The NBA playoffs thus far have been absolutely riveting, a nonstop buffet of breathlessly exciting games and insane individual heroics.
And so, of course, jilted Sonics fans are faced with the annual dilemma, this time writ larger than ever: When is it allowed to give your heart back to a sport that can yield such a mix of pathos and poetry on the court? Has the statute of limitations expired on the burning hatred toward the league that allowed the Sonics to be yanked out of town?
Put another way: Is it somehow a betrayal of the Sonics to savor the multiple story lines playing out in delirious fashion all across the NBA?
I like the stance of filmmaker Jason Reid, director of “Sonicsgate” and as passionate a fan of the deposed Seattle team as you’ll find. He hasn’t lessened in his rage toward the process that allowed Oklahoma City to poach the Sonics, nor in his commitment to help bring a new team here.
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But Reid long ago came to the realization that shunning the league that made you such a die-hard fan in the first place was akin to cutting off your nose to spite David Stern’s face.
“We’re all for standing up to the injustices that happened with the Sonics,’’ Reid said. “But I try to keep it detached from us as fans, watching the best athletes in the world playing. It’s the whole reason we’re fighting in the first place. It would be dumb to boycott what we love the most.”
I suspect even the most hard-core anti-Stern zealots, the ones who vowed never again to pay heed to the NBA until a team resurfaces in Seattle, are softening after this sublime first round.
It’s been six years now, enough time for the psychic wounds to perhaps transition from fresh, burning pain to a slightly more benign numbness. And to realize that it’s counterproductive for a hoops junkie to turn away from the source of his joy. And to rationalize that Stern is now retired, which might be the final necessary nudge toward enjoying the games for their intrinsic pleasure.
Pro sports leagues dream of a first round like this. Five of the eight series went to seven games, and some of those were epic. The Rockets-Blazers series had three overtime games, but that was nothing compared to Oklahoma City-Memphis, which featured four consecutive games in OT, unprecedented in the postseason.
Damian Lillard became an instant legend in Portland with his series-clinching three-point shot, a walkoff homer for the ages. Vince Carter turned back the clock with a game-winner of his own, and LeBron stared down Michael Jordan (or so we’d like to think) while making a breakaway dunk.
Each game, it seemed, had its own intricate plot, taut and tense, all played out against the overarching drama of Donald Sterling’s idiocy. For a while, it appeared the whole playoffs could come crashing down, until Adam Silver — Stern’s replacement and Seattle’s new hope — dropped the hammer on Sterling.
Oh, there’s still the bitter reminders of what we’re missing while teamless in Seattle, starting with the existence of a crackling good series as Portland-Houston in such proximity. And, of course, the continued torment of seeing OKC thrive as one of the most compelling teams in the sport, the unkindest cut of all.
But, again, I like the solution of Reid and his cronies, who embrace their scorn for the Thunder as a cathartic release of festering resentment. Reid, along with buddy Colin Baxter, is the guy who paid $3,500 for a ticket to the Heat-Thunder finals in Miami in 2012. And then the pair showed up dressed as zombies, while wearing Sonics jerseys, and made their presence keenly felt in seats directly behind the Thunder bench.
“The thing we’re most passionate about in sports is cheering against Oklahoma City in the playoffs,’’ Reid said. “It’s halfway like having your own team to root for. Whoever is playing against OKC, we’re their biggest fans. Now we’re totally all-in on the Clippers (the Thunder’s second-round foe).”
Reid has a vision of a perfect scenario, one to savor when he and his friends gather to root against the Thunder, much as they used to get together to root for the Sonics.
“I hope they continue to lose painfully in the playoffs, and (Kevin) Durant leaves in free agency, and they become they Cleveland Cavaliers of the West,’’ he said. “That’s what I want to see. I want to see their franchise fail.”
The rest of the dream involves, naturally, a team returning to Seattle and acquiring Durant. But the second part is just a bonus. Reid remains convinced that the Chris Hansen-Steve Ballmer group will ultimately succeed in the ultimate goal.
“Even though it seems nothing is going on, those guys are not going away,’’ he said. “They’re really committed. It’s not a matter of if, but when.”
In the interim, during the interminable wait, might as well savor the playoff magic that makes the Sonics’ loss so hurtful.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @StoneLarry