Sonic Success: Priceless

Two 'cheap' seats to see them 'rebound' in that 'dump' called KeyArena: $100.

COUPLA QUESTIONS for the local owner after the Howard Schultz SuperSonics lost 95-85 to the Paul Allen Trail Blazers in a National Billionaire Association (NBA) game Sunday:

So, Schultzy, do you just pay your guys the millions in salaries, or do you also buy their shoes? Reason I ask is, I wonder what it's like for you watching four pairs of 300-buck sneakers seemingly glued to the floor of a basketball key while an errant shot is rebounded by the one Blazer player within reach of the ball. Does it really make you wonder why your club has the worst rebounding this side of the Munchkinland JV team?

Another one: You've exacerbated your bald spot scratching the noggin about why your club, in addition to the above, also has some of the worst home attendance in the above-mentioned NBA. You can't figure out why Mr. and Ms. Seattle don't want to drop a C-note a game for the cheap seats, even on the promise that the Sonics might claw their way back to .500 that night? Think maybe the admission fee figures into the decision? Lot of folks don't seem to mind spending a couple-six bucks on one of your caffeinated dessert drinks. (I once overheard a pair of Millionair Club workers debating the age-old question of Starbucks versus Tully's one day while laboring casually in my backyard.) But it costs thousands of dollars for a pair of even the "affordable" Sonics season tix. A double date to good seats for one game at KeyArena costs just about what my father-in-law paid for season tickets with the same view during the mid-1970s.

Speaking of KeyArena, I read that you and others are talking of a new home for the Sonics. You obviously mean "new home in another city," right? (I'm told Greater Raymond-Cosmopolis is shopping for an NBA franchise.) Because nobody I know believes you'd get any support for abandoning the Key, not when the city only a decade ago acquiesced to the Sonics' demand for a better facility. KeyArena is outdated? I wear socks that are older than KeyArena, and some of them don't even have holes in them.

LET'S GET BACK to that terrific team of yours. I understand the players might actually get to the postseason this year?only it would be just one or two of the guys, and they'd be doing it with different teams. That NBA trading deadline looms. It comes just four days after the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday, Feb. 15, an annual defensive gem in which the final score typically is 327-289. Never mind that late trades seldom have much effect on NBA fortunes and, indeed, often never happen. (Twice during the past nine years, only a single leaguewide swap came down.) If you ship Vladimir Radmanovic (as is the buzz, since he and Rashard Lewis are so similar in playing style), could you at least try to get rebounding help? And if Brent Barry must go, is there another guard someplace as adept with stating the double entendre as he is with scoring in double figures?

Your organization men tell us the team is trying (which itself could carry a double meaning). We saw some of the good kind of trying during recent games (I write this prior to the Tuesday, Feb. 10, Golden State set-to at ancient, decrepit KeyArena), even though the team lost two of the three. After battling nearly point for point with San Antonio last Thursday, after a Tuesday run-up with class-of-the-division Sacramento, the Sonics could have elicited sympathy for being exhausted the next night in Phoenix. But they sucked it up against an inferior Suns franchise and, after piddling away a late double-digit lead, still came away with a two-point win. All-Star guard Ray Allen nearly sustained a separated shoulder in Phoenix Friday, but Sunday he came to play. In Portland, the Green Team knotted it at 52 early during the third quarter. Then the Sonics missed seven straight floor shots; when one finally went down, so were they, 68-54. Late in the game, Schultz's Latte Lads improbably drew within two points with a few minutes left, then missed a series of desperate shots and went home.

THEY MIGHT AS well get used to being home, because they'll have plenty of time there when the regular season ends. As of Sunday, the Sonics stood at the 11th "seed" among the 14 NBA Western Division teams. Unfortunately for them, just eight clubs make the playoff cut, and if you're eighth, you probably get to play Sacramento.

So the final questions for Howard Schultz: Why don't you give the fan base a better ball club? You've lived in this town long enough to see what winning has done for the Mariners' and Seahawks' ticket sales. Why don't you can your inept exec, Wally Walker, maybe, and get somebody savvy to build this ball club? Meanwhile, quit whining about the lousy crowds. You're a billionaire, after all. Why don't you start acting like one?

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