Overtime: Forecasting what’s ahead for the new Seattle Sonics
I know the talk of counter-offers and whale investors is fun and exciting, but I’m here to discuss basketball.
Who will run the team? Who will be on the team? How bad will they be? Is Danny Fortson in the mix? These are all good questions.
In the realm of Internet speculation, people who know things are saying that Phil Jackson might head basketball oper- ations for the reincarnated Sonics.
If true, I have to wonder if Jackson has ever looked over the Kings’ roster. Turning the Kings into a team that wins games would be more impressive than turning Kobe Bryant into a player who passes the ball.
To be clear, Jackson is not setting up his giant orthopedic coaching chair in Seattle. This means that the triangle offense isn’t guaranteed. It depends on who is chosen as head coach (yes, duh, Keith Smart is getting fired). My guess for that position is Brian Shaw, who’s currently an associate head coach for the Indiana Pacers, whatever that means.
Shaw played for Jackson during the Lakers’ first three-peat. And afterwards he went on to work under Jackson as an assistant coach in L.A. for seven years. He’s a well-groomed coaching prospect with strong ties to the Zen Master — it makes too much sense.
Hiring Shaw means the traditional triangle offense will indeed return to the NBA. Jackson knows the triangle like I know the hidden tape locations in “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3.” If anyone can build a team to run that offense, it’s him.
The good and bad thing for Jackson is that the Kings don’t have the talent that dictates who should be their coach. They’re barely built to play basketball, much less run a specific system.
Other than DeMarcus Cousins, the roster is expendable. And even Cousins is questionable because of his childish antics.
I think Cousins is mostly a victim of circumstances who is capable of being a top-ten player. I also think Cousins could genuinely be a crazy person who is capable of being the next big star for the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons in five years.
The biggest decision Jackson will make is whether to put Cousins on the trade market. I’m guessing he won’t, and I base my guess on two things:
1) Back in ’09, Jackson said that he would start a team with Dwight Howard instead of LeBron James. The players aren’t important — the philosophy behind the choice is. He likes his big men.
2) Cousins can work well in the triangle offense. The Kings currently run — I kid you not — a triangle/Harlem Globetrotter hybrid offense. Cousins has struggled in it, but again: circumstances. The Kings are a mess.
I don’t believe a Cousins trade will take place out of the gate. Down the line? Maybe. But Jackson should at least get an idea of what Cousins is like in a controlled environment first.
So we have Jackson as the Lord of Basketball Operations (working title), Brian Shaw as head coach and DeMarcus Cousins as potential All-Star/potential tragedy. Time to run through the rest of the personnel.
The Kings’ roster has a couple pros: It’s one of the lowest payrolls in the league, Chuck Hayes is awesome and there’s only one egregious contract.
The Kings’ roster sports a few cons as well: Aaron Brooks is getting paid to play for them; John Salmons and Travis Outlaw are on the team; and Tyreke Evans has gone from promising rookie to hopeless ball hog.
If you piece out the Kings’ players, there are assets here and there. Thomas Robinson, Jimmer Fredette and Isaiah Thomas could all fetch solid returns in a deal.
I don’t see any way around Jackson cleaning house. Trying to win now with this team would be hilarious and dumb. Amnesty Salmons, trade assets for draft picks and create as much cap flexibility as possible.
Jackson seems like a smart guy. He knows winning 40 games is worse than winning 12. Don’t get stuck in the middle; nosedive to the bottom, and build for tomorrow.
Remember how terrible the Sonics were during their last years in Seattle? Well good news, Sonics fans, you don’t have to adjust one bit. The Sonics will return like they never left — more awfulness, but bigger crowds.
Only this time, the fans (meaning the people who know what a Saer Sene is) will get to reap the rewards of being dreadful. Given the right management, Seattle could one day find out what it would have been like had the Thunder never happened.