It’s all so clear now.
Gary Payton and Latrell Sprewell at guard, Oliver Miller at center, Shawn Kemp and Christian Laettner the forwards.
Ladies and gentlemen, your 1996 Seattle Sonics.
Or if not Laettner, then Derrick Coleman. Or Dennis Rodman. Anthony Mason and Vernon Maxwell off the bench. Robert Pack and Benoit Benjamin for depth.
Tell me that isn’t a recipe for an NBA championship.
Bring this franchise your recalcitrant, your honked off, your misunderstood yearning for the man to get off their backs about rules and being on time and that whole tired leadership rap. Bring them in and they’ll deliver the goods.
Bring them in and they’ll be bad.
It has been two weeks since the Sonics imploded in the first round, and we have read and heard the blame attached to just about everyone except Steve Scheffler. And who’s to say better 12th-man play wouldn’t have sent the Sonics off to play San Antonio?
Ought to be ashamed of yourself, Scheff.
But until we picked up the paper yesterday morning, we hadn’t even considered that the Sonics’ road to redemption is paved with more malcontents and head cases, albeit talented ones.
If you missed it, we’ll review. A fellow typist from Seattle put forth the hypothesis that the Sonics must be more vigorous in structuring the team around Kemp and Payton. This is a mostly self-evident truth, except that our theorist is concerned less with finding complementary talents for Seattle’s two young stars and more with finding players who can, well, relate. And everyone should just lighten up these tales of the dynamic duo’s habitual lateness because “measuring commitment with an attendance chart is an outmoded, out-of-touch suburban American point of view.”
Detlef Schrempf - a team-oriented, accountable All-Star - is a bad fit, “an obstacle for the blossoming” of Kemp and Payton. Sprewell - a moody, gifted slacker at Golden State - would be perfect. Ditto the Knicks’ Mason, who did everything short of cutting “Buzz off Riley” into his scalp during a season-long cold war with his coach.
Kemp and Payton can only lead the like-minded, the theory goes. Someone who’ll applaud when Payton showboats a pass off the backboard and Kemp bricks a dunk on a 4-on-1 break - quite possibly the defining moment of the 1995 Sonics.
In search of team chemistry, the Sonics should put a beaker of nitroglycerin in the mitts of a 5-year-old.
Now, the Sonics could go the route of the Orlando Magic, who supplemented its two young gods with a mature, steady third wheel like Horace Grant - who is only giving his old Chicago Bulls teammates (and management) something of a high colonic right now.
But that would be the old generation way. The outmoded, out-of-date suburban America way.
Naturally, George Karl can’t be expected to provide the Generation Xs and Os necessary to free these brave new Sonics from the shackles of conventional basketball wisdom. Of course, he spent all season looking the other way whenever Payton was late or Kemp was a dog, but he didn’t like it, did he? His contempt for the modern player is all too apparent, his ego too wrapped up in his Dean-Smith-is-God heritage. He may have to go, new players or no.
If only the Sonics could find the anti-Dean, but Fresno State has already snapped up Jerry Tarkanian.
Which reminds us. The dividends of the bad-boy blueprint for success seem to be decidedly short-term. Remember Tark’s dynasty at UNLV? It went down the drain in a hot tub full of Runnin’ Rebels and a convicted game-fixer.
The Raiders? They haven’t won anything in a decade. Miami? Nothing wrong there that a few more fraudulent Pell Grants, ignored drug tests and rapper alums proffering $100 handshakes can’t repair.
And just for reference, the last 10 NBA MVPs who all led their teams to championships - were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Joe Dumars, Isiah Thomas, Michael Jordan three times and Hakeem Olajuwon.
Straight out of suburban America, those guys.
You can contact John Blanchette by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 5509.