration-sunday-shootaround Paul Flannery 2014-04-01T13:30:01-04:00 2014-04-01T13:30:01-04:00 Doc's L.A. Story: Trading a winter of discontent for West Coast revival <div class="main-wrap"> <p class="intro">LOS ANGELES &mdash; The day before I left for Los Angeles was what passes for warm in Boston, which means hoodies and layers instead of puffy coats and down. The snow mounds had melted down to their sooty essence, eroding into impossibly grotesque monuments to the nightmare we had all endured these past few months. People who had removed "getting fresh air" from their list of priorities met in Davis Square and acted like spring was finally upon us. It wasn't. It snowed again on Monday. Another...</p> </div> <p> <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2014/4/1/5567546/doc-rivers-los-angeles-clippers">Continue reading&hellip;</a> </p> http://www.sbnation.com/nba/2014/4/1/5567546/doc-rivers-los-angeles-clippers Paul Flannery 2014-03-30T10:00:02-04:00 2014-03-30T10:00:02-04:00 Sunday Shootaround: Amir Johnson, the improbable grizzled vet <div data-top="position:fixed;" data-start="position:absolute;" class="menu" id="to-the-top"> <div class="burger"><a>&#9776;</a></div> <ul> <li> <a href="http://www.sbnation.com"></a> </li> <span class="drop"> <li> <a href="#ot">Overtime</a> </li> <li> <a href="#vg">Viewers Guide</a> </li> <li> <a href="#tl">The List</a> </li> <li> <a href="#icymi">ICYMI</a> </li> <li> <a href="#sw">Say What</a> </li> <li> <a href="#twig">This Week In GIFs</a> </li> </span> <!-- START SOCIAL --> <!-- BEFORE PUBLISH, MAKE SURE TO REPLACE THE URLS BELOW WITH THE PUBLISHED URL. 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This is a floated element, so place before the paragraph you'd like it to float beside --> <div class="sidebar"> <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/sunday-shootaround"> <h2>B...</h2></a> </div> </div> <p> <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/2014/3/30/5563322/amir-johnson-raptors-feature-sunday-shootaround">Continue reading&hellip;</a> </p> http://www.sbnation.com/2014/3/30/5563322/amir-johnson-raptors-feature-sunday-shootaround Paul Flannery 2014-03-25T09:40:17-04:00 2014-03-25T09:40:17-04:00 SLAM Dunk: Remembering the beginning of one of basketball's iconic publications <img alt="" src="http://cdn3.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/30640615/1753355.0_standard_400.0.jpg" /> <p>Before the basketball internet took shape, there was SLAM magazine. Bold, unapologetic and willing to tell stories that weren't being told, SLAM was a cultural force that shaped basketball coverage for the next generation. <br><br><style> <br />.m-sbnation-reebok-retro-week { <br /> display: block; <br /> width: 100%; <br />}</p> <p>.m-sbnation-reebok-retro-week img { <br /> max-width: 100%; <br />} <br /></style></p> <p><a class="m-sbnation-reebok-retro-week" href="http://www.sbnation.com/2014/3/25/5522780/reebok-retro-week"> <br><img src="http://cdn0.sbnation.com/features/reebok-retro/banner-snippet.jpg" alt="SB Nation Reebok Retro Week"><br></a></p> <p>This is the only Drive & Kick that should have Outkast playing low in the background. SLAM stalwart&nbsp;<a href="http://www.twitter.com/russbengtson">Russ Bengtson</a> joins the podcast to relive the glory days of the publication.</p> <p>Among the topics discussed:</p> <ul> <li>"You guys have to be insane. You started a basketball magazine after Michael Jordan retired." <br> </li> <li>Why Stephon Marbury was the ultimate Slam player. </li> <li>The Allen Iverson cover and other iconic moments. </li> <li>The time Russ spent the day at Kevin Garnett's house and had to wake him up the next morning for an interview.</li> <li>Working with Scoop Jackson and what the imitators failed to pick up about his style. </li> <li>The. Ricky Davis. Story. </li> <li>The generational shift from MJ to Kobe to LeBron. <br> </li> <li>The infamous Rasheed Wallace post-game interview when Sheed would only answer questions from Lang Whitaker. </li> <li>"You got stuff like The Starters on NBATV. That's like if you took the conversations in the Slam office and put it on TV." </li> <li>Russ talks about the state of the media game and SLAM legacy. "It was the forefather of a lot of this stuff. It was the idea of watching games with your friends."&nbsp; &nbsp; <br> </li> </ul> <p><iframe width="400" height="370" frameborder="0" src="https://player.cinchcast.com/?show_id=6219995&platformId=1&assetType=single"></iframe></p> <div style="font-size: 10px;text-align: center; width:400px;">Popular Basketball Internet Radio with <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.blogtalkradio.com/sbnationnba">SB Nation NBA podcast</a> on BlogTalkRadio</div> <h4><br></h4> <h4><b><a href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/drive-kick-sb-nation-nba-podcast/id748356175?mt=2">Subscribe on iTunes</a> |&nbsp;<a href="http://www.sbnation.com/nba-podcast-sb-nation">All "Drive & Kick" episodes</a></b></h4> http://www.sbnation.com/2014/3/25/5542774/slam-magazine-podcast-drive-and-kick-nba-allen-iverson Paul Flannery 2014-03-25T09:39:06-04:00 2014-03-25T09:39:06-04:00 Reign of terror: Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton and the rise of the Seattle Supersonics <img alt="" src="http://cdn1.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/30640445/1769943.0_standard_400.0.jpg" /> <p>They won zero titles, but led by Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton and George Karl, the Seattle Supersonics emerged as one of the most compelling, eclectic and memorable non-champions in NBA history. <br><br><style> <br />.m-sbnation-reebok-retro-week { <br /> display: block; <br /> width: 100%; <br />}</p> <p>.m-sbnation-reebok-retro-week img { <br /> max-width: 100%; <br />} <br /></style></p> <p><a class="m-sbnation-reebok-retro-week" href="http://www.sbnation.com/2014/3/25/5522780/reebok-retro-week"> <br><img src="http://cdn0.sbnation.com/features/reebok-retro/banner-snippet.jpg" alt="SB Nation Reebok Retro Week"><br></a></p> <p dir="ltr">The Seattle Sonics were combustible. They were flawed. They were a little bit dangerous and not at all conventional. Ragged by design and exciting in both temperament and ability, the Sonics weren't ahead of their time. They were from another universe.</p> <p dir="ltr">Nobody played basketball in the '90s like the Sonics. In an era of post-ups, isolations and slowdown styles, the Sonics were frantic. They trapped everything and switched even more. They wanted to turn you over and make you uncomfortable, and when they did, they threw down hammer dunks and alley-oops. Then, they told you about it afterward.</p> <p> <link rel="stylesheet" href="http://cdn2.sbnation.com/assets/3706325/bloglinks.css"></p> <div class="blog-links-main-container"> <h4> <span class="blog-links-star"><img src="http://cdn2.sbnation.com/assets/3608771/star.png"></span> More from our team sites <span class="blog-links-star"><img src="http://cdn2.sbnation.com/assets/3608771/star.png"></span> </h4> <div class="blog-links-link-container"> <a title="Seattle Supersonics blog Sonics Rising" href="http://www.sonicsrising.com?utm_source=sbnation&utm_medium=bloglinks&utm_campaign=blogs">Seattle Supersonics<br><img alt="Seattle Supersonics blog Sonics Rising" class="blog-links-blog-logo" src="http://cdn0.sbnation.com/uploads/blog/sbnu_logo/411/large_sonicsrising-full.5881.png"></a> <div> <a href="https://twitter.com/sonicsrising" class="twitter-follow-button" data-show-screen-name="false" data-show-count="true" data-size="small">Follow</a> <div data-share="false" data-show-faces="false" data-action="like" data-layout="button_count" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/SonicsRising" class="fb-like"></div> </div> </div> </div> <div class="blog-links-compact-container"> <h4> <span class="blog-links-star"><img src="http://cdn2.sbnation.com/assets/3608771/star.png"></span> More from our team sites <span class="blog-links-star"><img src="http://cdn2.sbnation.com/assets/3608771/star.png"></span> </h4> <div class="blog-links-compact-link-container"><a href="http://www.sonicsrising.com?utm_source=sbnation&utm_medium=bloglinks&utm_campaign=blogs">Seattle Supersonics blog Sonics Rising</a></div> </div> <p dir="ltr">They were also really good. Over a six-year span, the Sonics won 357 games and finished with the best record in the West four times, reaching the conference finals twice and the NBA Finals once. In between, they became the first No. 1 seed to lose to team seeded eighth and followed that up with another first round exit.</p> <p dir="ltr">At a time when great players like Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Karl Malone and John Stockton were denied championships by Michael Jordan's overwhelming presence, history has not been all that kind to the Sonics. Every one of those players and teams had postseason disappointments during their years together. The Sonics had disasters. There was no middle ground. When they were on top of their game, they were virtually unbeatable. But when they fell, they crashed, leaving a trail of collateral damage in their wake.</p> <p dir="ltr">What the Sonics had more than any of the other teams of their era was personality. The players fought with each other. They argued with their coach, who was just as crazy as they were, and the general manager fought with the owner. If they existed today, they would own the basketball Internet and be worth the price of League Pass all by themselves. They were of a time and place, and when it was over, they simply faded away.</p> <p dir="ltr"><a target="_blank" href="http://cdn3.sbnation.com/assets/4184287/72222289.jpg"><img src="http://cdn1.sbnation.com/assets/4184287/72222289.jpg" class="photo" alt="72222289"></a></p> <p dir="ltr"><i>Nathaniel S. Butler/NBA</i></p> <p dir="ltr">Before the preps-to-pros movement began with Kevin Garnett in 1995, there was Shawn Kemp. A freakishly athletic 6-10 power forward, Kemp never played a game of college basketball. He signed with Kentucky, but was ruled ineligible under the old Prop 48 rules. He left amid allegations that he pawned a pair of gold chains belonging to the coach's son -- Kemp was never charged -- and a recruiting scandal that touched every aspect of the program. He made his way to a Texas junior college, but never played there either.</p> <p dir="ltr">Nevertheless, Kemp declared for the 1989 draft. Sixteen spots after the Kings tabbed Pervis Ellison with the top pick, the Sonics chose Kemp, who quickly proved that he belonged in the league. He moved into the starting lineup early in his second season and was in the All-Star Game by the time he was 23 years old.</p> <p dir="ltr">Dubbed the "Reign Man," by beloved broadcaster Kevin Calabro, Kemp combined brute power with stunning athletic grace. He was a spectacular in-game dunker, and like Blake Griffin years later, critics charged him with lacking an all-around game to complement his highlight plays. But Kemp was a better passer than people gave him credit for and a double-double machine whose numbers were obscured by the Sonics' deep rotations and spread-the-wealth offensive philosophy.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Sonics went 41-41 in Kemp's rookie year and just missed out on the postseason, but lottery fortune was on their side. With the second pick in the draft, the Sonics selected Gary Payton from nearby Oregon State. Payton and Kemp couldn't have been more different. While Kemp kept to himself, operating on what the Sonics dubbed "Shawn Time," Payton was loud and brash. They were the alpha and omega of the Sonics' swaggering insecurity.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Sonics were in the midst of a transition period when Kemp and Payton arrived and their story doesn't really begin to take shape until midway through the '91-'92 season, when GM Bob Whitsitt made a fateful change at head coach, firing K.C. Jones and luring George Karl back to the states from a gig coaching Real Madrid.</p> <p> <link rel="stylesheet" href="http://cdn3.sbnation.com/assets/3608425/mustreads.css"></p> <div class="must-reads"> <h4> <span class="must-reads-star"><img src="http://cdn2.sbnation.com/assets/3608771/star.png"></span> More on the Sonics <span class="must-reads-star"><img src="http://cdn2.sbnation.com/assets/3608771/star.png"></span> </h4> <div class="snippet-n tiles"> <div class="row"><a style="background-image: url(http://cdn3.sbnation.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/28621911/174502528.0_standard_730.0.jpg);" class="cell" href="http://www.sonicsrising.com/2014/2/14/5411858/who-should-be-on-the-sonics-mt-rushmore"> <div class="hgroup"> <h2 class="photohead">Seattle's Mount Rushmore</h2> <h3 class="meta"><span class="byline">Mitch Northam</span></h3> <span class="blurb">Does Shawn Kemp make the list? What about Gary Payton?</span> </div> </a></div> </div> </div> <div class="must-reads-compact-container"> <h4> <span class="must-reads-star"><img src="http://cdn2.sbnation.com/assets/3608771/star.png"></span> More on the Sonics <span class="must-reads-star"><img src="http://cdn2.sbnation.com/assets/3608771/star.png"></span> </h4> <div class="must-reads-compact-link-container"><a href="http://www.sonicsrising.com/2014/2/14/5411858/who-should-be-on-the-sonics-mt-rushmore?utm_source=sbnation&utm_medium=mustreads&utm_campaign=blogs">Seattle's Mount Rushmore<span class="must-reads-compact-byline"></span></a></div> </div> <p dir="ltr">Karl was a coaching prodigy who made winners out of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, but wore out his welcome before he could see those rebuilding projects through to completion. Upon his return, Karl was determined to do things his way. He had gone 50-6 with the Albany Patroons in the CBA playing a wide-open fast-paced style, which was perfect for his new team. He retained defensive guru Bob Kloppenburg, who installed the manic, trapping defensive style that became the team's trademark.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Sonics went 27-15 that season under Karl and reached the second round of the playoffs after a memorable first-round upset of the Golden State Warriors, punctuated by a vicious Kemp jam over veteran statue Alton Lister. The dunk captured everything about Kemp's emerging game and was captured memorably by Calabro:</p> <p dir="ltr">POWER SLAM</p> <p dir="ltr">TOMAHAWK JAM</p> <p dir="ltr">YEEEEEAH BABY</p> <p dir="ltr">The Sonics lost to Utah in five games in the second round, but this was their introduction to the big stage. The NBA was undergoing a transition, as the Celtics, Pistons and Lakers were all at the end of their runs. The league now belonged to Michael Jordan, but the West was wide open, just waiting for someone to claim it.</p> <p dir="ltr">***</p> <p dir="ltr">Whitsitt made two savvy moves during the 1993 season, acquiring journeyman swingman Vincent Askew and landing Sam Perkins at the trade deadline. The Sonics won 55 games and reached the conference finals, but they already had a knack for making things hard on themselves.&nbsp;<span>They fought back from 2-1 deficits in all three rounds of the playoffs, but eventually couldn't get past Barkley's Suns in a seventh game that featured 100 free throws, with 64 being awarded to Phoenix. For all their later postseason misery, this loss stung as much as any of them.</span></p> <p dir="ltr">Trader Bob didn't sit tight. He dealt Derrick McKey to the Pacers for Detlef Schrempf and picked up Kendall Gill from the Hornets. The '94 Sonics were loaded. They won 63 games and went 17-2 down the stretch. After winning the first two playoff games handily against the Nuggets, it seemed like nothing could stop them.</p> <p> <style> @media only screen and (max-width: 400px) { .sidebar { display: none; } } </style></p> <div class="sidebar"> <img src="http://cdn0.sbnation.com/assets/4184359/78114160.jpg"><span> Andrew D. Bernstein/NBA</span> </div> <p><span>Then, they went to Denver. All year long, people wondered if the Sonics would unravel when things got tight. Despite the impressive array of talent, they lacked a certified low-post scorer. Kemp was many things, but he wasn't automatic on the block like Barkley, Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon or David Robinson.</span></p> <p dir="ltr">Then there was the questionable chemistry. McKey was no Schrempf offensively, but he could guard multiple positions and was as integral to their pressure defense as Payton and Nate McMillan. There was also a memorable argument between Payton and veteran Ricky Pierce over shots and the way Payton ran the offense.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Sonics dropped both games in Denver and then came apart completely in the deciding fifth game. The series ended with Denver's Dikembe Mutombo on the ground gripping the ball in one the 1990's iconic moments. Payton later revealed that he sensed trouble after Game 2 and a locker room speech only magnified the problems.</p> <p dir="ltr">Whitsitt resigned, or was fired (or both) and wound up with the Blazers. Kemp was nearly traded to the Bulls for Scottie Pippen, which would have dramatically altered NBA history. Karl survived, but a year later, they again lost in the first round, this time to the Lakers. The coach had one more year left on his contract and no one thought he could survive another postseason meltdown. He did.</p> <p dir="ltr">Fortified by steady shooting guard Hersey Hawkins, the '96 Sonics finally, mercifully, reached the NBA Finals. Karl made a key strategic decision in the conference finals against Utah, dropping their trapping defense and playing the Jazz straight up. After blowing a 3-1 series lead, the Sonics finally held on in seven games, with Kemp making two clutch free throws to clinch the series.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the Finals, they dropped the first three games to the Bulls, then came roaring back to take the series back to Chicago, which was about the most Sonics thing ever. Just when you were ready to write them off, they came back for more. Yet the Bulls closed them out back in Chicago and that was as close as they would get to the ultimate prize.</p> <p> <link href="http://cdn3.sbnation.com/assets/3608425/mustreads.css" rel="stylesheet"></p> <div class="must-reads"> <h4> <span class="must-reads-star"><img src="http://cdn2.sbnation.com/assets/3608771/star.png"></span> More on the 90s Sonics <span class="must-reads-star"><img src="http://cdn2.sbnation.com/assets/3608771/star.png"></span> </h4> <div class="snippet-n tiles"> <div class="row"><a href="http://www.sonicsrising.com/2014/1/29/5346740/blueprint-for-an-nba-champion-the-1996-seattle-supersonics-as-a-case" class="cell" style="background-image: url(http://cdn3.sbnation.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/27675849/1996-sonics-1.0_standard_730.0.jpg);"> <div class="hgroup"> <h2 class="photohead">Blueprint for a champion</h2> <h3 class="meta"><span class="byline">Max Churaisin</span></h3> <span class="blurb">The 1996 Sonics didn't win the title, but they came damn close. What can current NBA teams learn from their journey?</span> </div> </a></div> </div> </div> <div class="must-reads-compact-container"> <h4> <span class="must-reads-star"><img src="http://cdn2.sbnation.com/assets/3608771/star.png"></span> More on the 90s Sonics <span class="must-reads-star"><img src="http://cdn2.sbnation.com/assets/3608771/star.png"></span> </h4> <div class="must-reads-compact-link-container"><a href="http://www.sonicsrising.com/2014/1/29/5346740/blueprint-for-an-nba-champion-the-1996-seattle-supersonics-as-a-case?utm_source=sbnation&utm_medium=mustreads&utm_campaign=blogs">Blueprint for a champion<span class="must-reads-compact-byline"></span></a></div> </div> <p dir="ltr">After losing in the second round in 1997, Kemp was finally traded. It was a contract dispute that did it. Kemp held out after Seattle gave backup center Jim McIlvaine a 5-year, $35 million contract, and he was dealt before the start of the season for Vin Baker. The Sonics won 61 games without him, but were no match for Shaquille O'Neal's Lakers in the playoffs. That finally sealed the end of Karl's run as coach.</p> <p dir="ltr">Gary Payton hung around until the 2003 season, but he was ultimately traded to Milwaukee at the deadline for Ray Allen, in what began the Sonics' last run. They moved to Oklahoma City in 2008, and a franchise that meant so much to so many simply disappeared.</p> <p dir="ltr">There are no retired jerseys or banners commemorating the mid-'90s Sonics. They exist only in our imagination, in grainy YouTube videos and old newspaper clips. When Clay Bennett moved the franchise to Oklahoma City, the Sonics' legacy went into limbo. The original memorabilia is still housed in Seattle, but Bennett's group retains the records, the history and the rights to the team name.</p> <p dir="ltr">Perhaps someday in the future when Seattle finally gets its team back, Payton, Kemp and Karl will get their due. They were one of a kind: brash, crazy and unpredictable. They were a tragically flawed basketball team at the worst possible times.</p> <p dir="ltr">But when they were on, there was no one like them.</p> http://www.sbnation.com/2014/3/25/5544858/shawn-kemp-gary-payton-seattle-supersonics-90s Paul Flannery 2014-03-16T10:01:53-04:00 2014-03-16T10:01:53-04:00 Sunday Shootaround: All eyes on Blake Griffin <div data-top="position:fixed;" data-start="position:absolute;" class="menu" id="to-the-top"> <div class="burger"><a>&#9776;</a></div> <ul> <li> <a href="http://www.sbnation.com"></a> </li> <span class="drop"> <li> <a href="#ot">Overtime</a> </li> <li> <a href="#vg">Viewers Guide</a> </li> <li> <a href="#tl">The List</a> </li> <li> <a href="#icymi">ICYMI</a> </li> <li> <a href="#sw">Say What</a> </li> <li> <a href="#twig">This Week In GIFs</a> </li> </span> <!-- START SOCIAL --> <!-- BEFORE PUBLISH, MAKE SURE TO REPLACE THE URLS BELOW WITH THE PUBLISHED URL. 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