Which leaves Seattle, where the SuperSonics' supposed stabilizer, Mr. Telephone Man. Russell, left the team amid a swirl of controversy and now writes local newspaper columns on such diverse subjects as why the United States should sell the Panama Canal and how the tsetse fly makes love. Russell's successor and cousin, Bob Hopkins, has even started writing his own column—on basketball, which is more to the point. It is called Hoppy Talk. Will the Sonics be happy under Hoppy? Guard Fred Brown says. " Russell played with the team like it was a toy. This guy will teach us." Guard Slick Watts says, " Russell wouldn't adjust. We were just herkel sherkel. Hop will give us direction even if it's just 12 sets of shoes goin' in one direction with the bodies all wore off." Whatever that means, Hopkins went for muscle and rebounding in a huge, off-season deal that brought Marvin Webster, Paul Silas and Willie Wise from Denver. That was before the new coach realized he must have movement, too. While the sore-kneed Wise at least tries, Silas moves only in the direction of the nearest bank, and Webster, according to Hopkins, is "extremely slow."
A sleeper rookie, 6'11" flaxen-haired Jack Sikma, should play a lot with shooter Bruce Seals at forward, while spindly Mike Green, who exploded for 33 points in a preseason game, may wind up playing more center than Webster. Seattle has a quality second-year guard in Dennis Johnson and capable newcomers in Joey Hassett and Al Fleming. The team might even avoid those nightmarish blowouts of last winter. "People think we're a patsy, but we mean business," says Hopkins. Still, this is a last-place club through and through and the coach looks like the real patsy—probably nothing more than a fall guy until he loses enough games to justify new Director of Player Personnel Lenny Wilkins' stepping down and taking over. Wilkins' column will be called Patsy Talk.