The last time they ventured this far from home, the Sonics found each other and discovered the magic that has brought about their wonderful start to the season.
ATLANTA — The last time they ventured this far from home, the Sonics found each other and discovered the magic that has brought about their wonderful start to the season.
They traveled to the Northeast, Canada, the Midwest and South, claiming five victories in six cities. During the journey, friendships were formed, petty jealousies and bruised egos were put aside, and the team returned with the best record in the NBA at 11-1.
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Since those heady days, the once-soaring Sonics have leveled a bit, but their 20-6 record is still third best in the league.
So before embarking on what will be their longest road trip for the remainder of the season, a five-games-in-eight-days journey, the Sonics are hoping to rekindle the magic that eluded them in Tuesday’s 114-107 defeat to Philadelphia.
“The last time we did this, that was the beginning to everyone believing in each other and us proving to everyone else in the league that we were for real,” forward Danny Fortson said. “In a funny way, I’m looking forward to this trip. Some teams hate being out on the road, but this team is different.
“In a way, we kind of relish it and look at it as a challenge. This trip, they are all winnable games. That’s the good thing. That’s how we look at it. It’s not like we’re going into Texas. My thinking, we need to get greedy before playing Miami and get those first two out of the way.”
Their first game is an afternoon tipoff in Atlanta. At 5-22, the Hawks have the worst record in the Eastern Conference, followed by Charlotte (7-17), the Sonics’ opponent tomorrow.
“Any time you spend nine straight days (including yesterday’s travel day) with anybody — I don’t care who it is — you’re going to get to know them in a way that you didn’t before,” Seattle guard Antonio Daniels said. “That’s what happened before, and I don’t see anything changing this time.”
There had been a rumor that a few Sonics who live in Florida during the offseason planned to charter planes to Miami immediately following the game against the Bobcats. Seattle visits the Heat on Monday.
Such a scheme would deviate from the itinerary set by coach Nate McMillan, which has the team staying in Charlotte that night and then flying to Miami the next day.
Ray Allen, a co-captain and team leader, said he planned to make sure that everyone stayed together. He extended invitations to a New Year’s Eve party in Charlotte that friends of his are promoting.
“I’m going to make sure that everybody finds their way to the shindig and bring in the new year together,” he said. “That shouldn’t be too difficult because we all like each other. … I know guys may have their own agendas and whatnot, but we’ll see.
“I guess I’ll be the shepherd and try to keep the flock together. … The road has been good to us in the past, and I see no reason why we can’t keep that going.”
The Sonics are 9-3 away from KeyArena.
Atlanta rookie Josh Smith blocked an NBA season-high 10 shots in a 90-68 loss at Dallas on Dec. 18, becoming the youngest player in league history (at 19 years, 13 days) to reject 10 or more in a game. He did not commit a foul, becoming the third player in NBA history to total double figures in blocked shots and not be whistled for a foul. The others were Keon Clark (12 blocks, March 23, 2001) and Calvin Booth (10 blocks, Jan. 13, 2004).
In their last meeting with Atlanta, a 106-85 Sonics victory at KeyArena on Nov. 5, Allen scored a game-high 25 points. Seattle has won five of the past seven games against the Hawks.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org