Wednesday , Oct , 19 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Seattle SuperSonics 2005-06 Season Preview

=== Seattle SuperSonics 2005-06 Season Preview ===

By Warren Blatt, NBA Editor

20004-05 FINISH: 52-30

OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Rick Brunson (G) – Free Agent.

OFFSEASON SUBTRACTIONS: Antonio Daniels (G) – Signed with Washington; Jerome
James (C) – Signed with New York.

2005 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (25) Johan Petro (C, France); 2. (48) Mickael Gelabale
(F, France); 2. (55) Lawrence Roberts (F, Mississippi State) – Traded to
Memphis.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Luke Ridnour, SG Ray Allen, SF Rashard Lewis,
PF Nick Collison, C Vitaly Potapenko

COACH: Bob Weiss

(Sports Network) – A new era for the Seattle SuperSonics gets underway in the
2005-06 campaign. Bob Weiss, an original member of the Sonics in 1967, has
replaced Nate McMillian, who bolted the Emerald City unexpectedly in early
July to accept the head coaching vacancy in Portland, as the team’s new
general.

Weiss, who began his coaching career as an assistant with the San Diego
Clippers in 1977, has been an assistant in Seattle since 1994. He is well
liked by his players and will get the most out of them. Weiss will continue to
allow the Sonics to launch countless threes, but will look for a more intense
effort defensively so the club’s transition game will become more of an asset.

Seattle was a pleasant surprise in 2004-05, as it captured the Northwest
Division and won its first division title since 1997-98, when it went 61-21
and won its third consecutive Pacific Division crown. The Sonics posted 50 or
more wins for just the 10th time in franchise history and first since the
1997-98 campaign.

In the postseason, the Sonics knocked off Sacramento in five games in the
first round, but they fell in six contests to the eventual world champion San
Antonio Spurs in the conference semis.

All-Stars Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis were unbelievable for the Sonics in the
regular season. Allen, who played in 78 contests, averaged a team-best 23.9
points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists, while Lewis contributed 20.5 points and
5.5 boards in 71 games.

The Sonics’ offense will continue to run through Allen and Lewis and their
success will continue to depend heavily on the performance of the two All-
Stars. However, Seattle also has point guard Luke Ridnour, who averaged 10
points and a team-high 5.9 assists in his second season in the league.

Forward Vladimir Radmanovic was having a solid 2004-05 campaign until he
suffered a stress fracture of his right fibula in March. He played in 63 games
and averaged 11.8 points and 4.6 boards before the injury sidelined him for
the remainder of the regular season. Radmanovic was not 100 percent healthy in
the postseason, as he played in just six games.

Allen, who netted 26.5 per game in the postseason, signed a five-year contract
extension worth a reported $85 million in the offseason. Allen will reportedly
be paid $80 million in salary, with a potential for $5 million in bonuses.

Seattle also re-signed Radmanovic to a one-year contract and inked center
Vitaly Potapenko to new deal as well. The team matched Minnesota’s offer to
restricted free agent guard Damien Wilkins, who showed a lot of promise during
the 2004-05 season.

The Sonics did lose some key players, as free agents Jerome James and Antonio
Daniels left to sign with different teams. James, who had a breakout series
against Sacramento in the postseason as he averaged 17.2 points and 9.4
boards, joined the New York Knicks, while Daniels found a new home with the
Washington Wizards.

BACKCOURT

The 30-year-old Allen seems to keep getting better. He has the uncanny ability
to take over a game single-handidly and excels in all aspects of the game. The
Connecticut product is a leader and comes to play every night. Allen, who shot
just under 38 percent from beyond the arc last season, can do it all.

Ridnour is still getting better and proved that he can be a starter in the
NBA. He is a pass first type of guard who does not look to shoot. The 24-year-
old guard shot 40.5 percent from the field in 2004-05, and needs to improve on
his outside shot. Seattle needs Ridnour to pick up his production, as he will
see an increase in his playing time.

Ronald Murray, who re-signed with the club in the offseason, played just 18
minutes per game in 49 contests last season. Like Ridnour, the 6-3 guard
should see more time on the court as well. He averaged 7.0 points and there
should be an increase in his production with added playing time. Murray is
athletic and can play both guard spots.

Losing Daniels to the Wizards will hurt, but the team did sign free agent Rick
Brunson, who posted 5.5 points and 5.1 assists in 80 contests for the Clippers
last season. Brunson is a competent backup for Ridnour.

By matching Minnesota’s offer to Wilkins, the Sonics showed a commitment to
the promising guard. As an undrafted rookie with Seattle last season, the 6-6
Wilkins appeared in 29 games and averaged 6.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 17.9
minutes per contest.

The Sonics know what they are going to get out of the consistent Allen, but
the 6-2 Ridnour needs to step it up as his role with club has become more
critical.

FRONTCOURT

Losing James to the Knicks means that Potapenko, Robert Swift, who was the
team’s first round pick in 2004, and 2005 first round draft choice Johan Petro
are left to defend the middle for the Sonics. Potapenko, who averaged just 3.5
points and 2.4 boards in 33 games last season, is limited, while Swift and
Petro are both projects and their overall abilities are still unknown.

Veteran Danny Fortson and Nick Collison are natural power forwards, but both
will be forced to log some minutes at center. Fortson is a physical player who
does not mind doing the dirty work down low, while Collison, who played in all
82 regular-season games and averaged 5.6 points and 4.6 rebounds last season,
played well in the postseason and seems to be on the rise.

Radmanovic is the sixth man and will spell Lewis and will also play alongside
his All-Star teammate. Both players can light it up from the outside, but
don’t have very strong post games. The 26-year-old Lewis and Radmanovic are
Seattle’s best offensive talents up front and will be counted on heavily to
help Allen with the scoring.

Twenty-five-year-old Reggie Evans, who started all 79 games that he
participated in last season, was a restricted free agent and decided to re-
sign with the club. He led the team in rebounding (9.3 rpg) last season, and
will work with Collison and Fortson to give the Sonics decent depth at power
forward.

Weiss will use Lewis and Radmanovic on the court at the same time a lot, as it
will help the big forwards get more room down low and it will open up the
middle with the ball rotating around the perimeter. Seattle’s new head coach
has a big challenge ahead of him with his frontcourt, and could have his
patience put to the test with figuring out his rotation and with the lack of
scoring.

OUTLOOK

Weiss takes over a good team, but he is going to have to juggle his lineup and
figure out what is going to work best. With the exception of Lewis, there is
not a lot of scoring in the frontcourt. Allen is one of the NBA’s best, and
just having him in the mix should be good enough to get the Sonics back into
the postseason. However, don’t expect another 52-win season.

SEA