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.