Home > Uncategorized > NBA Preview Part 3 – Rise of the Zombies…

NBA Preview Part 3 – Rise of the Zombies…

One of my few complaints about basketball these past few years, is that I really haven’t had anyone other than Nash and the Suns to cheer for. I mean, I like LeBron and I love watching him play, but even before the who “Taking my Talents” thing I wasn’t feeling a lot of emotion when his team lost. I like Chris Paul, but the Hornets? Mhhh… The Raptors I should like, because you know they’re 3,000 miles away but on the correct side of the border, but they’re named the Raptors and have a stupid looking dinosaur on their shirts, so, ahhh… no. Portland? Too boring; Boston? Too pink; Lakers? Too Douchy; Orlando? Too whiny; Oklahoma? Too… well, wait a second Goldilocks, because we might have stumbled onto something here.

I shouldn’t like the Oklahoma Zombie Sonics, I really shouldn’t. After all, I’m a Northwest boy and they plundered my best source of “local” hoops. Yet something is drawing me to them, something almost like… how they remind me of… the Tampa Bay (Not so Devil) Rays. I know, I know it’s like comparing apples and milk, but I just can’t quite shake the comparison and here are ten reasons why:

1) They both are young exciting teams from small markets who have put a serious scare into much larger, flashier markets.

2) They both have players who if they aren’t already, might soon be the very best in their sport: Kevin Durant and Evan Longoria.

3) They both have what could be the best management team in their sport: Sam Presti and Andrew Freidman. Both young and well versed in both modern metric s and traditional scouting, these two young stars have assembled outstanding staffs that allow them to run intelligent operations on small budgets.

4) That management has done a spectacular job of building very competitive teams with those limited budgets by using draft picks, hungry young players and the occasional savvy veteran.

5) Despite unprecedented (ok, that might be slightly hyperbolic) draft success, they have both whiffed on a pick that seemed somewhat obvious back then and seems extremely obvious now. In 2008 the Rays had the first pick in the draft and they selected high school shortstop Tim Beckham. Now 19, Beckham just completed a season in which he hit .256, .346, .359, which would be fine for a slick fielding middle infielder drafted in the fourth round, but leaves someone wanting when it’s the top pick in the drat. The other player the Rays were considering and the one that most pundits thought should be the first pick, was Florida State catcher Buster Posey, who may or may not be the starting catcher for a team about to start the World Series. Yup, that’s a bang your head against the wall every time you think of it mistake – and believe me, I know about those kinds of mistakes, I cheer for a team that picked Ricky Romero over Tory Tulowitzki. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a wall to see…

For Oklahoma the mistake wasn’t quite as onerous. Still, in the Durant draft, The Sonics traded Ray Allen to Boston for the fifth pick and used that selection on Jeff Green.* Now Green has been a solid contributor to the Zombie Sonics success, but the ninth pick on that night was Joakim Noah, who I felt then and I feel now, is a future starting center on an NBA championship team. Green’s good and obviously given their success, he works well with Durant, but Noah would be the defensive post presence that the Zombies were looking for when they almost traded for Tyson Chandler.

* I know most observers would say that selecting James Harden over Steph Curry last year was the bigger mistake, but I’m not ready to write Harden off, so I’m still in a “wait and see” over that one.

6) They both should be located in the Northwest – sorry Oklahoma, but it’s true. I’m not saying you don’t deserve A team, I’m just saying that you don’t deserve Seattle’s team. Your passion for the Zombies has been outstanding and your owners clearly care enough to ensure that you have great management (more than we can say about other owners, cough-michaelheisley-cough), but Seattle supported that team for 40 years and all they refused to do was build a THIRD pro-sports arena in a five year period. You guys should get Memphis’ team, or maybe even New Orleans, but Durant and company should be making it rain in a city where it actually rains.

(and Tampa should be moved to Portland, but that’s a different column for a different day).

7) They both have a limited window in which to make this work. The Rays may have seen that window close, as this offseason they’ll loose Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena and perhaps Matt Garza, while the Zombies have to face the inevitable departure of Russell Westbrook and their other young stars. Watch what happens with the potential labor stoppage, because that could have serious ramifications on the future of the Zombies.

8) Of course, both teams are capable of extending that window, because of reasons two and three (great players, plus great management, equals prolonged success… maybe).

9) I’m running out of things that Oklahoma and Tampa Bay have in common.

10) Even though I shouldn’t (because one competes in the AL East with my Jays and the other stole a team from Seattle), I can’t help cheering for these two teams, because they run their organizations exactly as I would want mine run, you know, if I were an owner of a professional sports team, instead of an owner of a goldfish named Blinky…

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