Thursday, July 07, 2005


Last night at 8:00 pm Nate McMillan left me a message telling me he had accepted the Portland Trailblazers 5 year offer to be their head coach. At the conclusion of the Storm game last night I spoke with Nate for about 10 minutes.
Here is how he explained his decision to move to Portland …..

More than anything else he wanted to thank the fans, thank the city and thank everyone who has given him 19 wonderful years in Seattle.
He said that after 19 years on the same stage it was time for a change. That he had made up his mind at the beginning of the season that it was time to move on. Throughout the year he prepared himself for the end of his time in Seattle. He mentioned that he fore shadowed this at the start of the season when he talk about “his last ride” with the Sonics.
He mentioned that this was an opportunity to see who he is as a head coach. A challenge outside of an organization he knows as well as Seattle.
I asked him what it was that Portland brought to the table. He mentioned an opportunity. He paralleled the Blazers today to where the Sonics were a few years ago. He said that he is young enough to take on the challenge and with a 5 year offer he could make it happen. He did agree that the difference is that Portland has no all-star.
He wouldn’t tell me about how much the contract was worth.

That is the gist of what Nate said. However, my sources out of Portland tell me the money difference between what Nate got from Portland and Seattle is negligible. This is shocking but according to my source the 5th year of the contract is a team option and the money doesn’t surpass six million a year until the final year which is non-guaranteed.
If this is accurate then one week ago when I spoke with Nate and he said it wasn’t about the money he was telling the truth. The difference in the Sonics offer and the Blazers offer is not significant when you account for state income tax.
So how come Nate left? What is really bizarre is that two weeks ago it was reported that the deal was close to being done and the word out of the McMillan camp was that the deal was close to getting done.
His message to me was that he wanted a new challenge. He wanted to prove himself somewhere new and he wanted to prove his value. It is clear that after 19 years of a relationship that scares lingered, no different then any relationship. However, for Nate some of them were significant enough to feel it was time for a change.


The Sonics will now embark upon a coaching search. Howard Schultz is going to go get a guy that he believes can win a championship. Rumors around the NBA had Shultz interested in Phil Jackson when he was considering a return. If that is in fact true it tells you he will go to the top to find a championship man.
The early names that should be mentioned include Phoenix Suns assistant Marc Ivaroni, former Chicago Bulls Head Coach Doug Collins, Michigan State Head Coach Tom Izzo, former Maverick Head Coach Don Nelson and current Sonics assistant Bob Weiss.
Ivaroni was a lead candidate for the Blazers job until they hired Nate McMillan. Ivaroni has an established coaching back ground as an assistant. He has a strong relationship with Wally Walker.
Doug Collins and Don Nelson are both favorites of Sonics General Manager Rick Sund.
Tom Izzo has been floating his name around NBA circles for the last year or so. He has interested in both the Minnesota job and the Detroit job. He is a college mate of Howard Schultz and the two maintain contact today. Schultz has gone to Final Fours to support Izzo. College coaches generally fail in the NBA, however Izzo is thought of as one of the brightest names in the business.
Weiss is a far better coach then people realize and his role in the team’s success was larger then he is given credit for. Weiss has been a head coach in the NBA and has been stuck with some poor teams and had relative success. He knows the personnel and is at the core of the score early score late philosophy of this team. He is a much better candidate then the most people realize.
Finally what about Lorenzo Romar? He is an incredible man. He has played in the NBA and has shown his coaching talents. He could be a long-term answer.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Locked on Sports: Allen's embrace graces Seattle

Locked on Sports: Allen's embrace graces Seattle: "Rejoice, you don't have to throw out another outdated jersey. Seattle sports fans have been jilted before. You have embraced and loved superstars only to have your heart broken and stomped on."

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


Obviously it is an incredible day to be a Sonics fan. After much consternation and concern the Sonics management stepped up. Here is how it all came down.
• In early February the Sonics made a final offer to Ray Allen that was around $75 million dollars. It was about their third final offer. Lon Babby the agent of Ray Allen thought they were close and asked for a little up to $80 million at which point the Sonice never responded.
• The two sides talked again before the July 1 free agency but nothing came about.
• Therefore, Allen went out on the market. By Saturday Allen told the Sonics he had two offers and possibly a third that was in the range of $80 million.
• The NBA has a rule that allows a team to call another team and find out what they are offering. The rule is in place so that teams don’t have to totally rely on agents and what might be untruths from agents. Teams don’t have to tell, but it customary that they do. Therefore on Sunday the Sonics used their contacts to find out that the offers were legit.
• On Monday they called Lon Babby, Ray Allen’s agent and decided to end the process. Concerned that those two or three teams could actually push the price higher they came with a $80 million offer that could reach $85 with high end incentives and the deal was done.
• Ray Allen agreeded to a 5 year deal. It is really a sign of good management on both sides. The Sonics front office which was often been the victim of great ridicule deserves tremendous credit for how they handled this negotiation. True to their word Allen was their #1 priority and they answered the bell

This signing keeps the Sonics in the elite of the NBA. Allen is one of the truly special players in the NBA and he will carry this team to wins. It gives this team an identity to build around. The deal is a good deal. It allows the Sonics to still get done all of the other things they anticipated in the off-season. They should be able to match whatever offer comes in for Vlady. They should be able to sign a solid back-up to Luke, they should be able to make a choice between Reggie Evans or Jerome James or another front court player that is on the market.
The concern on the deal is how will Allen perform when he is 33 and 34 years old on the backside of this deal. History indisputably says that he will slide and struggle. If anyone can beat Allen would be the one, but I wouldn’t bank on that. Instead, the Sonics have positioned themselves so that as Allen ages, Ridnour, Collison, Lewis and Vlady all move into their prime and should be able to cover his weakening. It is an incredibly bright future for the Sonics.
FIRE UP !!! This is really a great day and a huge relief. The Sonics answered the bell. Allen wanted to stay. He has his team and that is what he wanted. Seattle has a superstar that they can embrace and is worthy of being embraced. The Soncis should be near the top of the West for the next half decade.

I would expect that Nate will be in the fold in the near future. As of 2:00 today the Sonics had not talked with Nate since he returned from his weekend in New York. Portland is putting on the full court press and Paul Allen is at the forefront of that full court press. Allen is telling Nate that he will be his man, that they will together take the Blazers to great heights. I wonder what Mike Holmgren would tell him about how that really plays out?
Bottom line on the Nate end is that the Sonics have done everything to make it a palatable return for Nate. They have offered very good money. They have re-signed the superstar that is at the core of the franchise. When I have talked with Nate he was very concerned about where the franchise was headed, would they step up, did they have a plan. Those questions have been answered now it is time for Nate to carry the Sonics to new heights as a head coach.


Bret Boone’s release. This is another example of terrible management by the Mariners. This is a move that should have been made in the off-season. Not making this move in the off-season shows a real lack of initiative and makes me wonder where the plan is. First off, on the field his play diminished greatly in 2004. His defense was no longer special, his bat lots its spark and his average slipped 30 points. Why anyone is surprised that the fall continued amazes me? Why do the Mariners always have to move a player a day late. The correct move was to turn second base over to Lopez when the year started. Moreover and maybe most importantly, Boone was a determinant in the clubhouse. As long as he existed in that clubhouse it was his clubhouse and every day he struggled the atmosphere in the clubhouse got worse. When the Mariners signed Beltre and Sexson it was time to turn the clubhouse over to the new guys. Instead the crossing of eras took place and it is the #1 reason why the Mariners are terrible again.
Boone had a great run in Seattle it just should have ended at the end of last season and no one had the premonition to get it done or no one had the guts.


Whaaa, Whaa, Whaaa – Shawn Alexander – Whaaaa – let’s make this short and simple. Alexander will cost the Seahawks a game or two next year. He will holdout, come in out of rhythm and the Hawks will have to coddle him back into the lineup and it will cost them a game or two, he is a selfish taltened I guy and is downer to have on your team. Signing to a long term deal is a bad idea because running back die at some point and this hold out garbage is going to cost the Hawks games. It is just a lose-lose situation.


According to Ray Allen has re-signed with the Seattle Supersonics. Allen singed a deal that is very close to the 5 year $75 million dollar deal that the Sonics offered at the deadline and before the free agency period. The contract may push towards the $80 million mark.
Obviously, this is enormous for the Sonics future. This allows them to put the finishing pieces on their roster for 2005-06 with Ray Allen as the centerpiece.
In addition, this is the type of commitment that Nate McMillan was looking for from the Sonics. In my conversations with McMillan he was very concerned about where the Sonics were heading. This answers all the questions.
Give the Sonics tremendous credit for reading the market. The Sonics held strong to their offer on two fold. First, they read the market and realized that a 30-year-old shooting guard was not going to garner the maximum deal. Moreover, the Sonics set a plateau for how much they were willing to offer, because they didn’t want to over commit to one player and be unable to fill the rest of their roster. The Sonics held to that number and now should be able to re-sign the other players that they need to without putting themselves in luxury tax jeopardy.
Look for McMillan to re-sign in the near future. If McMillan does not want to return the signing of Allen will allow the Sonics to have their pick of whatever coach they would want.