Seattle's best shine in NBA
Amid our bitter, disinterested walk through this Sonics-less NBA season, a blissful thing happened last week. Brandon Roy scored 52 points...
Seattle Times staff columnist
Amid our bitter, disinterested walk through this Sonics-less NBA season, a blissful thing happened last week.
Brandon Roy scored 52 points.
Then, two days later, Jamal Crawford scored 50.
And all of a sudden, it became clear that Seattle's professional basketball heart still beats strong.
For all the grief the NBA has given us in 2008, the success of homegrown talents provides Seattle with both an NBA identity and a reason to keep one eye on the sport's nightly haps. Undoubtedly, the other eye is still squinting in disgust.
In fact, that's the best-case scenario — half anger, half interest in the locals — and there's an even larger faction that won't be moved to watch again at all. Such is the result of being so thoroughly hosed by the wicked business practices of a sports league ignoring the everlasting benefits of staying invested in a community.
There's nothing wrong with Seattle fans who've sworn off the NBA forever. But for those on the fence or seeking a source of inspiration, consider how well some of the area's young stars are blossoming.
Beyond Roy (Garfield High School) and Crawford (Rainier Beach), Seattle-area players Aaron Brooks, Spencer Hawes and Rodney Stuckey have become major factors as second-year players and will soon turn into go-to guys.
Nate Robinson has emerged into a premier scoring threat with the New York Knicks, averaging 24.6 points his past five games. Marvin Williams has yet to grow into the superstar that many had expected, but he's added a three-point shot to his repertoire and has played better than his numbers (13.5 points, 6.3 rebounds). And Jason Terry, the veteran of the bunch, is the best sixth man in the league, averaging 21.2 points for the Dallas Mavericks.
The only Seattle-area player not thriving currently is Martell Webster, but that's because injuries have limited him to only one game this season. Nevertheless, the sharpshooter signed a four-year, $20 million contract before the season to solidify his NBA standing after leaping from high school to the pros three years ago.
The NBA ran from Seattle, but it still needs Seattle. The league would be a much lesser one without the infusion of Puget Sound talent, and there's plenty more to come in the next several years.
Jon Brockman? He might have to be a second-round pick in the draft next summer, but he'll play in the NBA for 12 years.
Terrence Williams? The former Rainier Beach swingman plays at Louisville, and he's expected to be a late first-round selection in June.
Add young collegians such as Isaiah Thomas and high schoolers such as Josh Smith and Tony Wroten, and the talent will keep coming. And we haven't even mentioned Abdul Gaddy.
Let's go back to last week. Roy and Crawford put on scoring exhibitions that made it seem like they were in competition. Two guys from the same city dropping 50 in the same week? It's rare. It's something hoops traditionalists would expect from Chicago or New York or Los Angeles. Instead, Seattle enjoyed the glory.
Roy is now the city's active hoops king. For my money, he's one of the top 10 players in the league. I put Roy alongside LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, Yao Ming and Dirk Nowitzki on that list. I argued with a friend from Portland about this after Roy's 52-point performance against Phoenix last Thursday.
My friend still isn't willing to go so high with Roy. He prefers Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh in his top 10. But undoubtedly, it's an argument, a legitimate debate, which proves how much Roy has advanced his game in less than three seasons.
His 52 points felt like 75 the other night. Roy is a throwback to the days when guards could play either point or shooting guard. He can control games with his scoring or his playmaking, and he's an active defender as well.
He will lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a title, maybe even several, before his career is done. He's the biggest reason the Blazers are on pace to win 52 games. Once Greg Oden improves, the trio of Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge and Oden will be the league's new Big Three.
If the Blazers become the NBA's next dominant team in the next few seasons, Seattle will have contributed much of their success with Roy, Webster and coach Nate McMillan.
Watching the NBA isn't the same without the Sonics. Still, there are positives. The young players who grew up idolizing the likes of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp now continue the tradition in their own way. They can't bring the Sonics back. However, they can respect their memory with inspired play.
David Stern can strip Seattle of its team, but he can't stop the city from impacting the NBA.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
firstname.lastname@example.org | 206-464-2277
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.