Perception has nothing to do with reality when it comes to the Seattle SuperSonics.
|Luke Ridnour and the Sonics can give Danny Fortson a big hug for his part in the club's revival.(AP)|
As for the brand-new Northwest Division, suffice to say the basement was already decorated in Sonics green and gold.
But two weeks into the 2004-05 season, the Sonics are 6-1, in first place and Sunday night's 118-113 win over the Memphis Grizzlies typified the team's new attitude. Trailing by 20 with 90 seconds left in the third period, they outscored the Grizzlies 40-15 the rest of the way for the victory.
A cynic would say, let's not get carried away. Two years ago they began 8-2, last season it was 6-2, and both times they finished below .500. Beware of the soft Sonics: Push them hard and they'll crumble. This start is just another mirage ... or is it?
"We can't prevent that (perception)," Sonics coach Nate McMillan said. "This is a new year. We're taking it one game at a time. I can't predict what will happen when we start this (six-game) road trip (starting Tuesday in Philadelphia). It's impossible to do. We know what has happened in the past. This is a new year and we want to build off what we have. And continue to try and improve each time we go out on the floor."
This isn't really the same team. After getting blown out in Los Angeles by 30 to the Clippers on opening night, the Sonics' entire attitude changed. It began with Danny Fortson, acquired from Dallas for disappointing Calvin Booth. The powerfully built 6-foot-7, 277-pound post player with the nasty reputation gave them attitude. In wins over anticipated West contenders San Antonio, Denver and Sacramento, he averaged 12.3 points and 11.3 rebounds. But in Friday's win over Toronto, he played just 10 minutes, had five fouls and drew a suspension for Sunday's game for an errant elbow.
Nonetheless, a huge part of the transition has been Fortson's presence that has swung the Sonics from the worst rebounding team in the league last season to the best so far in 2004-05.
"That's what you always want to do when you get traded ... make a difference," Fortson said. "That's my job."
Maybe his absence was part of the Sonics' sleepy defense at the start of Sunday's game. Nonetheless, they picked it up late in the third quarter and McMillan went to a small lineup of rookie Nick Collison, Rashard Lewis, Ray Allen, Antonio Daniels and Luke Ridnour. That group stunned the Grizzlies. Daniels, who hit the game-winning shot Friday night in a one-point win over Toronto, had a season-high 28 Sunday.
"We started taking advantage of mismatches on the offensive end," Daniels said. "I have to just play, try to be aggressive and try to make things happen. Sometimes, it's going to fall, and sometimes not."
Perhaps that's the key, letting it fly and not being concerned with the consequences as long as the effort is there. Per usual, the Sonics revolved around Allen, the All-Star shooting guard. He poured in 34 points, including nine of the final 11 points to put the game away.