NBA Watercooler: August 13, 2007

Our journey around the league begins in Seattle, where minority owner Aubrey McClendon, according to reports, plans to move the Sonics to Oklahoma City. But don’t believe some of the sensational headlines in the mainstream media, which gathered most of its facts from a profile on McClendon in the Oklahoma Journal Record. In the article, McClendon did say:

“We didn’t buy the team to keep it in Seattle; we hoped to come here (Oklahoma City). We know it’s a little more difficult financially here in Oklahoma City, but we think it’s great for the community and if we could break even we’d be thrilled.”

However, a few paragraphs earlier he also said the following, putting the pressure clearly on the Seattle government officials to approve new stadium funding and leaving the door open for the Sonics to remain in Seattle:

“They’ve got 60 days to make some decisions they haven’t been willing to make in the past year, and if they make them in a way that satisfies Clay (the team’s majority owner), then the team will stay there. If they don’t meet the requirements he’s laid out, the team will move and Clay has indicated they’ll come to Oklahoma City.”

This is not really the breaking news that it’s being made out to be. We’ve know for some time that the new ownership in Seattle has been playing hardball with the city for a new arena, threatening to take their shiny new Kevin Durant down to good ‘ol Oklahoma. In 60 days, or sooner, we’ll see who’s able to stick to their guns, the city or the out of town owners.

Next stop San Antonio, where former Portland Trailblazers starting small forward and Portland State standout Ime Udoka is leaving home and has agreed in principle to sign with the Spurs. Udoka is a good shooter, hitting more than 40 percent of his shots from 3-point range last season, and brings youth and athleticism to the defending NBA champs. He won’t be a critical cog just yet, but he’s certainly a good complimentary player for 2008 and a solid prospect beyond that.

Finally, we hit Los Angeles where the Clippers signed…wait a minute, who cares about some no-name role-player the Clippers just signed. If we’re talking about signing no-name role players, let’s hear from the man who’s turned it into an art form, Mitch Kup-cake the GM of your very own Los Angeles Lakers. Here’s what Kup-cake had to say recently about his “brilliant” off-season moves:

"If this was the team that we started the season off with, I would be fine with it. I feel that we're an improved team over last year.”

He went on to say:

“I look at our team and look at a very balanced team with veteran and young players. I do feel there is more pressure or more expectations to dramatically change this team. My season-ending comments were that we were going to be more aggressive than we normally are. That's a byproduct of the season ending the way it did. But having said that, we're not going to do deals or sign players just to do it. We're going to do things we feel are going to improve the team. We feel that our team as it is structured right now is improved over last year.”

As inept as Kup-cake is at being a NBA GM, he’s not a complete idiot. It’s fair to say that given the addition of Derek Fisher and the improved health of Chris Mihm, Vlade Radmonavic and Lamar Odom the Lakers will be a stronger team this season than last. But, that’s not what Laker fans and its lone superstar Kobe Bryant demands from this team. Laker fans are hardly satisfied with humiliating yearly first-round playoff exists and unproductive off-seasons.

The time is now. Whether it’s a straight two-team deal to bring Jermaine O’Neal to town, or a creative salary-cap manipulating three- or four-team swap that does the same, there needs to be some movement soon. Step up to the plate Mitch! Or soon enough, Laker fans will be speaking in unison asking Jerry Buss to buy you a one-way ticket out of town. Who would you rather keep around? The best player in the NBA? Or, the most inept GM in the NBA?

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