For those who thought that Seattle's division title in 2004-05 was a case of catching lightning in a bottle and that it couldn't last … well, it didn't. The defending Northwest champs were hoping to build on that success and challenge for the Western Conference title last season, but got nowhere close to the promised land in a hugely disappointing campaign.
Seattle went 35-47, and the jarring part is that the team played so poorly even though it had almost no injuries -- a 14-game absence by reserve forward Nick Collison was the only setback. In fact, most of the key players put up similar numbers to what they'd done the year before.
The Sonics' transition from contender to pretender in the West can be summarized in one word: Defense. The Sonics were far and away the worst defensive team in the NBA. In fact, relative to the league they were the worst defensive team of all time according to my measures -- although a late-season burst of defensive competence nearly cost them the crown.
Things were bad from the get-go. Seattle hired assistant Bob Weiss to replace departed coach Nate McMillan based on recommendations from the players, and it's safe to say they won't be trusted with their input on any future hires. The Sonics basically reacted to Weiss the way elementary school kids react to a substitute teacher, blatantly going through the motions on defense. In the season's first 10 days Seattle lost games by 25, 27 and 41 points, and Weiss was dismissed 30 games into the season.