Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Post-Shootaround Update

DENVER - Happy Halloween from Denver, where I'm set to blog all of the action tonight as the Sonics open the season against the Nuggets.

The news remains good on rookies Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, both of whom went through shootaround and will play tonight. Durant will start.

"He's not quite 100 percent, but he's not limping, not showing anything," said P.J. Carlesimo. "It will be different when he gets out on the floor - we'll see tonight. He's going to start. Hopefully he'll be fine."

The Sonics will be without centers Robert Swift and Kurt Thomas, neither of whom went through shootaround. They figure to be the two Sonics inactives for tonight's game.

"We're a little thin up front without the two bigs, so we could be playing more small than we played on," Carlesimo said. That might mean some minutes at power forward for Green or Wally Szczerbiak.

Kia Surprising Stat: 10/31 at Denver

The Sonics are 14-26 all-time in road openers. Their last win in a road opener came in 2003-04, whether you want to count the team's sweep of a two-game series in Japan against the L.A. Clippers (each team played "host" to one of the games) or their 89-87 victory at Minnesota on Nov. 11, featuring a game-winning buzzer-beater by Flip Murray.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Opening Night Lineup Takes Shape

31 hours away from the Sonics tipping off the season in Denver (7:30 p.m., FSN/ESPN, KTTH 770 AM), it appears this will be the fivesome that takes the floor to start the game:

PG - Earl Watson
SG - Kevin Durant
SF - Damien Wilkins
PF - Chris Wilcox
C - Nick Collison

Head Coach P.J. Carlesimo said Collison was very likely to start at center - about 95% likely, in fact. Robert Swift and Kurt Thomas, who strained his right hamstring during practice, are both listed as game-time decisions but Carlesimo called Swift "very doubtful" to play. He has not practiced much this week, which would make it difficult for him to be back in the lineup against Phoenix either - Carlesimo noting that the Suns are not really the opponent against whom you want to ease a player back to action.

The news is better for rookies Durant and Green. Both are considered game-time decisions, but they went through a second straight day of practice. The Sonics won't know for sure if the two will be available until seeing how they feel later today, after the flight to Denver, and tomorrow, but unless something changes they are both expected to play.

The first unit, along with Delonte West, and the second unit dummied through some plays on offense during the portion of practice open to the media, as well as running transition.

Luke Ridnour had his problematic facemask adjusted yesterday after practice, a change that should help him keep it on.

My NBA Fantasy

Micah Hart of came up with a fun idea over the summer - a fantasy league featuring some of the beat writers from the various team Web sites. He was nice enough to invite me to participate, and Team SUPERSONICS Dot Com participated in the recent draft. Micah has a quick breakdown along with various "types" of fantasy owners. For the record, I would call myself "The Charlie Brown" - the guy who always plays someone a week too late.

My team in the league is:
PG: Baron Davis, Luke Ridnour, Jamaal Tinsley
SG: Kobe Bryant, Manu Ginobili, Josh Childress
SF: Andrei Kirilenko, Mike Miller, Hedo Turkoglu
PF: Nene, David Lee, Antonio McDyess
C: Marcus Camby, Zydrunas Ilgauskas

For more, be sure to check out the NBA Fantasy homepage.

It's hard to believe I have to set my lineups for tonight. The Blazers and San Antonio tip off the double-header at 5:00 p.m. followed by the Rockets visiting the L.A. Lakers at 7:30 p.m., both on TNT.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Carlesimo Leaning Toward Watson

Two days before the Sonics open the 2007-08 season Wednesday in Denver (7:30 p.m., FSN/ESPN, KTTH 770 AM), Head Coach P.J. Carlesimo is nearing a decision on the team's starter at point guard. It appears Earl Watson will get that call, in part because Luke Ridnour has been uncomfortable playing with the mask needed to protect his broken nose.

"I think it's been uncomfortable at best from the beginning, so my leaning right now would be to start Earl at point guard," said Carlesimo.

"I'd like to see Luke either get the mask situated or just get the mask behind him - use that as a reason to look at this particular rotation first. It (the competition at point guard) hasn't been a knockout for anybody. We probably didn't expect it to be. We've said all along we're probably going to have to look at some different rotations."

For the time being, it appears Delonte West will back up Watson at the point. In the extremely short term, West might have to be called upon to play heavy minutes at shooting guard Wednesday, which would make Ridnour the backup at point.

The rest of the starting lineup against the Nuggets will depend upon the status of several players. Rookies Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, who both have sprained left ankles, went through practice Monday and felt okay.

"Now," said Carlesimo, "it will be a question of how they come out of it, how they wake up tomorrow morning. If it doesn't swell or if it's not sore tomorrow, that would be a great sign."

Center Robert Swift's availability is also in question. That will defend how the Sonics line up in the frontcourt.

"I'm not sure what we're going to do," Carlesimo said. "That will depend on Robert. If Robert can't go, then we have to discuss whether we're going to start Nick (Collison) or Kurt (Thomas) at five. If Robert can go, then we're back to the Weezy (Chris Wilcox)-Nick thing."

Damien Wilkins figures to have secured a starting spot after starting six of the team's eight preseason games.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sunday Practice Report

After taking Saturday off, the Sonics returned to the practice court at The Furtado Center on Sunday for a session P.J. Carlesimo described as "fair."

Kevin Durant rejoined the team after missing the last two games of the exhibition season with a sprained left ankle. He participated in a shooting drill and worked out with assistant coaches Scott Brooks and Brian Keefe after practice. We should get a chance to talk to Durant tomorrow.

Carlesimo was asked whether he's getting closer to deciding on his starting lineup - specifically, a starter at point guard.

"I'm coming closer because we have to make a decision," Carlesimo said, "but I'm not getting any closer to knowing what I want to do."

As far as the point, Carlesimo said Delonte West "did a good job (Friday) at both positions." As West gets more practice time, Carlesimo explained, he's beginning to do more good things as part of executing the offense as opposed to merely freelancing instinctively based on his talent. He's also getting more comfortable playing point guard.

Carlesimo was also asked about the fast break and said, "We're maybe farther along with our transition offense than almost any other area of our game."

Some areas where Carlesimo has not been as pleased include defending the three-point line (he explained that the Sonics will show their improvement in that regard when they reduce opponents' number of three-point attempts, moreso than their percentages; the Spurs defense has operated like this for some time) and free-throw shooting.

The Sonics shot a surprisingly low 69.3% from the free-throw line during the preseason; several guys didn't match the kind of performance you'd expect based on their past performance. Carlesimo almost always ends practice by having the team shoot free throws, with the number of shooters determined by an observer. Today, he had each of the seven shooters take two free throws - and the team made all 14 of them.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Vote Your Sonics Top Five

USA Today has a neat little promotion running where, throughout the season, they'll isolate a team for week and have fans vote for the top five players in franchise history.

This is somewhat similar to last year's Sonics 40th Anniversary Team, which was picked right here on SUPERSONICS.COM. This one, however, is a little more selective.

After some deliberation, I went with guards Gary Payton and Lenny Wilkens, forwards Spencer Haywood and Shawn Kemp and center Jack Sikma (the instructions say voting is without regard to position; I happened to pick a reasonable lineup, though with two point guards and two power forwards).

Who gets your vote?

Sonics Exercise Options

The Sonics announced this morning that they have picked up the 2008-09 options on the rookie contracts of centers Johan Petro and Mouhamed Sene.

NBA first-round picks sign contracts for two years with team options for two more. In Petro's case, this option is for the fourth and final season of his contract. The option covers the third season of Sene's contract. His fourth-year option can be exercised by Oct. 31 of next year.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tonight, the Blazers

The Sonics play their second back-to-back of the preseason tonight at the Rose Garden against the Portland Trail Blazers. Robert Swift and Delonte West are expected to play key roles in the rotation tonight after sitting out last night's game, Swift to wait for the second game of the back-to-back and West because of a right quad contusion.

After last night's game, P.J. Carlesimo talked about taking steps forward against the Warriors and needing to build off of those positives in tonight's game and Friday's preseason finale in Vancouver, B.C. against the Suns. In particular, he'd like to see the team take better care of the basketball after committing 25 turnovers - 18 in the second half and overtime.

The Blazers played without LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy in a loss Sunday in Sacramento. Both are expected to be in the lineup tonight. Blazers TV play-by-play broadcaster Mike Barrett has more on Aldridge's status in his fine blog.

Jason Quick writes in The Oregonian that Nate McMillan has yet to decide on starters at point guard and small forward, but Martell Webster is a leading candidate for the latter position. The Seattle Prep product is having an excellent preseason, averaging 17.8 points and shooting 56.4% from the field and 50.0% from downtown. We'll see if that translates into a breakout campaign for Webster, entering his third NBA season.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Quick Look at the Warriors has an excellent Training Camp Blog going. Give it a look.

Head Coach Don Nelson recently announced his Opening Night starting five. With guard Stephen Jackson serving a seven-game NBA suspension to start the season, Nellie will go with Baron Davis and Monta Ellis at guard, Kelenna Azubuike and Mickael Pietrus at forward and Andris Biedrins at center. Even for Nellie, that's pretty small.

Tonight, Biedrins (sprained big toe, left foot), Ellis (sprained neck) and Troy Hudson (sore left groin) are all game-time decisions. Ellis suffered a scary fall early in camp that put him in the hospital (fortunately, he suffered only the sprain) and has yet to play in the preseason.

Azubuike, at 17.2 ppg, is Golden State's leading preseason scorer. It will be neat to see Warriors rookie Marco Belinelli, who had a fun matchup with Sonics rookie Kevin Durant in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. Belinelli is averaging 13.4 points. He's shooting 39.1%, including 17.4% from downtown.

Tonight's Gameplan

The Sonics wrap up their preseason slate at KeyArena tonight, hosting the Golden State Warriors (7:00 p.m., KTTH 770 AM, TICKETS).

The first goal tonight is showing improvement and progress after losses last week to the Lakers and Houston in which the Sonics were outplayed.

"We want to get better each day," Head Coach P.J. Carlesimo said yesterday. "I don't think we got better in the L.A. game or in the Houston game. I think we've worked in practice, but when we've had a chance to take another step forward against L.A. and Houston, we didn't."

Carlesimo will continue to pare the rotation as the Sonics focus on getting minutes - and, more importantly, getting minutes together - for the players and lineups who will likely see time during the regular season.

"I think as we play more of the same people together from game to game, that will help," Carlesimo said. "Right now, we need to get more of the core group playing together so they get more reps and guys start getting used to playing with each other. If we play more of the guys who are going to play, the guys who have shown to this point that they're playing better or they're more ready, we'll play better just by virtue of that. Still, that doesn't change the fact that we have a lot to do."

Two guys who are probably in that group might not play tonight. Guard Delonte West is a game-time decision because of a right quad contusion that kept him out of yesterday's practice. Center Robert Swift will likely play tomorrow night in Portland, but probably cannot play in back-to-back games at this point.

West has been bothered by injuries much of training camp.

"Delonte's biggest problem has been being able to practice right now," said Carlesimo. "We need to get him healthy and get him on the floor before we can even evaluate. He's had a couple of games where, individually, he's done some really good things. That's good for us and the fact that he can play one or two is good for us. But until we see him playing with the team and the unit playing better, it's really hard - I'm not diminishing at all what he did in Sacramento and what he did the other night, but the biggest thing is getting him healthy and practicing with the team."

The center position remains wide open. Carlesimo will get a look at another option at the five tonight, when Nick Collison will likely play center alongside Chris Wilcox because Swift is likely to sit out. The fact that the Sonics are playing a pair of running teams (Golden State tonight and Phoenix Friday in Vancouver, B.C.) will change what the coaching staff looks at up front in those games.

"This week is kinda interesting the way it's set up," explained Carlesimo, "because we've got two teams - not that they don't have good bigs - but two teams that are two of, if not the best transition teams in the league and two that tend to play smaller than most. And you've got Portland in between, which is a big team. The way Robert is now, it's doubtful he's going to play back-to-backs, so he's going to play more Wednesday than he'll play Tuesday. That will give us a chance to look at Nick and Weezy together, hopefully, for what seems like the first time. We'll use this week to do that."

Carlesimo said that Collison and Wilcox are a potential starting lineup. But, he explained shortly thereafter, he's not thinking that much about his starting lineup. The Sonics also start the season with a back-to-back, which could take Swift out of the picture in one of those games. On top of that, both of those teams (Denver and Phoenix) are running teams, which could have an impact on how minutes are distributed at center.

Against running teams, the Sonics may also try to go small at times with Jeff Green or potentially Wally Szczerbiak at power forward. That is something else Carlesimo would like to look at sometime this week.

"We may use either tomorrow or Friday - one of the two - we'll look at Jeff, perhaps Wally a little bit, at four," Carlesimo said. "If we're going to play small against some teams, Golden State is one that comes to mind and Phoenix, maybe. Not that Phoenix is a small, small team. Shawn is ... I don't know what he is. He's so hard to describe. Sometimes you have to guard him with a smaller guy. Golden State, they could have five smalls on the floor. You don't know what they're going to do. Two of the three games this week are probably a chance for us to look at Jeff at four and/or Wally at four."

Monday, October 22, 2007

Jeff Green's "Amazing Journey"

Leading up to the start of the 2007-08 season, is doing a series of 30 interviews with NBA players about the paths they took to the NBA. Today's featured subject is Sonics rookie forward Jeff Green.

Who was your basketball hero and why?
JG: I would say my Dad because he was a guy around his neighborhood who was one of the best players, but he didn't get the chance to go the lengths that I did, going to college and making it to the NBA. I would just say going to his neighborhood and hearing all the stories that he has had, and all the success that he has had growing up playing basketball and not being able to make it to a college because of the things that surrounded him. I feel the way he has pushed me to be the kind of player I am now, I owe a lot to my father.
Go check out the whole interview if you haven't already.

Monday's Practice

A quick update after today's session. We saw the team go through some transition drills, but that was about it.

Delonte West did not practice because of a right quad contusion. He is a game-time decision tomorrow night against Golden State. Robert Swift isn't likely to play much, if at all, in the game. At this point, back-to-backs are a tough order for Swift's knee, and he'll probably see more action against the bigger Blazers on Wednesday in Portland.

That means Nick Collison and Chris Wilcox will probably get an opportunity to work together on the court for the first time this preseason. P.J. Carlesimo also said that the team will look at Jeff Green and possibly Wally Szczerbiak as power forwards either tomorrow or Friday, when the Sonics face another running team in Phoenix.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

P.J. Postgame

Interesting, lengthy conversation between P.J. Carlesimo and the media tonight. You can listen to the first portion of it here.

Carlesimo was effusive in his praise of the Rockets in general and rookie power forward Luis Scola in particular. One of the most intriguing questions from a league-wide perspective in this 2007-08 season is whether the Rockets can break into the trio of West powers (Dallas, Phoenix and San Antonio) and make Texas 3-for-3 on that list.

Carlesimo also discussed how it can feel disappointing for his players to work so hard in practice and not see it translate on the floor tonight. The only answer is to keep working and be patient.

The size of the Rockets up front changed what the Sonics could do in terms of experimenting with lineups, like Delonte West playing shooting guard alongside Kevin Durant or some smaller combinations up front. The Sonics will get a very different look on Tuesday when Golden State comes to town and again next Friday against the Phoenix Suns in Vancouver, B.C.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Starting to Get Serious

As the Sonics move into the second half of their preseason schedule tonight, look for the coaching staff to begin approaching things more like the regular season.

We've got to try to find better combinations," said P.J. Carlesimo, "see if we can find two combinations (tonight) - essentially the 10 guys that are playing the most minutes (tonight) - to try to develop a little more consistency. That may change from game to game, but I'm not going to spend as much time (tonight) looking at who has not played equal minutes - other than Delonte (West). Not that everybody has had an equal share, but most guys have had a pretty good run."

So far, the rotation has been cut down to 10 primarily by injuries and players getting the night off. That will continue to some extent, but now the evaluation that has been done so far will come into play.

"I think it's more taking some individuals out of the mix," Carlesimo continued, "some individuals who haven't played well with different groupings. Just tighten it up and look at some guys who are playing better and reward that.

"We've got to get a few more people playing well so that we can play nine or 10 people over the course of the game and not have the peaks and valleys. You can't play A+ basketball for 48 minutes, but we can't go from D to D, and that's what we're tending to do right now."

The attitude will also change slightly when it comes to strategy. So far, the Sonics have been playing zone regularly. Because of the need to evaluate the zone, the coaching staff has been committing to the zone for a quarter or even a half per game whether it has worked or not.

"Maybe (tonight) and certainly next week if not (tonight), let's play it a little more legit," explained Carlesimo. "If we're getting lit up in man, we'll go zone. If we're getting lit up in zone, we'll go man. I think we have to do what we've done, but it's reaching a point of diminishing returns."

After surrendering 126 points to the L.A. Lakers Thursday in Bakersfield, the focus during Friday's practice was in defense. After we were let in, the team went through a 5-on-5 transition defense drill. The transition D was a big part of the issues as the Sonics started possessions out of position even when they didn't allow fast-break points. Carlesimo also cited the need to help the helper better and a focus on playing aggressive defense without fouling.

From a personnel standpoint, West practiced Friday after visiting Dr. Zorn, the Sonics team physician, on Thursday.

"Delonte looked good," observed Carlesimo. "How many minutes he'll be able to play I don't know. If he comes out of this good - if he comes in (this morning) feeling good - he'll go significant minutes at the point (tonight). (Tonight) could be a night to take Earl (Watson) out of the mix, but I suspect it's going to be dress him and see."

Kurt Thomas missed Friday's practice for personal reasons, but apparently he should be available tonight. Carlesimo said he wanted to talk with veterans Thomas and Wally Szczerbiak about how much they want to play over the next few games.

As for the Rockets, the surprise so far during camp is that it looks like new Head Coach Rick Adelman might favor a very familiar lineup with holdovers Rafer Alston and Chuck Hayes at point guard and power forward, respectively. Houston brought in new players at both positions, with Steve Francis and Mike James challenging Alston at point guard and rookie Luis Scola expected to become the starter at power forward.

Tonight is a homecoming for Aaron Brooks, the Franklin High School grad and Oregon product taken by the Rockets in the first round in June. Brooks won MVP honors in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas but faces an uphill battle to find playing time in a crowded Houston backcourt.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

National Perspective

In addition to having the chance to watch some preseason action on TV, it was interesting to get takes from Doug Collins and also Kevin Harlan on the Sonics during tonight's broadcast. Did I hear correctly that Collins thinks Kevin Durant and Jeff Green might finish 1-2 in Rookie of the Year voting?

Now it's back home for a practice tomorrow and then the first preseason tilt at KeyArena Saturday against a very intriguing Houston Rockets club (tickets).

Tonight in Bakersfield

Tonight's game isn't your average preseason tilt, and not just because it's a homecoming for Sonics center Robert Swift. TNT is also televising all the action at 7:00 p.m., the only Sonics preseason game on TV and the first of many national appearances for the Sonics this season.

P.J. Carlesimo was asked yesterday about playing on national TV.

"It's good to do," he said. "It will be nice to play a game that they (players) know is a TV game; the first couple (of the regular season) are on TV."

The good folks at TNT have to be happy to hear that Kobe Bryant, whose status was in question after he missed some practice time early this week, is expected to play tonight as rumors swirl about his fate with the Lakers.

Tonight's game is of paramount importance to one Sonics fan. You might already have seen the YouTube video of him ensuring the first spot in line for tonight's game ... back in May, just after the Sonics won the lottery. If not, check it out.

There are also follow-up videos showing the next few days of waiting in line. Click here to give them a look.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Carlesimo on the Competition at Center

One of the topics P.J. Carlesimo commented on following today's practice was the battle for playing time at center, where the Sonics have veteran Kurt Thomas as well as younger Johan Petro, Mouhamed Sene and Robert Swift.

Thomas is a known commodity; the other three players are not.

"We still have to sort out who can do what," said Carlesimo. "They've all played such limited minutes, relatively. We're not going to know when we start. Eight games ain't going to be enough to figure it out either. It's going to take a while. Obviously, somebody's got to start in Denver; somebody's got to start when we come back here against Phoenix. We'll go with the best. I really believe that it will be a question of trying different guys at different times, giving them enough time and seeing how they do.

"If we're still saying the same thing by the end of the year, that's not a good sign. It means either we're stupid, which is possible, or we've got a lot of guys of equal ability, which you really don't want either. We'll figure it out eventually, but it's way, way too early."

Talking about the multiple camp battles yesterday, Carlesimo suggested the coaching staff might have to go with one player for a stretch of a couple of weeks to give them a fair shot at the job and avoid a rotation constantly in flux. Ultimately, the coaches will probably look at a number of different combinations over the course of the season.

At center, long-term thinking is a factor. Carlesimo has emphasized the need to make decisions about the young players the Sonics have by giving them an opportunity to play. That's part of why, so far, Nick Collison has basically exclusively worked at power forward.

For tomorrow night in particular, Carlesimo is thinking about a three-man rotation at center.

"Maybe Kurt, Mo and Robert might all get in the neighborhood of 16-18 (minutes)," he said, "as opposed to two guys splitting it down the middle."

- Delonte West's back injury will push back his opportunity to see extended time at point guard.

"Hopefully, if we get Delonte back, Saturday could be one of his games where he gets to play half the game at point," said Carlesimo.

- Kevin Durant had a highlight of practice when he got the ball and bounced nearly a no-look pass through traffic to Chris Wilcox for a score. Words can't really do that justice.

"I've got eyes in the back of my head," Durant joked afterwards.

Durant got three stitches over his right eye yesterday. He "ran into" (his words) Collison's elbow during practice and was bleeding on his jersey, though the cut was not particularly deep.

- FSN color analysts Steve "Snapper" Jones and Marques Johnson were in attendance.

Quick Wednesday Update

As of right now, only Delonte West (lower back strain) is not expected to play tomorrow night against the Lakers. West will not travel with the team and is scheduled to visit team physician Dr. Zorn tomorrow.

Kevin Durant was back on the floor after taking three stitches above his right eye. Nick Collison sat out the part of practice we saw with a left shin contusion; the team still hopes he'll play tomorrow. Robert Swift and Damien Wilkins are also expected to play barring a setback.

P.J. Carlesimo will likely have all four of those guys in the starting lineup tomorrow, assuming they do in fact play. The probable lineup:

PG - Earl Watson
SG - Durant
SF - Wilkins
PF - Collison
C - Swift

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Donovan on Carlesimo

Anne DonovanLast week I mentioned that Storm Head Coach Anne Donovan watched Sonics practice and chatted with P.J. Carlesimo afterwards. The day after, I got a chance to talk with Anne for a Q&A on and asked about her relationship with Carlesimo. Here's what she had to say.

How long have you known P.J.?
P.J. and I go back to when he was in Seton Hall, just crossing paths at award dinners and all that because I grew up in New Jersey. I've been very aware of who he is and have followed his career for a long time, as I think he did mine, and have crossed paths through USA Basketball. I haven't spent a ton of time with P.J. other than just keeping up with each other and, long ago, admiring him and the work he did at Seton Hall and how respected he was in New Jersey.

How much does it help to have a good relationship with the coach of the Sonics?
It's just so awesome that he's upbeat. He walks through here when he's around; he sees my light on, he comes in or he knocks on the window. Stops out of his busy schedule the other day just to chat and check up on how the National Team did and actually knew how the team did. We were in a restaurant in New York, Il Vagabondo, one of P.J.'s favorite places. I took a photo of him on the wall with his parents and e-mailed it to him. He got right back to me. He's just a good guy that means a lot to the game - and that means the game of basketball, not just men's basketball.

On Sene and Starting

Noticed this at Supersonicsoul today, and some similar talk elsewhere: "Does (Mouhamed Sene's performance Saturday in Indiana) merit a start against the Lakers in Bakersfield? No, I don't think so, but apparently P.J. Carlesimo does."

To clear this up a little, when Carlesimo spoke after yesterday's practice about Sene probably starting Thursday's preseason game, it was in the context of making sure everyone gets a chance to start. Delonte West was also mentioned by Carlesimo, though he may not start Thursday because he's missed the last two days of practice.

Johan Petro, whom I'm pretty sure Carlesimo forgot had not started, and invitee Jermaine Jackson are the other two guys who have yet to start a game.

We're still in the evaluation portion of the preseason, where Carlesimo wants to get a couple of good long looks at each of his players in game action.

Notes from Tuesday's Practice

By the time we got into practice, Kevin Durant was not on the floor. The rookie suffered a cut over his right eye and left practice, apparently to get the cut stitched up.

Two other new injuries: Nick Collison has a left shin contusion and Wally Szczerbiak has a sprained left thumb, though both were able to participate when the team went full-court at the end of practice.

Two guys who were sidelined yesterday, Johan Petro (irregular heartbeat) and Damien Wilkins (sprained right ankle), were able to practice today. I'll have more on Petro, who is feeling fine, on the site later today.

Delonte West has yet to return from his grandmother's funeral.

Monday, October 15, 2007

P.J.'s Take Through Three Games

With the Sonics back in Seattle after a two-game road trip and with three exhibition contests now in the books, Head Coach P.J. Carlesimo had the opportunity to run down the state of the team for the media.

"Sacramento we looked like we hadn't practiced at all," observed Carlesimo. "Cleveland we played better than I would have hoped for. Indiana was in the middle. Indiana was what I would have hoped for from the Sac game, to be honest with you. It was some good and it was some bad. Sac was mainly all bad and Cleveland was way more good than bad. At least the constant has been they've played hard; they keep trying. "

Carlesimo suggested the back-to-back over the weekend might have felt better had the results been reversed. The performance against the Cavaliers raised expectations for the following day, which were not quite met.

Later, Carlesimo suggested that his expectations might have caused him to be a bit too negative in his assessments early in the season.

"They're (players) doing a good job," he said. "I really think that a day off yesterday was as good for the coaches as it was for the players just in terms of sitting back and saying, 'What did you think was going to happen in 10 days? Did you think we were going to reinvent the wheel and all of a sudden we're ready to compete for the league championship Oct. 15?' We're not going to be there Oct. 15 and it's probably more important that I recognize that. Maybe we don't tell the players that in the middle of a game, but maybe after a game or certainly at practice the next time you practice. To be honest, they're doing as well as we could have expected them to do because their effort has been good, their attitude has been good and we didn't have any way really of knowing how quickly stuff would get in or how quickly things would come together. I, more than anybody, shouldn't forget that."

A little more on the injuries.

Damien Wilkins: "Damien's sprain was not as bad as feared. You never know. The big thing is, flying back, it didn't swell up that much on the plane. He's got a sprain, it's not good, but it doesn't look like it's going to be very serious."

Robert Swift: "Robert was decent for the first day back. It (his knee) didn't look like it bothered him. Usually with him, it's see what it's like later today or what he comes in like tomorrow, but he looked alright during practice. He went the whole practice; it didn't seem to bother him at all."

Luke Ridnour: "I just think he's uncomfortable with the mask. He struggled with the mask in Indiana. He was uncomfortable with it - he kept taking it off, he was trying to adjust it and it bothered him a little bit. He has to get comfortable with it. I think we're looking at 4-5 weeks. The injury is one thing; the other thing is playing with the mask. If he doesn't get comfortable playing with the mask, it's going to be a concern, because he's going to be playing with it for a while."

Injury Update

Three players missed Monday's practice.

- Damien Wilkins sprained his right ankle during Saturday's game. He was able to shoot free throws, but did not have any contact.

- Johan Petro was visiting a cardiologist during practice after experiencing heart palpitations. You may remember that Petro missed a game last November with an irregular heartbeat which was not a problem again the rest of the season.

- Delonte West is back home for his grandmother's funeral. He also missed the last two games with a lower back strain which will be reexamined when he rejoins the team later in the week.

Robert Swift was able to go through the entire practice and, according to P.J. Carlesimo, was not bothered by his right knee. Chris Wilcox also practiced after suffering a strained right knee on Saturday.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

40 Years Ago

Walt Hazzard
Today is the 40th anniversary of the first Sonics game, a 144-116 loss to the San Francisco Warriors.

David Andriesen of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a thorough and excellent look back at that game, the first by a major pro sports team from Seattle. Included is a look at where several of those Sonics are now.

Along with the story, P-I columnist Jim Moore shares his memories of that expansion team and being a Sonics fan growing up in Seattle.

I went to several games, but I listened to all of them and looked forward to all of the broadcasts. Bob Blackburn was Kevin Calabro back then, and to me he is still the voice of the Sonics, the original voice, the man who was in my bedroom night after rainy night.

I sat at my desk and kept score on sheets of legal paper. I would write down each player, put a bunch of 2s next to his name and circle each 2 every time the player made a shot. A lot of circled 2s followed Walt Hazzard's and (Bob) Rule's names. They didn't have 3-pointers then.
Great work by the P-I. Make sure to go give it a look.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Cleveland Update

Eric Williams of The News Tribune was the only beat writer to travel with the Sonics to Cleveland and Indiana. He reports in his blog the complete starting lineup for tonight's game, as well as the news that Delonte West will not play because of a lower back strain. (Luke Ridnour, with his recently broken nose, and Robert Swift, due to patella tendinitis, are both also out.)

The Cavaliers played last night, also at Quicken Loans Arena, beating Detroit 96-90. Cleveland Head Coach Mike Brown played a pretty regular rotation, with his starters all playing upwards of 20 minutes, so we might not see them much tonight. After the game, the Cavaliers are headed to China for the NBA China Games.

For the Sonics, P.J. Carlesimo's emphasis will once again be on improvement at the defensive end of the floor after he was disappointed by the team's performance in Sacramento - particularly in terms of sending the Kings to the free-throw line.

Tip-off is at 4:30 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM. After some difficulty with the online feed in the opener, we should have that resolved tonight, so check out SUPERSONICS.COM if you're still at work and don't have access to a radio.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

New Starting Lineup in Cleveland

After a relatively short Sonics practice Thursday morning (the team is headed for Cleveland in an hour or so), Head Coach P.J. Carlesimo shared part of his starting lineup for the game with the media. Wally Szczerbiak and Kurt Thomas, who did not play Tuesday in Sacramento, will start. So will Earl Watson. Carlesimo couldn't recall for sure, but thinks Mickael Gelabale is scheduled to start at shooting guard.

Delonte West is scheduled to play point guard as a reserve after exclusively playing shooting guard against the Kings.

Not part of the starting five, as far as I'm aware: Kevin Durant. So I asked Durant whether he recalled the last time he came off the bench, and it took him a second to think about it.

"I think my 10th-grade year on senior night," he eventually recalled. "It really doesn't matter to me. This is preseason. If I come off the bench during the year, I have no problem with it. I'm just going to come in the game and work hard."

Robert Swift will not play against Cleveland after missing another practice due to tendinitis in his right knee.

"He may play against Indiana, depending on how he feels," said Carlesimo. "If it's even a tough call, we'll just shut him down and he'll be able to get three or four days of rest, because we'll take Sunday off when we come back. If he feels up to it and Mike (Shimensky) thinks he looks okay, we'll use him Saturday, but he won't play Friday for sure."

Luke Ridnour is day-to-day. He also did not practice Thursday because he was being fitted for a protective facemask that he will wear after breaking his nose Tuesday.

Durant and Jeff Green will play in both games of the road trip to get their first experience with back-to-backs.

- Storm Head Coach Anne Donovan watched the end of practice from the balcony at The Furtado Center. Afterwards, she chatted with Carlesimo and Assistant Coach Paul Westhead, who led the Phoenix Mercury to the WNBA championship before joining the Sonics coaching staff. One of Westhead's assistants in Phoenix, Corey Gaines, met up with him after Tuesday's game in Sacramento.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Basketball Prospectus

Today is an exciting day for me because of the launch of, a new hoops site from the foks behind the highly-successful Baseball Prospectus brand. The site is primarily focused on NCAA basketball, but there's an NBA component as well and I will be serving as an NBA columnist.

Give the site a look (there's not a whole lot there yet, naturally, including none of my work) and be sure to check it out throughout the season.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

P.J.'s Take

Speaking with the media after tonight's game, Sonics Head Coach P.J. Carlesimo was critical of the team's defense. The Kings shot 40.7% from the field, but attempted 36 free throws. Carlesimo's observation was that the team generally rotated correctly, but big players fouled despite being in position. Containing dribble penetration was also an issue.

I thought Carlesimo put it well when he said that individuals play was good, but team play was lacking - in terms of team defense, not in terms of unselfishness.

We'll see how that develops as the Sonics continue preseason play.

The Preseason Starts ... in 3 1/2 hours

SACRAMENTO - Hello from California's capital. I flew in this morning and, after a good lunch with's Andrew Nicholson where we traded notes on working for official team sites, am now preparing for the Sonics to open the preseason tonight against the Kings.

Unfortunately, I didn't quite make it to Sacramento in time to catch the Sonics shootaround, but Percy Allen of the Seattle Times was there and blogs an update on tonight's starting five.

Tonight's game will not be on TV, but Matt Pinto has the call in his Sonics debut on KTTH 770 AM as well as streaming here at SUPERSONICS.COM. I'll also be blogging throughout the game, so make sure to follow tonight's action.

For the Kings, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Francisco Garcia and rookie Spencer Hawes will not play due to injuries, reports. I mentioned yesterday that Hawes was back in Seattle getting a second opinion on his knee, and word came today that Hawes will undergo arthroscopic surgery tomorrow. Here's hoping it goes well and Hawes is back on the court in short order.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Sonics Prepare for Preseason Opener

It's a little more than 24 hours away from the start of the 2007 Sonics preseason. Do you know who your starting lineup is? P.J. Carlesimo doesn't, or if he does, he gave no indication Monday after the Sonics practiced at The Furtado Center. The first step will be deciding which of the 15 players on the Sonics roster will be unavailable for the game as Carlesimo seeks to have a manageable number as part of his preseason rotation.

"We'll come up with a list of three, four or five people who either won't dress or certainly won't play. I haven't even thought about whether they'll dress or not. There will be a shorter (group) - probably 10, 11 or 12 people - available for the game tomorrow night. The other guys will know they aren't going to play, and that will change for Cleveland and Indianapolis.

"I would say I lean toward the guys who have been not healthy being the ones out of the rotation tomorrow night, but we haven't talked about that."

Carlesimo's decision became slightly more complicated Monday, but that was very good news. It meant all 15 players on the roster practiced. Still, players who have missed time recently like Mickael Gelabale (strained left hamstring), Robert Swift (patellar tendinitis, right knee), Wally Szczerbiak (left knee swelling) and Kurt Thomas (left quad contusion) are more likely to sit out tomorrow.

After taking Sunday off, the Sonics returned to the court today. They spent the last half-hour of practice open to the media working on their zone, first walking through it and then going live up and down the court.

"It was a pretty good, hard practice," Carlesimo said. "We got everybody back healthy, which is great. A little sloppy early, which sometimes happens the day after a day off. For the most part, guys came back and had legs. We did a lot of things. We put stuff in. Overall, it was good."

After practice, the team left for Sacramento this afternoon. Just a week after their first practice, the Sonics will play a preseason game.

"I had 23 years of six weeks of preseason and you're ready to play a game (in college)," Carlesimo noted. "Six weeks is kinda nice. To go from that to seven days and you play a game, that still astounds me."

Both teams are in relatively similar situations, because Reggie Theus will also be making his debut on the sidelines for Sacramento tomorrow.

"Two of the three games are like that," said Carlesimo. "That's the same way with Obie (Jim O'Brien) in Indiana. I think our team has probably had more of a shakeup than those two teams, but I may be wrong - I haven't looked closely at their rosters and I can't remember. I'm thinking they may have more starters back, more veterans available to them, so that will give them maybe a little bit of a leg up on us. I do think the fact that for Reggie it's a whole new situation, a whole new coaching staff, I think the two of us, we're not going to win any style points tomorrow night."

Style points won't be the goal anyway.

"At this stage, it's just a lot of evaluating of personnel," Carlesimo said. "A lot of evaluating of what we've put in so far - how quickly we can put things in. There are a couple of areas tomorrow night that we will probably get exposed in - and we'll talk about that after the game - because we haven't put it in. We can't expect them to do something well if we haven't even put it on the floor. The things we have covered, I hope we see tomorrow night.

"I'm joking about it, but it will look decent tomorrow night. It's hard to imagine you can do that in six or seven games, but that's what these guys do."

Microfracture for May

Unfortunate news from Charlotte, where the Bobcats announced last Friday that Sean May will undergo microfracture surgery on his troublesome right knee, which limited him last season.

I hate having to update this list of NBA microfracture patients, which now numbers 31 over the last decade-plus. Last week also brought the surprising news that Seattle Prep and UW product Spencer Hawes, taken ninth overall by Sacramento in June, underwent a microfracture at age 14 before entering high school. (Hawes' knee is again giving him trouble, which will keep him out of tomorrow's preseason opener for the Kings against the Sonics; he'll actually be here in Seattle meeting with his personal doctor).

In the midst of the NBA microfracture news, I had my research on NFL microfracture history published at

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Quotable: Sonics Community Practice

I didn't have a chance to transcribe any of the audio from after the Sonics community practice at Seattle Pacific University last night, but now that I've done so I wanted to share some of what P.J. Carlesimo and a couple of players had to say.


Overall on the practice:
Considering there was people in the gym and all that, I liked their effort. I thought it was good. We got tired, obviously, in the second quarter. I was really happy. It's also great - say whatever you want, Saturday, football weekend - it was great for these people to come out. I thought that was really nice.

On Luke Ridnour and Delonte West standing out:
I thought all the guards played decent. The point guards are doing a really good job of pushing stuff in terms of getting the ball up and down the floor, but I thought a lot of guys at different times showed some things, which was good. I really was looking more team-wise. I thought the conditioning was okay - it wasn't great, but it was okay. We don't have a lot of stuff in. In fairness to the players, we don't have too many things in. I was afraid it would look even more ragged than it did. You'll see it Tuesday night. It's going to look really ragged when we get out there. But honestly, for however many days it's been, it was very good.

On fans getting their first look at the new roster:
I just think for them to see the new guys. You could tell, just listening to people, the people who like Luke, the people who like Weezy (Chris Wilcox) or the people who liked Robert (Swift), but I think for a lot of them - they didn't get a chance to see Kurt and Wally - but clearly to see Kevin (Durant), to see Jeff (Green) and to see Delonte (West), that was really good. I mean, they know who they are, but for them to see the new guys was nice.

On the fast pace during the scrimmage:
Yeah, we're going to try to play at the pace. We're going to try and walk the line. It's not an easy line to play at this pace offensively and be a good defensive team. That's not an easy combination, nor is it easy to play man and play zone, but we want to try and do that. We definitely want to play at a quick pace, and we definitely want to be a good defensive team. The good news is we have, I think, a number of guys of similar ability. We have a team that will lend itself to subbing and playing a decent rotation. We're not going to play 14 guys, but nor are we going to play a tight eight. I think that will be good. I think that will keep a lot of guys in the mix. I think, frankly, a lot of the calls will be tough calls. It will be good. Guys will know that, whether they're starting or coming off the bench, they'll get a chance to play.

On whether Swift will play in Tuesday's preseason opener at Sacramento:
Haven't even thought about it. The fact that he played tonight was encouraging.

On the atmosphere:
I thought it was great. First of all, the people of Seattle Pacific did a great job hosting. You can say whatever you want - yeah, it was the first time people saw us play. It's not KeyArena, so there's not whatever we have, 18,000 or 19,000 seats, but it's a Saturday and football weekend and people have a lot of things to do. I think for our season ticket-holders that came here tonight and just the fans in general, I think that was great. I think the players really appreciated that.

On the goal in an practice like this:
What happened tonight would have been my goal, and it's not easy to do. I think it's hard for the players to be listening and we're trying to teach a copule of things, we're trying to do somne drills and we're doing it in front of people. They don't want to embarrass themselves. It's totally unnatural to what they've been doing. I thought the first hour of practice, we got some things done. We worked on somet things we wanted to work at. We even got a couple of new things in. They did a good job. Then they got a chance to play in front of some people, play a little bit with refs. Today was a home run. I've been involved in a lot of these where we were just happy no one got hurt. It looked lousy, the fans were kinda like, 'What's going on?' This was alright. I thought our guys played well and I thought we got stuff accomplished in the first hour. I was very happy.

On how normal the practice was:
Everything we did tonight was totally normal. The only difference was there were people sitting here. This would have been close to the exact same practice we would have had at Furtado tonight - truly. It's just they did it with people in the stands.

On players adoping to his system in the early going:
I don't know that they're adopting to our system, but I'll tell you what they're doing - their cooperation has been unbelievable. The way they've listened, the way they've accepted. Anything we've asked them to do, they're more than meeting us halfway. I mean I've seen no resistance whatsoever, I've seen nothing but good effort. The only negative so far has been a couple of injuries. Our honest feeling when the coaches get together after every practice and sit down is these guys have been great. I'm not blowing smoke at them. There's 29 other places (in the NBA) - maybe a lot of them could say that, but I tell you, there's some guys that are already going, 'Oh, man.' These guys have been great. That speaks for them, not for us. They've been fantastic. Their cooperation and their effort has been excellent.


On his knee:
It feels good, no complaints. Any swelling or any soreness has been going away real quick, which is a good sign. All of it is just because of the surgery; there's nothing that's out of the ordinary post-surgery. All in all, it's going real well.

On whether he's talked with trainers about continuing to take days off:
Not days off, but slow down. I'm trying to push it as hard as I can to get back as fast as I can. At the same time, I know I've got to be smart about it, so I'm compromising, taking some time off.

On his play:
It's all coming back. It's what we've been working on, what I've been working for. I've still got a little ways to go to get back on pace to where I want to be, but I'm headed in the right direction.


On the practice:
It was great. Our first chance to really get up and down, scrimmage in front of people; give Sonics fans a chance to see what they can be expecting for this upcoming season. It was pretty fun. Got a chance to play together in front of an audience, so it was fun going up and down.

On hooking up with Ridnour for a pair of alley-oops:
Just good timing. Me running hard, trying to make things easier for him. At my speed and my size, I should be able to get up and down the court pretty fast, so he was able to find me.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Injuries Adding Up

Still nothing serious, but no fewer than five players were on the sidelines by the end of this morning's non-contact practice.

Joining Robert Swift (patella tendinitis, right knee), Kurt Thomas (left quad contusion) and Delonte West (toenail removed, left big toe) were Mickael Gelabale, who strained his left hamstring, and Chris Wilcox, who has a left quad hip flexor contusion (that's a mouthful).

Wilcox went for a while early in the practice, but since the Sonics were just running drills anyway, it didn't make much sense to keep him out there. It remains to be seen how many guys will be available tonight, when the Sonics have their practice with contact.

During the portion of this morning's session open to the media, the Sonics went through some drilling on a zone look as well as working on how to defend screen-the-screener situations (when a player sets a pick, then receives one to try to get open) and the "UCLA cut" from the perimeter to the post.

SPU Men's Basketball Coach Jeff Hironaka watched from the balcony during practice.

Different Perspective on Watson

On Wednesday, I did a feature on Sonics guard Earl Watson's new philosophy this season. I thought it was interesting to see Gary Washburn of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer take an entirely different approach to a similar Watson feature in today's paper. Washburn discussed Watson's renewed focus on fitness.
"I feel way better. The first week I started, I obviously started losing
weight and the energy was just there," he said. "It's amazing. I was doing a lot
(of working out) during the day. And I still had energy.

"Pilates is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. You do like
10 sit-ups and your body's shaking because of the way you're doing them and how
you breathe."

During training camp, the beat writers know that they are going over much of the same territory, so it's important to be creative in looking for storylines.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Carlesimo After Thursday's Practice

First, let me mention that Mickael Gelabale is also, to some extent, part of the Sonics walking wounded. He was banged up when he took a hard fall while going up to dunk and being met at the summit during Tuesday's practice, possibly hurting his hip. However, the injury didn't stop him from playing and playing well today.

P.J. Carlesimo indicated the tendinitis Robert Swift has experienced in his right knee was probably not a surprise as he comes back from surgery to repair his ACL.

Multiple injuries have cut into the numbers for the Sonics. Carlesimo was planning on two 10-minute scrimmages, but ended up doing just one.

"We were only going to go once today anyhow," said Carlesimo. "It will be good not going tonight and we'll probably have to be a little more careful tomorrow and Saturday."

Two-a-days continue tomorrow and Saturday. Carlesimo changed the contact practice to tomorrow evening, while the second non-contact practice will be in the morning.

With only 12 players available to scrimmage, Carlesimo was asked after practice about the decision to go with just 15 players in camp.

"I didn't want extra guys here," Carlesimo explained. "We brought JJ (Jermaine Jackson) here because we thought we needed another point guard if we were going to look at Delonte (West) at two. JJ's perfect, because he can play one or two. I purposely didn't bring in extra bigs, extra anything else, because we've got guys we want to look at. Instead of wanting to go three teams or bringing other guys in and you feel guilty you're not looking at them ... but this is the flipside of that. You leave yourself open to if a couple more guys go down, we can't really scrimmage."

Carlesimo was also asked whether he expects to keep 15 players on the final roster.

"There's a possibility," he said. "I haven't thought about it much, but my leaning would be 14 to have flexibility, but Sam (Presti) still has flexibility. We could have 15 and still do anything he wants to do. I haven't really thought about it since a month ago when we talked about how many we were bringing in."

After three days and five practices, Carlesimo is very pleased with his charges.

"To be honest with you, I could be pleased with less cooperation and enthusiasm and effort than we've been getting," he said. "This has been way above average. This has been A+ effort, A+ energy, A+ enthusiasm and attention to doing things. I'm delighted with that. They could have been B+, but I would have said that was okay for all the new stuff we're throwing them. They've been way above average."

Sonics Deal With Minor Injuries

The Sonics were limited a little bit today as three players sat out the end of practice open to the media with injuries.

Delonte West, who sprained his right ankle yesterday, had his left big toenail removed and was not running much on the toe, though he was able to do shooting drills. West was wearing a sandal on his left foot.

Robert Swift was sidelined by tendinitis in the right knee where his ACL was repaired a year ago. P.J. Carlesimo described that as "probably expected" after two hard days of double practices.

During some action, Kurt Thomas took a knee to his left quad and suffered a contusion, which knocked him out.

The 12 players remaining scrimmaged in two teams.

White: Watson/Wilkins/Gelabale/Collison/Sene/Jackson
Green: Ridnour/Durant/Szczerbiak/Wilcox/Petro/Green

Mickael Gelabale had a very nice effort as White won going away. Kevin Durant caused some jaws to drop with a gorgeous turnaround jumper in transition.

At the end of practice, players were paired off shooting free throws. Carlesimo asked Kurt Fedders from the PR Department to pick a number between one and 10. Fortunately for Kurt, he picked a low number - four. It turned out the team would have to make that many straight free throws to finish practice. In turn, Jeff Green, Luke Ridnour, Damien Wilkins and Johan Petro buried their free throws to finish things up.

More from Carlesimo a little later ... .

Season Previews Begin

Four weeks away from Opening Night at KeyArena, season previews are already beginning to pop up on the Internet.'s Preview Section features breakdowns of all 30 teams, including the Sonics. An anonymous scout offers his take on Kevin Durant:

"I love Kevin Durant. He would be my choice for Rookie of the Year going in. The
biggest thing is he is almost 6-10 and he has a 7-5 reach and he has skills of a
three-two. He can post up, he will rebound, block shots, he can run. He is a gym
rat. Will he have a rocky year? He will definitely have a rocky year. He is only
19 years-old. He is going to be their man. He is going to have plenty of
opportunity to shoot and score. I think he will end up having a good year."

One interesting aspect of the previews is the NBA Live 08 simulated season, complete with predicted stats leaders. My brother just picked up NBA Live 08 and I beat him with the new-look Celtics in our first matchup. (Yes, yes, there will be plenty of time to play with the Sonics.) turned its season previews over to John Hollinger. If you have Insider, there is a ton of material available. From Hollinger's take on the Sonics:

"This might be as deep a lottery team as the league has seen in years. The
Sonics don't have much for star power besides Durant, but they go 12 deep and
should be able to withstand the 82-game regular-season grind as well as

"In fact, few teams can boast a frontcourt rotation as deep as
this one. Wilcox, Swift, Collison, Thomas and Petro all are decent players,
while the 6-11 Durant and 6-9 Green also can shift to the frontcourt. That's
seven potential bodies the Sonics can use in their rotation up front, and not
one is a stiff."

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Carlesimo's Thoughts on Center

The first week or so of training camp will be very interesting as the media tries to get a feel for P.J. Carlesimo's thinking on a variety of topics, particularly with the kind of wide-open competition that there is all over the place with this roster right now.

Today, Carlesimo was asked if he would prefer a 7-foot presence at center.

"I would prefer to play big," he said. "If we can't, we won't, and it's a concern because Nick (Collison) and Chris (Wilcox) played so well last year and I'm very confident they're going to play well this year. I'd like to be able to have more size on the floor at the five. We'll have size on the floor. We've got some other guys who are pretty big, even at two and three. I would like Robert (Swift) and Johan (Petro) and Mo (Sene) to be able to give us some quality minutes in addition to Nick (Collison) and Kurt (Thomas) and Weezy (Chris Wilcox)."

While that's his preference, Carlesimo isn't averse to going with a smaller group with Collison and Thomas having played center extensively in recent years.

"If the other guys just play so well that we decide we're better small offensively, rebounding and even defense ... you have to play the better basketball players," he said.

Certainly Swift, Petro and Sene will get their chances. Because of their youth, Carlesimo cited the importance of patience as well as the need to play them to find out how good they can be for the Sonics in years to come.

"For a lot of reasons," he concluded, "we're going to give our young bigs an opportunity to play."

- Carlesimo reiterated that he sees Kevin Durant as a shooting guard, though I think Durant was working at small forward today. When discussing Damien Wilkins, he indicated he came into camp viewing Wilkins more as a small forward but has become more comfortable quickly with Wilkins at guard.

- Carlesimo's overall take on Day 2 of practice: "I thought the effort was good. You can start to see a little bit of carryover in the things we're doing."

He noted that as players learn the system of a new coaching staff, there's a lot of thinking going on right now on the court.

"You can see it's hard to think as much as we're thinking right now," Carlesimo said. "You get to a point where you understand what's going on and you can kind of go out and play. You still have to think, but you basically just play. You've done it before, so you get a comfort level. We don't have that comfort level right now. Guys, you can almost hear their heads grinding, trying to remember, 'Which foot's supposed to be up? What am I supposed to do?'"

Coaches stopped the scrimmage much more frequently than they will later on, teaching on small points like Assistant Coach Paul Westhead instructing the team on what to do if the point guard - who will line up on the free-throw line when the other team is at the charity stripe to get the ball more easily - is pressured on the inbounds pass. Centers, it appears, will be doing the inbounds passing for the Sonics.

- During at least the early part of the exhibition season, Carlesimo would like to sit down about a third of his roster every night to make playing time easier to distribute.

"I always hated preseason games from the standpoint of trying to figure out who to play," he explained. "It's so much easier if you say, 'Okay, we don't have 15 guys in Sacramento, we have 10 or 11,' tell the other guys that. We'll work them out in the morning hard and they'll have the night off. We'll have a different 10 or 11 in Cleveland and a different 10 or 11 for Indiana."

Day 2 Notes

A quick update for now ... I'll add some detail and more from Coach Carlesimo later.

After a non-contact practice last night, the Sonics scrimmaged for the first time in a controlled setting with two teams.

Green: Watson/Jackson/Wilkins/Green/Petro/Swift/Sene
White: Ridnour/Szczerbiak/Gelabale/Durant/Wilcox/Collison/Thomas

Delonte West sat out after spraining his right ankle just before the scrimmage.

Robert Swift seemed to be getting up and down the court better than in day one and showed some nice touch in the midrange.

Jermaine Jackson was inadvertently hit in the face on the final play of the scrimmage and stopped briefly in the trainer's room, but later returned.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Training Camp is Underway

The first practice is in the books for the Seattle SuperSonics, and Head Coach P.J. Carlesimo was pleased given the challenge of bringing together a new coaching staff and several new players.

"When you have new players, new coaches, it's very difficult for them because you'd like to just go in practice and say, 'Alright, 3-on-2 fast-break drill' or say something else," said Carlesimo. "Not that anybody's that different, but the terminology is different and they're playing with different guys. It's very hard to make them stop and start as much as we're making them do. Given that, I thought they did a really good job. They worked hard, they bought into what we were trying to do and their effort and enthusiasm were very good."

During the last half-hour of practice, which was open to the media, the Sonics worked on the fast break with Assistant Coach Paul Westhead taking a lead teaching role. Thereafter, they worked on transition defense by going 5-on-5 with both teams starting at about the opposite free-throw line and then playing through two possessions.

One interesting thing I noted from Carlesimo was his stopping at one point to ask a player why he had made the particular pass he did during this drill - not as a criticism, but just to make him think before being in the same situation again. I can't recall seeing the Socratic Method applied during a drill quite like that before.

While we were watching, the Sonics were divided into three squads:

White - Earl Watson, Kevin Durant, Mickaƫl Gelabale, Kurt Thomas, Johan Petro
Green - Luke Ridnour, Jermaine Jackson, Wally Szczerbiak, Chris Wilcox, Robert Swift
Red - Delonte West, Damien Wilkins, Jeff Green, Nick Collison, Mouhamed Sene

Carlesimo cautioned against reading too much into those groupings, saying, "Each team had five guys on it. We had a couple small guys, a couple big guys. One of the teams was red, one of the teams was white, one of the teams was green. If you go anything beyond that, you would be extrapolating."

Still, it was notable that Kevin Durant was playing shooting guard for his group.

"Coach had me at the two - coming off the screen, checking two guards," Durant said. "I think that's what he wants me to do."

Carlesimo discussed Delonte West, another versatile player with the ability to play multiple positions - in West's case, either guard spot. Carlesimo will likely begin by looking at West as a point guard, where he would be part of a competition for minutes with Luke Ridnour and Earl Watson.

"He can help us solve the logjam by perhaps playing some minutes at two," noted Carlesimo. "Having said that, if he's our best one, then he's going to play a lot of minutes at one. We need to evaluate him at two different positions."

Today is a double day for the Sonics. Evening practices are closed to the media. Two-a-days will continue through the week.

"You're allowed to do it for six days," Carlesimo said. "We will probably do four of the six. I'm counting Saturday, that open practice [6 p.m. at SPU's Royal Brougham Pavilion], as a double day because we will practice in the morning. We'll go two today, we'll go two tomorrow. We'll go one on whatever the third day is - Thursday. We'll go two Friday and two Saturday, unless we get a lot of injuries or something like that. That would be more than normal. In the future, we won't do that many, but we have to."

NBA teams are only allowed to have one practice with contact per day - universally the morning session. The second practice is limited to drill work, which will help Carlesimo and the coaching staff as they install their offense and defense over the next week.

For more, check out some post-practice audio from Carlesimo and Durant.

More Media Day Stories

Emptying out the notebook with some stuff that didn't make it into my feature on the competition in Sonics camp, my actual notebook or earlier in the blog ... .

- P.J. Carlesimo doesn't like that new Sonics Assistant Coach Paul Westhead has been "typecast as an offensive guru, which sells him short. He's a complete basketball coach."

Carlesimo raved about the importance of Westhead's experience to him and the rest of the coaching staff. Westhead has been an NBA head coach three times and is coming off a WNBA Championship with the Phoenix Mercury, but is best known for his fast-paced style of play, known as "Paul Ball."

- With two rookies likely to play major roles, Carlesimo is thinking about their adjustment to the NBA and things they haven't experienced, like the heavy travel and back-to-back games on the road.

"During the exhibition season, we're going to spread the playing time around," he mused. "Maybe Jeff (Green) and Kevin (Durant) won't play a lot against Sacramento so I can play them in Cleveland and Indiana so they can start seeing what a back-to-back is."

- Durant on whether he's nervous about the start of his rookie season:

"I'm always nervous before I start a season. It doesn't matter if it's high school, college, AAU ball - I was always nervous. I'm a little nervous; I'm excited as well. I can't wait to see what this team has in store and I can't wait for the season to start."

- Wally Szczerbiak was surprised to be traded to Seattle on Draft night and almost missed the deal because he was tired that evening and was not planning to watch the Draft.

"My wife happened to throw it on, we watched the first couple of picks and then we saw the headline come up," he recalled. "We were pretty shocked. We weren't expecting it. I thought and pretty much everyone in my camp thought with the injuries that there wasn't going to be too much of a chance that I could get traded, but in this day and age you never know in sports. We were prepared for it, we're excited about it and we're looking forward to a fresh start up here in Seattle."

- Delonte West is a great quote, it's already apparent.

West said he was worried about the weather in Seattle because of the stereotypical rain, but found the city beautiful when he came out in July for his physical. As a result, he wasn't really prepared for the wet, gray weather that has been the standard since he came to Seattle for the season.

"Since I've been out here now, it's rained every day," he said. "I'm a little sad. I think it's the rain."

On whether it is important to him to start: "Being a starter, that's just the person who comes out first. It doesn't mean you play the whole game. I've learned that over my career. Just because you start the game doesn't mean you finish it. I prefer to be in the game down the stretch in those clutch situations."

On Coach Carlesimo: "He's as anxious as one of the rookies out here to get started. You can sense that. It's going to be interesting come tomorrow morning."

Being an East Coast guy, does it seem like Seattle is the other side of the world?
"Actually, it does. It seems like that little corner all the way on the top of the map over there. Like I said, I embrace change. I've been wanting to get on the West Coast a little bit. I heard it's a little more laid back, a different way of life than the East Coast. In the East, everything's moving fast - no one's got time. Since I've been here, everything's been kind of laid back. I'm a laid-back dude. I fit right in so far."

Describing his style of play: "I'm a hard-nosed player. I like to get in there, get my nose dirty. I love to compete. I love the game of basketball, the actual competition of it."

Catching Up With Former Sonics

One of my favorite things about this time of year is seeing which players have been invited to training camps around the league. Some old friends have resurfaced in new places.

- Mateen Cleaves (2004-06) is in camp with the Nets, where he is apparently a long shot to make the team despite the fact that New Jersey's backup point guard, Marcus Williams, will miss time with a foot injury.

- Noel Felix (2005) will have a hard time making the Cleveland roster. He left Sonics training camp last fall to play abroad for Maccabi Tel Aviv.

- Richie Frahm (2003-04) is going to camp with the Phoenix Suns. I'm not sure how good his chances are, but if he makes it, Frahm would be an excellent fit in Phoenix.

- Jelani McCoy (1998-2001) is trying to make the Denver roster after playing in the NBA Summer League for the Nuggets. And, oddly, the photo in the Rocky Mountain News story has McCoy in a Sonics uniform though he has played for several other teams more recently.

- Rashid Byrd never played for the Sonics, but I took note of him (and wrote a feature) when he played on their Rocky Mountain Revue squad a few years back. Now Byrd is in camp with the Kings, Sactown Royalty notes. Here's the funny thing: Byrd has always been compared to Mikki Moore. The Sonics signed Moore just after having Byrd in summer league; now Byrd is going to camp with the Kings, whose big off-season addition was ... Mikki Moore. Go figure.

- Sadly, one ex-Sonics player who has yet to resurface is Mike Wilks, who played so well at the end of last season when injuries sidelined point guards Luke Ridnour and Earl Watson.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Live From Media Day

12:51: I'm here, but there is not a lot happening as of yet. At 1:00, Sam Presti and P.J. Carlesimo will spend 20 minutes with the media, followed by the players rotating in. Not sure I'll have a chance to blog during that time, but we'll see.

2:04: Halfway through, things are going well. We've gotten some good time with the players who have come through so far. It was good to see Jermaine Jackson in camp after finding out what a good guy he is during summer league. He talked about his desire to coach in the future.

I asked Jeff Green what players he modeled his game after in terms of versatility, and he cited Magic Johnson (as a 6-9 point guard) and Scottie Pippen, a player to whom he has drawn some comparisons.

Green, Nick Collison and Kevin Durant all raved about the opportunity to play with USA Basketball this summer and to work with Head Coach P.J. Carlesimo.

Don't miss a photo gallery from Media Day.

3:39: Wrapping up from Furtado ...

One theme today I wasn't expecting was how many players talked about how it felt like they had become veterans overnight as the team got younger this off-season.

Robert Swift said he is up to 280 pounds, 40 pounds above where he played last season. It's too early to say how that will change his game on the court, but he's noticed in pick-up games being able to do some things he couldn't do before because of his size. He's experienced no setbacks in his comeback and has no pain or swelling.

Luke Ridnour has grown out his hair. "I just let it go all summer," he said. "I didn't have anything to do, anything to go too." It's not quite as long as it was when he was a rookie, but it's definitely a departure from the buzz cut of recent seasons.

Earl Watson talked about becoming a fan over the off-season as he waited to see what moves the team would make. He's confident about what has transpired. "Our team is going to surprise a lot of people, I truly believe," Watson said.

Delonte West was the one newcomer and East Coast guy who answered that yes, Seattle did feel like the other side of the world when he was traded here. Still, he and the rest of the newcomers are excited for their opportunity here.

Damien Wilkins is at last sporting the No. 21 worn by his father and uncle in the NBA, which Danny Fortson had the last three seasons. Wilkins shared that he tried several times to get the number from Fortson with no success. Then, after the end of the season, Fortson called and asked if he still wanted the number - but Wilkins had already put in to change.

There's plenty of other great stories that came out of today's event, so stay tuned to SUPERSONICS.COM for more.

Media Day is Here

We're less than two hours from Sonics Media Day, which will unofficially kick off the 2007-08 season. The first practice is scheduled for tomorrow and can you believe we're only eight days from a preseason game in Sacramento?

Media Day is sort of like the first day of school, when you reunite with everyone after taking the summer off, except there's a lot more new students than you probably had in your classes. Not only is it the first chance to interact with most of the players, the writers haven't seen each other much either before working with each other every day for months.

Every year, I think back to my first Media Day five years ago - before I secured the internship with the Sonics & Storm that eventually turned into this full-time gig. Back then, I was writing on my own for, and I described the experience in a column. It's strange to look back on now as something of a veteran of the process and funny to laugh at some comments that look silly with the benefit of hindsight.

Anyways, look for lots of coverage on SUPERSONICS.COM. I'll try to check in on the blog between interviews. More likely, I'll have a wrap-up post after Media Day is complete before getting to work on the usual stories. We'll also be posting plenty of photos and some audio, so check it out.