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Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Dilemma of a Seattle Sonics Fan in 2011

by Connor Witt

I generally try to refrain from being a resentful Seattle sports fan who cries about losing his pro basketball team to conniving thieves masquerading as honest basketball owners Oklahoma City, but on Wednesday night TNT left me no choice.

After Kevin Durant completed his superhuman fourth quarter to will OKC to a series-clinching victory, TNT displayed a graphic proclaiming that this was Oklahoma City's first playoff series win since 2005. Well, TNT - allow me to provide some historical backgroud - the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise did not exist prior to 2008.

Alright, that's just me being bitter. Of course I know the station was referencing the Seattle Sonics' 4-1 victory over Sacramento in the first round six years ago, but Oklahoma can't lay any claim to that series. I get that it's technically the same franchise with shared records, so TNT isn't "wrong" per se. But everything that has transpired throughout the whole relocation process gives Oklahoma City no right to call anything the Sonics accomplished their own.

I believe that OKC owner Clay Bennett forfeited that right somewhere between promising to keep the team in Seattle, demanding the city build him a new arena on their dime, the now-infamous "I am a man possessed!" e-mail, and ruining 41 years of basketball tradition in Seattle. (The documentary "Sonicsgate: Requiem for a Team" provides much more detail on all the injustices that took place in the relocation saga. I recommend it.)

But the real problem for me at the moment isn't TNT running that particular graphic. It isn't even with Clay Bennett stealing my city's team, my team. The problem I'm facing is simpler: the Thunder are really really good, and I'm having trouble restraining my urge to become a fan.

In 2008, when Clay Bennett ripped the still-beating heart out of my chest and handed it to me in a fast-food takeout bag moved the Sonics to Oklahoma City, I vowed that I could never root for a team he owned. For the most part, I've been very true to my promise. It hasn't been so easy though. Now don't get me wrong here, I haven't gone soft, I haven't forgotten what happened to my city, and I don't despise Clay Bennett any less than I did in 2008. What's hard for me to ignore is that the guys going out there and dominating the Nuggets in the first round were my guys not so long ago.

Nick Collison was a fan favorite in Seattle. We respected his hustle on the court and his blandness off of it was endearing in an ironic sort of way. Seattle fans loved him like America loved McLovin in Superbad. Both played the role of the charming goof, the guy whose skills were limited, but that you pulled for anyway. Rising stars Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka never donned the green and gold, but every time we see Westbrook's high-flying dunks or Ibaka's thunderous blocks Sonics diehards know that those are our 2008 number 4 and 24 picks out there (and no, I didn't have to look that up. It seems us Sonics fans aren't very forgetful about the past.)

And then there's Kevin Durant.

I was first amazed by Durant when I passed by him at a hotel restaurant in Spokane, Washington during the 2007 NCAA tournament. He was successfully taking a phone call in his left hand while texting one-handed on a Sidekick with his right. A Sidekick, that's a QWERTY keyboard.

I should have known he was destined for NBA stardom at that very moment.

In May '07 when the Sonics were awarded the second draft pick in the lottery, I immediately grabbed a green sharpie and drew a #35 jersey onto a plain white tee so I could be the first one representing Durant at school the next day.

In Durant, we had the future of basketball playing in our backyard and we embraced him even though our '07-'08 team had little else to brag about. We may not have had many wins, but we had the second best thing, hope.

Then the whole city had the proverbial rug yanked from beneath us and next thing we knew the Durantula was a Thunderclap, or Thunderbolt, or whatever the hell you call one individual unit of Thunder.

At first, my loathing for Clay Bennett and bitterness toward the whole relocation debacle made it easy to resent the Thunder. I put aside the reverence I held for Durant & Co. and put full force behind scorning my former franchise. I made it through the first two seasons of Thunder basketball in that mindset without wavering.

But something different happened this year; OKC rose from a team content just to make the playoffs to a true contender in the West. Along the way they began playing an exciting brand of basketball characterized by Westbrook's high-flying dunks, Ibaka's defensive dominance, Durant's elite scoring ability, and James Harden's awesome beard.

It became increasingly difficult for me to see them play and fight off the urge to enjoy what I was witnessing. I watched Durant explode for 44 on Christmas Day and I caught myself sneaking guilty fist pumps after a dunk or clutch 3. Since the playoffs began, it's become even tougher on me. Durant is still the same guy whose handcrafted jersey I wore so proudly just three years ago, how can I be expected to deny his heroics just because I dislike the guy who cuts his paychecks?

Oh, that's right, because the guy who cuts his checks screwed my city on a scale never before seen in professional sports and heisted the team that I had grown up worshiping. But as KD rained jumpers on the Nuggets in the fourth en route to 41 points Wednesday night, it made me wonder. How long will it take me to forgive the whole OKC franchise for their injustices against Seattle? At the moment I don't have the answer. Maybe when Bennett is no longer the owner, maybe when professional basketball returns to Seattle, maybe when Satan begins construction on a subdivision of the underworld specially for Bennett and his ownership group. I don't know.

This is the dilemma of a Seattle Sonics fan in 2011.

Court Adjourned.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Old School Pic of the Week 4/27

Apologies for my tardiness in posting this week's old school pic. I've been very busy doing other important basketball-related things and such, so I did not have the chance to get a picture up by Monday. But with this week's photo I wanted to display the fine example of athletic aesthetics that was Jalen Rose's suit at the 1994 NBA Draft.

Jalen has been scrutinized lately for the depiction of Duke players in "Fab 5" and he caught some additional flak for arrest on Suspicion of DUI. But rest assured Jalen, you will never catch criticism for this doozie. Atleast not from me.

Court Adjourned.

Jam of the Week

Happy Hump-day, I'm here to deliver the Court of Appeals Jam of the Week. Let's go back in time and watch the Duke of Dunk, Vince Carter, hammer one home "with a little salsa on it!" Enjoy.

Court is adjourned.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The NBA's Most Underrated Players

In an attempt to give some guys that fly under the radar a little more credit where credit is due, here are my 2010/2011 most underrated NBA Players

Wilson Chandler, SF Denver Nuggets

The biggest loss for the Knicks in the Carmelo Deal, Wilson Chandler is a great scorer averaging 15.4 points per game this year. The guy can flat out shoot behind the arc and has explosiveness he needs to begin to implement. Now that he is with great coach George Karl, Chandler can add some discipline and structure to his game and become an all-star caliber player.

DeMar DeRozan, SG Toronto Raptors

People have probably heard his name from prior NBA dunk contests but have failed to realize that this kid is a nasty basketball player. In his second year out of USC he averaged 17.2 points per game 4 rebounds per game and 2 assists. A pretty solid sophomore year. Unfortunately he plays for Toronto, an organization that just can't seem to get it together, or hold on to potential stars. If he can land on a team with a solid supporting cast count on him doing big things.

Monta Ellis, PG/SG Golden State Warriors

I'm putting Monta up here strictly because of his 2010/2011 All-Star game snub. He's always one of the league leaders in Points per game and is an underrated leader for the Warriors squad. Unfortunately the team's record has tarnished Monta's accomplishment as a real superstar in this league.

Kris Humphries, PF New Jersey Nets

After a relatively lackluster 6 year NBA career Humphries really had a coming out party this year averaging a double-double with 10 points and to rebounds a game. Humphries is a guy that's always going to go full-tilt and a is a solid defender against both post positions. I look to see his offensive numbers go up next year playing with the Nets' new great NBA assist man Deron Williams.

LaMarcus Aldridge, C/PF Portland Trailblazers
Another player who was snubbed of an All-Star game bid, LaMarcus Aldridge has put up All-Star worthy numbers for the past couple of years. I see Aldridge as a guy who is going to be coveted in the league for years to come. He's silky smooth around the basket and isn't the kind of player who seems fazed by not getting All-Star accolades, he just wants to win basketball games.

Honorable Mentions:

Nené, PF/C Denver Nuggets
Jordan Crawford, PG Washington Wizards
Shannon Brown, PG/SG Los Angeles Lakers
Al Jefferson, C Utah Jazz
John Salmons, SG/SF Milwaukee Bucks

Court is Adjourned.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Crisis in Miami

My last post about the Miami Heat got me thinking. For as much publicity as Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James have gotten since they began playing together, we are no closer to solving the mystery of collective nickname. “Miami Thrice” has been tossed around, and though I believe it is the most creative and appropriate of the names I’ve heard, it has not caught on all that well. “The Heatles” was the moniker LeBron James’ came up with. But though it’s a nice homage to The Beatles, the name has not taken America by storm in the same fashion as its namesake. “The Big Three” is such a weak attempt at a nickname I won’t bother discussing it.

But, the fact is we have a crisis in Miami. 2 mega-superstars, 1 sorta-superstar, and 0 established nicknames.

Do this nation a service and think of something to call these three. Please send your suggestions to the Miami Heat front office at:

Miami HEAT
601 Biscayne Blvd.
Miami, FL 33132

Forecast of Heat

by Connor Witt

July 8, 2010. 9PM Eastern. The Decision.

We all remember where we were when LeBron James so famously informed the world that he would be taking his talents to South Beach. To most, these words made LeBron a villain, a coward, and a traitor. But while the rest of the country was busy crucifying James for betraying his hometown, I was curious what the implications would be on the basketball court.

There was no shortage of theories. Jeff van Gundy insisted that this team would not lose twice in a row all season, and he predicted they would beat the regular season record of 72 wins. Others doubted the Heat, concerned that the egos of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and LeBron James would prevent the team from jelling. How will the team survive with two incredibly ball-dominant scorers in the same backcourt? Who would take the last shot? How will they win with no frontcourt depth? Before the Heat had even played a game together Miami’s Big Three were the hottest discussion in sports.

For me though, the Miami Heat were an opportunity. At age 19 currently, I was too young to fully appreciate the great NBA teams of the recent past. I never got to see the great Showtime Lakers or Bird’s Celtics. I was only seven when Jordan sunk what we thought was his final shot to beat the Jazz and complete the Bulls’ second three-peat. I remember the Lakers’ dynasty at the beginning of the 2000s, but was not old enough to really appreciate it from a basketball standpoint. But with LeBron’s decision, I had hope that I would finally be able to witness a truly great team that I could appreciate for their ability. It was as if LeBron was speaking directly to me when he made his projections for the Heat’s future upon his arrival in Miami. The Heat have shown flashes of greatness this season, but they will need to demonstrate greater urgency than they did in Sunday’s Game 4 if they want to both make their vision and my basketball fantasy come true.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Technology and what not

by Connor Witt

Basketball is played with a leather ball, two hoops, ten players, and a parquet floor. Simple stuff really. The game has only had a handful of changes over the years: moving from a peach basket to an open rim, later making those rims collapsible, removing laces from the ball, and adding a three-point stripe. However, for those of us not fortunate enough to play in the league we have the consolation prize. Statistics! Unlike the game itself, these statistics have advanced almost beyond the point of comprehension. What am I talking about, you ask?

Feast . Your . Eyes.

Court Adjourned.

Derrick Williams

With many analysts predicting University of Arizona's Derrick Williams to be the #1 pick in the upcoming 2011 NBA Draft, I thought we'd have a little sneak preview about what this guy is about. He's a physical specimen at 6'9" 240 with unmatched leaping ability and athleticism. His length is uncanny and he strokes the rock from 3 point land with an accuracy of 57 %. This is a guy that can hurt you inside and out. If Williams can become a less passive defender and commit to playing hard game in and game out, count on Williams being a star in the league for years to come.

NBA Comparison: Tracy McGrady (Orlando Magic years)

Court is adjourned.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Letter to AK-47

Dear Andrei,

I know you've received a lot of criticism for underachieving after signing that monster contract that ended up paying you roughly 200,000 dollars per game this year. Now that you and Jazz fans might be parting ways, I'm writing to say thank you and to apologize. I'm apologizing on behalf of Jazz fans that have under appreciated you for years. After the Stockton and Malone era you were the only player that kept our heads above water. You have been the Jazz's entire defense. You've always worked hard and wanted to win. So what if Baron Davis did jam on you with no regard for human life, people forget that you single-handedly shut down a red hot Jason Richardson that series and propelled us into the 2004 Western Conference Finals. You swatted Yao Ming dude! Thanks again. If we do part ways, just know I always had your back and appreciate what you've done. Hope to have you back next year (maybe for a little cheaper this time).



PS. Please get a haircut

Court is adjourned.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Celtics in the Post-Perkins Era

By Connor Witt

It’s been the question that has run rampant in the minds of basketball enthusiasts since the February 24th trade deadline. How would the Boston Celtics fare without Kendrick Perkins, their best interior defender and emotional leader? He was far from Boston’s best player, but according to the other players he was an important part of the team’s chemistry. There are two worthwhile analogies that could play out in the post-Perk era in Boston. Best case scenario: Kendrick Perkins is guitarist Hillel Slovak of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (minus the heroin). The Chili Peppers enjoyed considerable success with Slovak, but were still able to continue their success after his death with John Frusciante. (For the sake of the argument Paul Pierce is frontman Anthony Kiedis, Garnett is Flea, Ray Allen is Chad Smith, and Rondo is Josh Klinghoffer.) The grimmer alternative is that the Celtics go the way of the Backstreet Boys, who were tragically unable to recapture the success of 1999’s Millenium after Kevin Richardson’s departure from the group. Now that I have included the Backstreet Boys in a basketball column and hell has frozen over, let’s take a look at what the Celtics have displayed since the Perkins trade that sent them Jeff Green, Nenad Krstic, and a first round pick in 2012.

The numbers are undeniable. Pre-trade, the Celtics record stood at 40-14 and was good for first in the East. Since: 15-12. But this is basketball not math, and anything can happen in the playoffs. The rationale – or at least the hope – of Boston’s front office was that Jeff Green’s perimeter defense could keep Paul Pierce from defending the opponent’s most athletic wing scorer throughout the postseason (Carmelo, LeBron, Bryant, etc.) With the opening of the playoffs America got its first taste of the new-and-not-necessarily-improved Celtics in postseason form.

            Facing the Knicks in the first round was a dream come true for curious basketball fans like myself. The Knicks provide an intriguing test because they possess one of the NBA’s premier wing scorers in Carmelo Anthony and one of the league’s best post threats in Amar’e Stoudemire. General Manager Danny Ainge finally got to see if his latest move would rival the success of the Garnett/Allen acquisitions or be a disaster on par with Mark Blount’s six-year, $42 million contract. The Celtics were unimpressive in the first half, and it had me wondering whether this aging team is officially over the hump. Never was Perkins’ absence more glaring than when Amar’e Stoudemire completed a huge slam over Glen Davis with 34 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

In the second half the Celtics shut down Carmelo Anthony and were able to escape the game with a victory following some late-game heroics from Ray Allen. However, Jermaine O’Neal played out of his mind this game and his contribution will be crucial to Boston’s success in this series and throughout. So are the 2011 Celtics the Red Hot Chili Peppers or the Backstreet Boys? Perhaps Jermaine holds the answer.

Court Adjourned.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Hayward Project

On the day of the 2010 NBA Draft, Christmas Day seemed to have come early for Jazz faithful. Jazz fans were licking their chops in anticipation of unwrapping that coveted Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, à la A Christmas Story, in the form of a number 9 NBA lottery pick. Santa Claus Isiah Thomas, in yet another bumbling deal as the Knicks GM, had somehow dropped this number 9 present into the lap of the Jazz five years prior. The highly anticipated 5-year wait had come. Finally, the missing piece of the puzzle could be plugged in. The Jazz could now pick up the player to get them over the hump, a player that could propel the organization past the juggernauts of the Western Conference. When the pick was announced it was not exactly the savior Jazz fans were looking for:

The image of the baby-faced Butler University star, Gordon Hayward, was reigned down with boos by Jazz fans gathered outside Energy Solutions Arena, like children huddled around the Christmas tree. Jazz GM Kevin O’Connor could only retort, “My hope is that you aren’t booing in two years.” As an unexpected and demoralizing season carried on, with the loss of head coach Jerry Sloan and the trading of Jazz icon Deron Williams, the boos that day seemed to be justified. With almost three quarters of the season done, Hayward was averaging less than 4 points per game and had little to no impact in games he received plying time. But with a never-say-die resilient attitude, a driven Hayward began to pick up his game. He’s made a surge in the last stretch of the waning season that has sparked hope in the hearts of dispirited Jazz fans. He put up 22 points, 2 steals, 5 assists and 6 rebounds in an 87-86 win in Los Angeles against the Lakers. And put up similar numbers against Portland, San Antonio and New Orleans, all Playoff teams. Not to mention, gave a hard-nosed defensive performance against superstar Kobe Bryant (see below), holding him under 6 points of his regular season average and forcing 7 Black Mamba turnovers (Gordon “Kobe-Stopper” Hayward?). When we look back at this season, a season that fans could easily wallow about, let’s look at one positive aspect.Though a late-bloomer, Hayward has made monumental steps to become an influential NBA player. And could be a great asset to a solid new Jazz cast. As Kevin O’Connor predicted, maybe we won’t be booing in 2 more years. Maybe Hayward is the Red Ryder Carbine-Acion Two-Hundred-Shot Range model Air Rifle we were hoping for all along. Once upon a time, Jazz fans booed a risky 1984 pick, and that guy ended up doing pretty well, ever heard of John Stockton?

Court is adjourned.

NBA Should-Be Awards

As the NBA regular season comes to a close this week, it’s that time of year when a panel of sports broadcasters and journalists submit their votes for the NBA's Most Valuable Player. It has been probable since the All-Star break that Chicago’s Derrick Rose would earn the MVP award, and it became a near lock when two-time reigning MVP LeBron James endorsed Rose for the award in late March. So now that King James and the media have settled that debate, it’s only fitting that we move on to the awards that might still provide some intrigue. No, I’m not talking about Rookie, 6th Man, or Defensive Player of the Year. I’m referring to the non-existent awards the NBA should hand out, inspired by the God of basketball journalism himself, Bill Simmons. These are the NBA Should-Be Awards.

Karl Malone Award: Named in honor of everyone's favorite former Rogaine endorser, this honor is bestowed to the player with the most prominent hair loss issues. While many players in the league with male pattern baldness take the plunge and shave their heads completely, this award is reserved for the player with the most outstanding coat of thinning locks. In a close call between finalists Chris Kaman and Manu Ginobili, the trophy has to go to Ginobili for the increased exposure his balding noggin received for being named to the Western Conference All-Star team.

Tyson Chandler momentarily pries
his focus from Ginobili's bald patch
in order to convert a lay-up

Frederic Weis Award: The award is given to the player on the receiving end of the season’s most magnificent dunk. It was named after former 7’2” French center Frederic Weis, who never played in an NBA game but nonetheless rose to considerable fame for getting posterized harder than any player in human history during the 2000 Summer Olympics. This year’s award belongs to Timofey Mozgov, who learned the hard way not to bother Blake Griffin while he is busy dunking. Though Mozgov takes home the award, Othyus Jeffers nearly stole the honor late in the season for his unsuccessful attempt to draw a charge on LeBron James.

Most Improved Tattoos Award: While the award for the NBA’s Most Improved Player is still very much undecided, the Most Improved Tattoos Award was a landslide. Chris “Birdman” Andersen was already in the running for most tatted player in the league before the 2010-11 season began, but his most recent ink hardly went unnoticed. In typical Birdman fashion, his newest masterpiece spanning from jugular to jugular incorporates all the colors of the rainbow and reads “FREE BIRD,” clearly in reference to his nickname (and his status as one of the few players ever expelled from the league). However, it will be difficult for Birdman to notch back-to-back Most Improved Tattoos Awards, as his 6’11” frame seems to be running out of real estate. Only time will tell if Birdman has the boldness to explore the lone unexplored frontier: his face.

Could the tattooed stars on Birdman's ears indicate his
intentions to tattoo his whole face? We'll have to wait and see

Court Adjourned.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Gus Johnson at Your Fingertips

In the wake of the late great March Madness 2011, I thought I'd leave our loyal followers with a gem. A little bit of our favorite NCAA Basketball announcer, Gus Johnson, at your fingertips. Enjoy. "HEARTBREAK CITY!"

Old School Pic of the Week

For the inaugural Old School Pic of the Week, I had to pay homage to the hometown and our former franchise with this 1980 Sports Illustrated cover featuring Paul Westphal. This is the first of my Seattle Sonics posts, but certainly not the last. If I haven't made it clear that I was still pretty bitter about to Sonics' relocation to Oklahoma City, it should become quite apparent soon enough.

Court Adjourned.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Court Is Now In Session

Attention Court of Appeals followers (all zero of you currently), welcome to our project that hopes to provide some innovative ideas to the game that is basketball reporting. My name is Connor Witt and I am one-third of the Court of Appeals triumvirate, or C.O.A. Sports if you'd prefer. I am a Santa Clara University student as well as Seattle area sports fan (hold your jokes, please.) I genuinely love the game of basketball and I am also searching for a new NBA team to call my own following the blatant robbery relocation of the Sonics to Oklahoma City.

Intros and Handshakes

How's it going sports world? My name is Danny Franks I am 1/3 of the three headed monster that is Court of Appeals and I can't stop watching hoops. Being from Salt Lake City, Utah, I am a die-hard, yell at the TV, follow incessantly Utah Jazz fan. Always have been, always will be; from the days of John Stockton and Karl Malone to the times of Devin Harris and Al Jefferson. I am currently a student at Santa Clara University. I love to speculate, analyze and talk NBA basketball. Being from Utah, as well as a Jazz fan, I hope to bring an outside perspective about NBA basketball to our blog.