By Johnny Mann 1-11-08

Welcome to Seattle where the story at Key Arena is “Will the Seahawks win?” Funny but true. The story SHOULD be will The Sonics, in a tailspin of losses and a pending move, finally get their first victory in the New Year. Well, let me tell you that the answer to both of those was a resounding no!

This is my first time to the Key since I decided to switch Washingtons a few months back. Last year around this time I was in DC covering Gilbertology and the Wizards up close. Now I get to compare another arena and his EA Sports co-star in Durant …well at least until the unfortunate pending move to OK City. At first glance Key Arena is a nice little spot. There’s not really a horrible seat in the place and even the nosebleeds seem to provide a decent vantage point. It’s no mega arena though and I could see how Clay Bennett (a bad word out here these days) could see a limit in the space available. I heard the Seattle faithful come out in droves to support but so far tonight against the Mavs the crowd is spotty at best. I guess that’s what happens when you’re 9-26.

I make my way to the media room which is actually split into two rooms with one for picking up your game notes and the other for the pre-game meal. Tonight’s menu consists of Salisbury steak, mac and cheese, potatoes and mixed veggies. Not too bad. The Verizon Center media room is bigger and each meal is catered by a new restaurant each time. Pregame>>Advantage: Even

I miss the pre-game locker visit but make my way to the media seats in time to catch Damien Wilkins jumping rope at center court warm ups. As the game introductions begin Sasquatch, the Sonics mascot, drops from the ceiling ala Owen Hart to hype up the crowd. That was kinda cool. The Wizards mascot sucked. Mascot>>Advantage: Key Arena

1st Half
-Sonics win tip and we are under way. Immediately Durant hits a jumper over Dirk at the top of the circle
-Durant has Devin Harris on him and tries to get position down low gets double and drops a nice pass to a Kurt Thomas. Sonics lead 4-0
-Josh Howard gets a few offensive boards and a lay-up past Jeff Green despite a good defensive effort
-Durant is really not taking advantage of Devin Harris covering him.
-Dirk gets on the board but the Mavs are shooting a horrible 2-10 so far.
-Josh Howard gets another bucket to tie the game at 6.
-Durant is looking pretty soft on transition D as Jason Terry goes by him. However, no problems on O as he just crossed Terry and kicked it to an open Johan Petro to bring them within two.
-Dirk hits a few fadeaways and is feasting from the line to stretch the lead to 28-22
-Here come the dunking ushers and they put on a nice lil show between the timeouts
-The Mavs Brandon Bass making his presence felt gathering loose balls and getting a thunderous dunk on a put back.
-Wally Szczerbiak decides to show up and hits his first J in the second quarter followed by a 3 to bring the Sonics within 1. 28-27
-Josh Howard gets another nice bucket. Could it be more evident that Howard has basically become the man for the Mavs? Actually, not so much become the man but snatched that role right from Dirk’s sweaty palms.
-Durant’s back but sat for a while and seems to have lost his focus and/or rhythm. He just forced up a shot and turned the ball over.
-Szczerbiak hits another 3 but can’t stop the Mavs surge as Dirk continues to score from the line and Howard puts back Stackhouse’s air ball.
-The Sonics just look a bit lost with no real setups and too many one on ones. Halftime : Mavs up 44-35

Halftime I head back to the media room to do nothing evidently. No matter how bad the Wiz did you could always expect good conversation, ice cream and cake at halftime. Halftime>>Advantage: Verizon Center

2nd Half
-Delonte West got the majority of minutes in the 1st half and now it’s Earl Watson’s turn. He immediately hits a lay-up to start off the half.
-Howard and Dirk continuing to team up and make this look too easy. Howard hits a J for 14 while Dirk has 16 with half from the line.
-Jeff Green with a nice bucket as he cut to the basket but he only has 4. I know he’s spent a lot of time on Howard but he could be offering much needed help on offense right now.
-Szczerbiak bites hard on a Jason Terry half pump-fake and runs right by him as he steps to the left and drops a J. PJ calls a T and chews him out for horrible D.
-It’s pretty much the inevitable with the better team just outclassing them. The Sonics have had a Zab Judah like lost of focus in the second half and now they’re just getting killed.
-Jeff Green another bucket but their still down 19 and the game is pretty much over with about seven minutes to go.
-I’ll give it to the Sonics fans though because they are still into it with every Sonics bucket scored, trying to will the team back. If this was D.C. the whole place would be empty. You gotta love that. Fans>> Advantage: Key Arena
-Mavs end this one with a twenty point blowout 90-70. Next up is the Lake Show on Monday.

Post Game
Got a chance to go to the locker rooms and walked in as Wally was talking about the pain of another 20 point loss. He points to a general lack of defense and all I can think is how ironic. I caught up with Jeff Green and asked him why he doesn’t get more involved in the offense. He told me how that’s not his call and unless the coach draws up the play that way his mentality will stay defense to offense. It’s admirable and one of the main reasons people felt his teaming with Durant would be successful but at the same time the team improves significantly when he is at least touching the ball on offense. PJ make this happen. For whatever reason Durant never comes out. Maybe next time.

In the Mavs locker room it’s all smiles and jokes. Most reporters wait for Dirk but he’s getting treatment. I come back in and eavesdrop on Dirk’s one on one time with SI and he mainly talks about the clear changing of the guard with Howard really taking the role of alpha dog. He even states how at times early in the season he was caught watching him rather than being more aggressive and how it’s only in the last few weeks where they have both been playing well at the same time. He gets a bit more introspective talking about his disappointment in the Finals and last years first round exit. Even with a 20 point win in the bank you can see he is clearly bothered by the last two seasons and nothing but a ring is gonna change that.