Links: NBA Friday

by March 07, 2008

by Lang Whitaker

• What’s worse, how I suggested that since Drew Gooden can’t wear a headband in Chicago he should grow his hair into the shape of a headband, or how Drew responded that he’d already thought of that?

• There’s been a lot of talk lately about the Sonics moving from Seattle to Oklahoma City, driven largely by Bill Simmons over on And now that the move seems more certain than ever, most of the talk is of the angry kind, from people in Seattle who can’t believe the Sonics could really be leaving after 41 years.

Can we be real here? The future of the Sonics doesn’t depend on a protest or a website. Do you really think David Stern doesn’t know that there’s a vocal basketball fan population in Seattle that would like to see the Sonics stay? That he doesn’t know about Seattle being a gateway city to Asia? That fans of other franchises wouldn’t be sad to see a city lose their team?

All that stuff is understood. The Sonics staying in Seattle depends on money. Always has, always will. You can talk about a new arena, or swapping franchises or whatever, but if the Sonics are going to stay, their best option is for someone in Seattle to step up and make Clay Bennett an offer he can’t refuse to buy the team and keep it in Seattle. And until that happens, I’m sorry to say, it seems like the Sonics-to-Oklahoma City train is set for departure.

• And while we’re talking about the Sonics, there was a story a few weeks ago about their GM Sam Presti, who traded Kurt Thomas to the Spurs even though the Magic were offering the Sonics a better deal. (Of course, this is the same Spurs team who complained about the Grizzlies giving the Lakers a cut rate for Gasol.)

I understand the frustration, but I think I understand Sam Presti’s thinking. If I was a GM and I had a chance to make a deal with either the Magic or the Spurs, all things being equal, wouldn’t you prefer to deal with the Spurs if only because down the road it’s probably better to have a good relationship with the Spurs than with the Magic? The Spurs are always stacked with younger guys who can’t get playing time and need to get moved. So if I was a GM, I’d rather have a good working relationship with the Spurs, just like huge corporations like to have good relationships with each other and sometimes they help each other out.

Why should the NBA be any different?

• Li’l Romeo is going to USC. Why again?

• Charles Barkley has found his latest nemesis heading into the Playoffs, and this time it’s Tracy McGrady. Last night Barkley said T-Mac doesn’t make his teammates better. T-Mac heard this and responded by saying, “The only time I listen to Charles is if he’s talking about calories in a cupcake.” Right, like Barkley’s ever worried about calories in anything. Last year Barkley started beef with the city of Oakland and the Golden State Warriors heading into the postseason, and this year it may be with his former team, the Rockets. The Rockets might need Chuck’s criticism just as much as he needs their vitriol in return.

• And speaking of counting calories, I had an incredible dinner last night here in NYC at Linkstigator Marcus Samuelsson’s new restaurant Merkato 55. Amazing food. If you guys are ever in NYC, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

• Finally, NBA Friday. The Official Illustrator of The Links, Joel Kimmel, went with Luol Deng.

“He’s a great basketball player,” Joel says, “and from what I’ve read he seems like a great guy. He is coming forward and helping with the problems in his native country of Sudan by appealing for help to stop the crisis in Darfur and offering $50 for every point he scores this season to the campaign to help the refugee children in Sudan.”

“I wanted to portray Deng back in Sudan amongst some Dinka cattle, which the Dinka people revolve their lifestyle around. They also make for good subjects in a painting of a Chicago Bull with their intimidating and impressive horns. The drawings that border the painting are inspired by some images created by Sudanese children who have witnessed the conflict in Darfur.”

Thanks, Joel. Awesome, as always.

Next week’s team is the unstoppable Houston Rockets. No man flies in the house of Mutombo!