Wednesday , Nov , 01 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Blazers, Sonics meet at KeyArena for season-opener

(Sports Network) – Northwest Division-rivals start their 2006-07 schedules
tonight, as the Seattle SuperSonics welcome the Portland Trail Blazers to
KeyArena.

Last season, the SuperSonics won three of the four contests between the clubs.
Portland has lost five of its last six at Seattle.

All-Star guard Ray Allen is still the cornerstone of the Seattle franchise.
Allen, who was acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks on February 20, 2003 as
part of a blockbuster trade, is entering his 11th season in the league.

The 31-year-old Allen averaged a team-high 25.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.7
assists per game in 78 contests last season. A six-time All-Star, Allen is
arguably the best outside shooter in the league and is still considered a
franchise-type player.

Seattle finished a disappointing 35-47 in the 2005-06 campaign, one season
after it captured the Northwest Division and lost in the Western Conference
semifinals to the San Antonio Spurs, who went on to win the championship that
season.

Allen’s main supporting cast of 6-10 forward Rashard Lewis and point guard
Luke Ridnour is solid. Lewis averaged 20.1 points and a soft 5.0 rebounds per
game last season, while Ridnour netted 11.5 and dished out a team-high 7.0
assists in 79 contests.

Nick Collison, Johan Petro, Earl Watson, 6-10 Chris Wilcox and Damien
Wilkins are all role players who play significant minutes for the Sonics.
The 23-year-old Wilcox, who was obtained from the LA Clippers last February
and averaged 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds in 29 contests for Seattle, signed a
multi-year deal with the club in the offseason.

Seattle had the 10th overall pick in the 2006 draft and selected twenty-year-
old forward Saer Sene, who is a project and is not expected to have an impact
on the team for a few years.

Bob Hill enters his first full season as head coach of the SuperSonics. He
originally joined Seattle as an assistant coach in August 2005. Hill was named
head coach on January 3, 2006, as he replaced Bob Weiss. The Sonics were 21-29
with Hill calling the shots.

Seattle will be without forward Danny Fortson, who was suspended for one game
without for a flagrant foul on Sacramento’s Ron Artest during a preseason
game.

On the injury front, Seattle center Robert Swift is expected to miss the
entire season. The 7-0 center suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in
preseason game against Sacramento. The 20-year-old Swift averaged 6.4 points
and 5.6 rebounds in 47 games for Seattle last season.

The Sonics were 22-19 as the host last season. On Saturday, they return home
for the first of a home-and-home set against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Portland is trying to completely rebuild its team. The Trail Blazers
finished the 2005-06 campaign with a league-worst 21-61 record and missed the
playoffs for a third straight year.

Power forward Zach Randolph led the Trail Blazers in scoring (18.0 ppg) and
rebounding (8.0 rpg), while Steve Blake, who was traded to Milwaukee during
the offseason, dished out a team-best 4.5 assists per game. Randolph is
Portland’s best player and gives them a presence in the low post.

Guard Jarrett Jack and forward Martell Webster showed some promise as rookies
in 2005-06, while guard Juan Dixon netted 12.3 per game in 76 contests.
Disgruntled forward Darius Miles played 40 games and registered 14.0 points
and 4.6 rebounds. Miles would like to be traded and the team will most likely
continue its attempt to try and accommodate him.

Draft night was a very busy time for the franchise. When the night was over,
Portland had LaMarcus Aldridge of Texas and highly-tauted guard Brando Roy of
Washington in the fold. The Trail Blazers traded the rights to Villanova guard
Randy Foye, who was selected No. 7 overall by the Celtics, along with cash
considerations to Minnesota for the rights to Roy, who the Timberwolves
selected with the sixth pick in round one. They had acquired the rights to the
seventh overall selection through an earlier trade with Boston. The Trail
Blazers sent point guard Sebastian Telfair, forward Theo Ratliff and a future
second round draft pick to the Celtics for forward Raef LaFrentz, guard Dan
Dickau and the first round-pick, which ended up being Foye.

Portland, which made some lesser moves as the draft progressed, is trying to
turn the franchise. The draft was a excellent start. Aldridge and Roy are not
only excellent players, but they have good character, which is something that
the Trail Blazers could use on their roster. A step in the right direction for
this club.

Center Jamaal Magloire was obtained from Milwaukee in a deal for Blake, while
Joel Przybilla, who averaged 6.1 points and 7.0 boards in 56 contests last
season, re-signed with the club and will team with Magloire to give Portland a
solid tandem in the middle.

Head coach Nate McMillan, who spent four-plus seasons as the head coach of
Seattle, is back for his second season with the club. After last season,
McMillan has to be happy with the changes and the young players he will be
coaching. McMillan will try to put his stamp on the team in the 2006-07
campaign.

The Trail Blazers were a league-worst 6-35 on the road last season. They will
visit the Golden State Warriors on Friday before returning home on Saturday to
host the Timberwolves.

Portland has dropped two of its last three season-openers, while the
SuperSonics have lost two in a row.

POR SEA